Dirty Andy is a key to the Lincoln assassination conspiracy

23.72George Andreas Atzerodt could have been the original inspiration for Charles M. Schultiz’s Pig-Pen, and Dirty Andy (known to his friends as “Andrew”) stands out as the most disreputable-looking character in this complex and completely misunderstood saga. For the record, super clean General George B. McClellan is Atzerodt’s foil, as he stands out as the most elegantly refined character in the cast. Although the two never met, they would have made quite the contrast.

Suffice to say, Atzerodt was slightly hunchbacked in one shoulder, spoke with a German accent and garnered great suspicion wherever he appeared. He wore black-enameled cavalry boots stitched with white leather and a black slouch hat. Had he lived today, he would have been found seated on a Harley. Atzerodt was a big-time drinker and small-time smuggler during the Civil War, and owned a rowboat on the Potomac for this purpose. Little known fact: cotton trading was allowed between North and South during the war, provided you paid the proper duties and taxes and had the right permits. But there was also a brisk black market as well, and that’s how the sickly-faced Andy made his living.

But in late March, he’d suddenly started boasting to his sisters that something big was in the works, and he was going to make a great fortune or be hanged, a message they shared with their elder brother, a police detective.

Colonel John S. Mosby, Captain John Wilkes Booth (of the Confederate Secret Service) and his chief courier, John Surratt, organized an elaborate plot to kidnap President Lincoln and deliver him to Jefferson Davis inside the Confederate Capitol, where he could be locked away in Libby Prison while being bartered for ransom, a plan that involved dozens and perhaps hundreds of Confederate sympathizers, and like everything Booth did, this mission was meticulously plotted. Relay horses were situated at regular intervals, and a sabotage crew enlisted to fell trees and blow bridges to hamper the pursuit. And an entire regiment of Confederate cavalry was mustered by Mosby near the border to act as final escort, an operation that was stirring alarms along the front.

Treated contemptuously today as either fool or madman, Booth was one of the greatest spooks of his time, an original James Bond, although I have a feeling Lincoln was his only hit job. After four years of pulling off one incredible mission impossible after another (most involved smuggling life-saving quinine), all in support of the Southern cause, Booth had been given his ultimate challenge: kidnap Lincoln. This was big, maybe the biggest undercover operation ever planned by the Confederate Secret Services, and that’s why it quickly became known to the Union War Department, who inserted their own double agent into the plot to keep an eye on things.

Keeping this unit operational was deemed more valuable than busting it apart. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was a master spook himself, you see, and knew this cabal’s value in misdirection and sheep-dipping operations.

So when D Day arrived, and Lincoln’s plans suddenly shifted, the elaborate kidnapping was necessarily aborted, no doubt an immense disappointment for Booth, as he probably played the triumphant entry into Richmond with the captive tyrant at his feet in chains over and over in his mind for weeks.

Finally, his spook skills were going to be recognized, not that Booth needed publicity. He was already the most dashing, up-and-coming actor of his time, and women swooned at his sight. Imagine Johnny Depp being exposed as an undercover CIA agent and you might get an inkling of the true scale of this drama.

Flash forward one month and things have gone from bad to worse. In fact, the war is a done-deal, and Booth’s side has lost. Imagine a fellow supporter of the Confederate cause offers you with a new mission impossible: kill Lincoln and Seward. You’ll have unlimited funds, and escape is guaranteed by a high-placed agent in the War Department who will delay response. Keep in mind, when Booth was captured he reportedly had a very large amount of cash on him, all of which immediately disappeared naturally.

Also keep in mind, Union plots to assassinate Jefferson Davis and his entire cabinet and burn the city of Richmond have recently been discovered, and it’s Lincoln’s new policy of “total war” that’s murdering innocents and wreaking devastation on civilian populations. What do you do? In Booth’s social set, Lincoln was Hitler. If Booth had just been a little bit smarter, he might have sensed this generous offer was not emanating out of any need for retribution but because Lincoln was blocking all attempts to loot the South after the war.

640px-Lewis-PayneThe most savage killer from Mosby’s Rangers was moved up to Washington. He’d supposedly just deserted, and could easily have been taken straight to prison and held for the remainder of the war. But no, the officers at the border buy his phony story and allow Lewis Powell to sign the loyalty oath and go on his merry way. He will soon appear at Mary Surratt’s boarding house, a house that’s been under surveillance for weeks because John Surratt, Mary’s son, is Captain Booth’s primary courier. Surratt thinks he’s fooling soldiers—as they never have a clue as to where to look for his secret documents. In truth, Surratt is well-known to the War Department, just as Captain Booth is, and the War Department is letting them both slide for the moment as they have placed informant Louis Weichmann as a boarder in Mary Surratt’s home.

