EIGHT prisoners faced the military commission when the trial opened on May 10, 1865; all of them deserve at least passing consideration.
There was George A. Atzerodt, a shrinking little man of German ancestry and no breeding. His parents had emigrated from Seebach, a village near the Prussian town of Langensalza, in 1844, when the defendant was only eight years old; but although the boy had grown to maturity in the United States, he was still a Prussian subject and spoke English with a German accent.1 Atzerodt was undoubtedly involved in the kidnaping plot, and his part would have been the transportation of Lincoln and his captors across the Potomac from Port Tobacco. In a confession made by him, he admitted guilty knowledge of the proposed assassination, but maintained that he had been told of it only a few hours before the perpetration of the deed, and had then positively refused to take part in it. Whatever fate the judges meted out to him, Atzerodt could hope for no sympathy.
Lewis Paine, who had attempted the life of Secretary Seward and who had almost massacred his household, cheerfully admitted his complicity. This young giant with the defiant eyes offered no defense and expected to walk to the gallows with his head erect and a joke on his lips. He was a Confederate soldier who had done his duty as he had seen it. A plea in his favor was a mere formality and a waste of time. But to the prison guards he was a hero, and they showed him what little favors they could under the circumstances. Even on the scaffold, the execu____________________