William Henry Seward, Sr.

Burial Location Visited
Auburn, New York April 17, 2010


After running around like maniacs, my father                                              Seward's grave marker has
and I finally found the Seward family's plot                                                 begun to show its years. He
in Auburn's Fort Hill Cemetery.                                                                  was Abraham Lincoln's
                                                                                                             secretary of state and was
                                                                                                             attacked on the same night as
                                                                                                             the president's assassination.


Fort Hill Cemetery's office is closed on the                                  As you can see, though, we did eventually
weekend, thus we could not procure a map                                locate the secretary's burial site.
of the grounds. So, we were left to scour
the entire graveyard for Seward, which was
not an easy task in the giant, hilly cemetery.

                                       *** Interesting Facts ***

* William Seward had spent many years in the government before being appointed secretary of state by Abraham Lincoln in 1861. He served as a state senator of New York as well as the governor of New York for four years. Additionally, he was a member of the U.S. Senate from 1849-1861. Senator Seward was succeeded by Ira Harris, the father of the young Clara Harris who accompanied the Lincolns to the theatre on the night of the president's assassination.

* On the evening of April 14, 1865, an indisposed William Seward was resting at his home in Washington, his family and a soldier keeping guard over him. At about 10:00 p.m., Seward's butler heard a knock at the front door. Going downstairs, he opened it and found a tall, robust, young man dressed in an overcoat and a slouch hat. The stranger explained that he was instructed by Seward's doctor to deliver some medicine to the secretary of state, and that he was to personally deliver it to him. As the young man was led upstairs, he was cut off by Seward's son Frederick, who refused to allow him into his father's room. After some arguing, the stranger took out his revolver, aimed at Frederick Seward, and pulled the trigger. The weapon misfired, and the assailant used the gun as a club, delivering a crushing blow to the younger Seward's head. As Frederick Seward lay bleeding, the man rushed into the secretary of state's room, where he took out a bowie knife and slashed the forehead of the soldier that was in the room. After knocking the secretary's daughter aside, the man proceeded to rush over to William Seward's bed, where he stabbed his face and neck violently multiple times. As he was doing so, the soldier caught a second wind and attempted to subdue the man, although he was stopped by another of Seward's sons who believed that he was the one attacking his father. After wounding Seward's eldest child, the fiend ran downstairs, where he attacked a messenger who had just arrived from the State Department. Screaming that he was insane, he ran out the door, mounted his horse, and disappeared in the darkness. Despite all odds, everyone in the blood-drenched house survived, and the would-be-assassin, twenty-year-old Lewis Powell, was arraigned within a few days.

* While the fact that Seward survived is astonishing in and of itself, the reason why he survived is even more amazing. The secretary of state had been in a carriage injury nine days earlier and had suffered multiple injuries, including a broken arm, a head injury, and a broken jaw. In an attempt to straighten out the jaw bone, doctors fixed Seward with a metallic splint. When Powell stabbed the bedridden politician's face, the knife did slash his skin, but the jaw splint prevented the blade from slicing his jugular vein. So while it was at first thought to have been a travesty, that hazardous carriage ride actually saved William Seward's life.

* Though William Seward had the strength to survive the brutal attack, his poor wife did not. The anxiety of that April night was too much for the weak Frances Seward, and she passed away within a few short months. More devastating to the secretary of state was the death of his daughter, Fanny, the following year of tuberculosis. The two had been inseparable, and Seward noted that his daughter's death left his hopes and dreams "broken and destroyed forever."

* Following his recovery, Seward resumed his role as secretary of state, a position he held until the end of Andrew Johnson's presidency. Almost two years after the attempt on his life, Seward made what proved to be a crucial move for America. In the early days of March in 1867, Seward began negotiating the purchase of some North American territory from Russia. Less than a month later, on March 30th, a treaty was signed by both the U.S. and Russia, making the deal official pending the approval of Congress. Once both the Senate and the House gave their consent, Russia was handed a check for $7.2 million, which means that they paid less than 2¢ an acre (America had bought over 365 million acres of land). Many Americans at the time were opposed to the deal, as they viewed the area as a frozen wasteland. Calling both the territory and the purchase "Seward's folly", they condemned the secretary of state for making such a reckless move. However, the United States eventually changed its mind when it was discovered how rich the land was with oil. Admitted as a state in 1959, over 700,000 people now live in the area that we call Alaska.

Spouse: Frances Adeline Seward (1805-1865)

Political Party:
Anti-Masonic Party
                         Whig Party
                         Republican Party

Last Words:
"Love one another."
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