If more than two people had been meant to be assassinated that fateful night, why weren’t more assassins provided from Mosby’s nearby unit? Finding a savage killer was no problem during the Civil War, although the recruiting took place on the front lines, where natural born killers clearly stood out. Powell had slayed dozens no doubt and enjoyed every second, and used the top of one victim’s skull as an ashtray.

Booth gave Dirty Andy money to rent a room above the Vice President’s at the Kirkwood. But this room was for Booth, and never occupied. Atzerodt was the first to talk after being captured, although his initial statement was buried in snow.

Affidavit of Frank Monroe, captain U.S. Marines, monitor Saugus:

Atzerodt told me he that he was innocent of any crime, and also that he was instrumental in saving the life of the Vice President. Further that he was visited, about three weeks since by a man named John Surrat at Port Tobacco,, Md., Surrat informed him that Booth was to open a theatre in Richmond, and also that they had a vessel to run the blockade and in both enterprises he was wanted. Atzerodt came to Washington with Surrat and was told by Booth that he must assassinate Mr. Johnson. This he refused to do and Booth threatened to blow his brains out unless he complied. He still refused and returned to Port Tobacco. A second time Surrat came for him, and he came again to Washington and took a room at Kirkwood’s. He was again asked to murder Mr. Johnson, and again refused. The day on which the President was killed a man named David Herrold or Harrol brought to Atzerodt’s room, a knife and revolver, and then left the Hotel. Atzerodt, becoming frightened, locked his door and walked down the street. He knew that the President’s assassination was spoken of, but did not believe it would be carried into effect. When he heard the deed had been accomplished, he took a room at the Kimmel House of his cousin Rickter at which place he was arrested.

Booth dropped by the hotel later that day and left his card at the desk as he exited. Since his plots were always so meticulous, Atzerodt’s real mission remains a mystery, and the possibility exists that he was fed this Johnson assassination story while slowly going mad wearing a suffocating hood day and night. I simply can’t swallow the story that Dirty Andy turned down this hit job under threat of assassination and then was approached again and continued to assist these conspirators after the leader had threatened his life. All he had to do was turn Booth in to the authorities to save himself. His story does not ring true, but seems self-serving in all respects. In his original confession, Atzerodt claimed their interest in Johnson was for the purpose of obtaining a pass to travel to Richmond. It’s only after several days wearing a suffocating hood inside a metal box in summer that Atzerodt starts talking about a Johnson assassination, and by that time his lawyer was convinced he was losing his mind.

As the trial progressed, two of the men who’d been assigned with Surratt to intercept Lincoln’s carriage in the kidnap scheme were falsely charged with attempted assassinations and both were quickly found guilty despite zero evidence against them, except for faked testimony from paid perjurers (although that detail wouldn’t come to light for a while). So the government’s case had an imaginary assassination of Stanton, an imaginary assassination of Grant, onto which Atzerodt inserted a third imaginary assassination of Johnson.

All three of these supposed assassinations are now part of the official record and dutifully transcribed in every book on the subject. And at least two of them are transparent humbug. The only assassination attempts that night were on Lincoln and Seward, and I say this because assassins do not typically check into hotels of targets using their own names and leave incriminating evidence in their rooms. Nor do they do not hang around bars asking strangers about targets, especially if they’re clearly wildly out-of-their social sphere. Dirty Andy was not anyone’s idea of a professional assassin and it seems unlikely Booth would have depended on him for any such assignment. Andy was really only in this game for the money.

When Stanton sent a raiding party to Richmond with orders to kill Jefferson Davis, the leader was shot by Confederate home guards and is considered a great hero. But when Booth successfully pulled off that exact same mission for his side just a few weeks later, he was universally hailed as the greatest villain of his time. No wonder he seemed confused. Which just goes to show the winners write history, losers get screwed. Almost nothing you’ve been told about this assassination is true, and there’s a reason for that obviously, which is why I feel compelled to write a book for the 150th anniversary and blow this hoodwink sky-high once and for all. Lincoln was killed by a plot inside his own administration, and the evidence is in the cover-up.


Thomas Eckert is a key to the Lincoln assassination conspiracy

Born and raised in Ohio (like so many others in this saga), Thomas Thompson Eckert was a huge and powerful man who once broke a handful of iron pokers across one arm with judo-like dexterity, greatly impressing President Lincoln, a man also known for superhuman strength.
Eckert began his military career as captain, aide-de-camp and telegraph expert on General George B. McClellan’s staff. It’s difficult today to realize how crucial the telegraph became once wires began crisscrossing the nation. Suddenly information moved with lightning speed and the spook world re-centered itself around the ciphering of telegraphed messages.

