A Civil War Biography
William Henry Seward Jr.
Seward, the son of Lincoln's Secretary of State, was born 18 June
1839 in Auburn, New York. He was educated at home and became
interested in finance. He worked as a store clerk and as secretary
to his father when the elder Seward was a US Senator. In 1861 the
younger Seward, in partnership with Clinton McDougall, opened a
private bank in Auburn. He abandoned banking in order to serve
during the Civil War.
Seward joined the 138th New York Infantry regiment as a lieutenant
colonel on 22 August 1862. The 138th mustered into US service on 6
September 1862 and left New York on 12 September and upon arriving
in Washington was assigned to garrison duty in the Washington
defenses. The regiment was re-designated the 9th New York Heavy
Artillery on 9 December 1862. On 12 August 1863, four companies of
the 9th NY under Seward's command were assigned to Fort Foote, a
nearly completed water battery of eight 200-pounder Parrott rifles
and two 15-inch guns situated to protect the water approach to
Washington. It was located six miles below the city, on a commanding
bluff 100 feet above the Maryland shore of the Potomac River.
The Secretary of State often visited his son at the fort, on one
occasion, 20 August 1863, accompanied by President Lincoln and a
number of high-ranking army officers. On 18 May 1864 Seward, along
with the 9th NY, was relieved of garrison duty and ordered to report
to the Army of the Potomac in the field. Seward fought at North Anna
and Cold Harbor. He was promoted to colonel and given command of the
regiment on 10 June 1864. He and his regiment were sent to delay
Jubal Early's drive on Washington. Seward was slightly wounded at
Monocacy and broke his leg when his horse fell. On 13 September
1864, while still recuperating, he was promoted to brigadier
general. He returned to duty in West Virginia as the commander of
the 1st brigade, 3rd division in the Department of West Virginia.
Seward resigned on 1 June 1865 and returned to Auburn and the
banking industry. He was active in political, charitable, veterans',
and historical organizations up until his death on 26 April 1920.
Return to Biography Index