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.

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