Edwin M. Stanton secured a post as Secretary of War by feigning support for President Lincoln, while torpedoing the sitting Secretary. Stanton not-so-secretly detested Lincoln as the record shows he typically referred to Lincoln as either ape or gorilla. Stanton was a diminutive man himself, and may have suffered from Napoleonic complex. Because he was so brilliant at crafting myths about himself, the official record may not be the most accurate source of information about him, and since he had power to throw anyone in jail without charges while he reigned, few spoke against him while he was alive.
According to the official story, however, Stanton caught Eckert telegraphing a message from General McClellan direct to Lincoln, a violation of protocol that immensely angered Stanton. Eckert was called to Washington to face rebuke, a dressing-down conducted in front of Lincoln, who naturally jumped to Eckert’s defense. Suddenly, Stanton changed his attitude completely, promoting Eckert to major and reassigning him (and the telegraph lines) to his office, capturing complete control of all information from the front. Was this dressing-down part of an act to gain control? If so, it would have been vintage Stanton, as he was famous for conspiratorial plots.

Evidence of Eckert being a highly trusted member of Stanton’s conspiracy against Lincoln is three-fold.

1) Lincoln specifically requested Eckert accompany him to Ford’s Theater the night he was assassinated, a request Eckert bizarrely rejected twice. For a major to rebuff his commander-in-chief twice is certainly a great insult and some hidden motivation must be considered.

2) When Lewis Powell was taken on board the ironclad U.S.S. Saugus, he was shackled, chained to a ball, and photographed. Soon he would be permanently hooded with a claustrophobic and suffocatingly hot canvas bag in an iron cage in the middle of summer, and no one was allowed to speak with him, not even the guards. Powell would not get an attorney assigned to his case until the tribunal was well under way, and until then, only one person was allowed to visit Powell, and that person was Eckert.

Eckert interviewed Powell at least twice, at least once before the hood was applied and once after. The excuse given for the hood was Powell banged his head against the iron wall in a supposed suicide attempt. But when they placed that awful hood over his head, in rare display of weakness, Powell shed a few tears.

The next time Major Eckert came around, he slipped a piece of chewing tobacco into the tiny mouth hole cut in the bag.

“Thank you,” Powell reportedly said. “That’s the first kind thing anyone’s done.”

Whether Powell knew the plot reached into Lincoln’s own administration—or whether he thought he was acting on orders from Richmond—we’ll never know as there are no notes from the interrogations, and within a few weeks of wearing that padded canvas hood, Powell was showing severe mental decline, making future interrogations unnecessary. By the time a lawyer was assigned to him, Powell could not answer softball questions involving his age or his mother’s maiden name.

3) Thomas Eckert rose to become head of Western Union, a post given him by the ruthless robber baron, Jay Gould, a scoundrel who made his fortune speculating on Civil War battles. It doesn’t take much imagination to guess this supreme post might have been a reward for services rendered.
Coda: Powell’s good looks and cool indifference marveled observers who attended his trial. His photo taken by Alexander Gardner (above) is considered the first modern portrait because it appears so contemporary. Powell refused to strike a pose like most others in the early days of photography, instead just oozed rock-star-level charisma. As the noose was slipped around his neck, seconds before his life was extinguished, Powell calmly spoke his final words: “They ain’t caught the half of us yet.”

Booth’s not-so-merry band of misfits

Captain J.W. Booth of the Confederate Secret Service resided in room 228 at the National Hotel in Washington, which just happened to be the same residence as the War Department censor because the city’s only public telegraph office was directly across the street.

For six months Booth had been involved in a grand scheme to kidnap President Lincoln so he could be taken to Richmond in chains for a victory parade and then ransomed, but with the war almost over, that plot had suddenly become meaningless.

John Surratt, Booth’s primary courier, was working closely with Booth on this grand mission-impossible adventure, and so were dozens of others. Their primary accomplices, however, represented a motley crew of misfits and the mentally challenged, with one cold-blooded killer.

After a mule kick disfigured his jaw, Lewis Powell volunteered for the Confederate Army at age 17. He became such a devoted killer, he carried the skull of one of his victims as an ashtray. After many battles, Powell was wounded and captured, taken to a concentration camp and escaped with the help of the Confederate Secret Service in Maryland. He joined Mosby’s Rangers, where he became  known as “Lewis the Terrible.” Although the official story is that Powell deserted this guerrilla force and decided to move to Baltimore to pursue a new life, in truth, he was more likely just moved into undercover operations, and the biggest at the time involved the Lincoln kidnapping, a plot led by Booth. In January of 1895, they met for the first time, and Booth enlisted Powell in the plot. From that point on, Powell always referred to Booth as “Captain,” and would show no hesitation following any command.

Booth and Surratt differed on the best plan of action, as Booth felt the kidnapping could take place at Ford’s Theater because the back exit offered an escape into a maze of alleys. Booth’s attention to spook-craft was amazing, and he probably got the idea of drilling a peephole in the door to the presidential box, as well as needing an improvised door-jam to prevent anyone from entering the hall leading to the box, all important details that would become employed for Lincoln’s assassination.

Surratt insisted the attempt needed to be done outside the city, where they weren’t surrounded by police and soldiers in all directions. This plot involved many changes of horses, as well as sabotage in their wake to slow pursuit—an entire squad devoted to felling tress and blowing bridges. Of course, the plot was immediately revealed to the War Department by one of its secret agents, Louis Weichman, an old schoolmate of John Surratt, and War Department employee, who abruptly moved into the boarding house, and started acting like a rebel. He begged to become an active participant in the kidnapping, but Surratt told him not possible since Weichman could neither ride nor shoot, while Surratt and Booth were expert at both. Weichman would eventually become the key witness against Surratt’s mother, but would later recant the testimony and insist she was innocent, and then recant the recant in writing right before his death.

The only others involved we know of for sure were David E. Herod, who worked as a drug store clerk and followed the famous rising-star Booth around like a puppy dog. Herod reportedly had a dimished IQ and acted 11 years old, which is why he’s usually described as a youngster. George “Andrew” Atzerodt was a German immigrant who’d recently been recruited because he had a rowboat on the Potomac, a boat needed for the escape. I call him Dirty Andy because he looks filthy in every photo. Atzerodt knew few details and was working for hire. He was a big-time drinker and and small-time blockade runner who was being put out-of-business by the end of the war.

On March 4, 1865, Lincoln was inaugurated for the second time on the steps of the Capitol and a photo by Alexander Gardner would later reveal Booth wearing a silk top hat in the VIP gallery, within spitting distance of the President as he took the oath of office. But in the front row of the peanut gallery on ground level nearest the President stand Powell, Atzerodt, Herold and possibly even Surratt disguised as a Union soldier.

This may have been another possible kidnap attempt that did not materialize. For whatever reason, shortly after this inauguration, Booth’s plan shifted to murder, although it’s not clear why. Lincoln had little fear of assassination during his first term because he believed any replacement would be worse on the South than himself. Yet right around this time, Lincoln began having premonitions of his imminent death, and seemed almost resigned to it.
Since the morning newspaper announced the President and General Grant would be attending a light comedy at Ford’s Theater that night, this news boded poorly since Grant’s presence would necessitate a higher level of security. Also, Grant was the national hero of the moment, and a rare sight in Washington, which meant all eyes would be on the box through much of the play.

The Metropolitan Hotel was just down the street from the National where Booth resided. On the morning of the assassination, Booth met with a prominent Jewish lawyer named Simon Wolf, head of B’nai B’rith. Wolf and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton were close as both were from Ohio.

Booth rented a horse for the day, and followed General Grant’s carriage as he suddenly departed town, almost as if to make sure the General was not going to disrupt his plans for the evening. The general and his wife were disturbed by the rider in black galloping alongside and staring into their coach.

Surratt had left town, likely because he didn’t want any part of Booth’s new operation, but also because he may have had a mission to seed letters from Booth back to the War Department to make it look like Booth was headed to Canada.

Four hours after the assassination, the first detectives on the case marched straight to Mary Surratt’s boarding house, which somehow had already been identified as the center of the conspiracy (though Booth had not even officially been announced a suspect yet). Meanwhile, the room Dirty Andy had checked into the previous day at the Kirkwood (and never occupied, as he already had a room at a different, cheaper hotel) was found stuffed with evidence implicating Booth, evidence that was initially strangely over-looked.

Meanwhile, although Booth was on the run for days, and assisted and aided by a dozen sympathizers along the way, only this little crew of misfits would end up hanged. And the cover-up might have worked, except Stanton tossed in Mary Surratt, and painted her as the evil den mother who hatched the plot. But the wheels on that hoax fell off, and knowledge Stanton railroaded an innocent woman onto the gallows destroyed his political career. He was dead within four years under somewhat mysterious circumstances.

A little-known fact about Stanton: he was found twice passed out at his desk and some speculated he’d acquired an addiction to opium. Perhaps, but his primary addiction was power. His first move as Secretary of War had been to move the telegraph into his office. His second move was getting control of the Union Gestapo, the National Detective Police (NDP).

In the first few weeks after the assassination, Stanton’s iron grip matched that of any fascist dictator in history, and though he fought tooth and nail to maintain this power, it would soon all be stripped away, and he died a broken man haunted by the ghost of Mary Surratt.