Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Abraham Lincoln and William Seward

I am a day or so late with this post, unfortunately, but so it goes. April 15th of 2008 was the 143rd anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln. For the past 56 years, that occasion has been remembered with a small ceremony in Springfield, Illinois where he rests eternally. What many do not realize is that his assassination was only part of a larger plot against our government.
I remember as a child my first visit to the Seward mansion in Auburn, Cayuga County, just a few miles as the crow flies from Scipio. A school bus of 4th graders got the grand tour of the home of the man who served as Secretary of State to Abraham Lincoln. He is primarily remembered for the purchase of Alaska, which you may have heard referred to as "Seward's Folly." The town of Seward, Alaska, is named in his honor.
The thing that I remember most vividly seeing with my 9 year-old eyes were the carefully preserved sheets that had been on William Seward's bed on April 14th, 1865. Mr. Seward had been in a carriage accident, and was confined to his bed with a neck brace. An assassination attempt was made upon his life that same night as the attempt upon Abraham Lincoln. He was saved from the slashing knife of the assassin by the neck brace he wore; the torn sheets were proof of the attempt on his life.
Using my NYS Library card, I found an article in the NY Times of July 8, 1912. It was an interview recalling that horrible night with William Seward's son, Frederick, at the age of 82. He was about 34 years old and home with his father when the assassin appeared, ringing the doorbell. When Frederick refused to let the man see his very ill father, the man drew a gun and fired.
The gun did not go off, and in frustration, the man pistol whipped Frederick to the floor, then ran into his father's room and slashed at his throat, injuring but not murdering Mr. Seward.
Frederick was unconscious for 9 days following the attack, and it was six more months before he was able to return to work as Assistant Secretary of State, now to President Johnson.

1 comment:

dndebini said...

I am having difficulty locating the NY Times article you mention from July 8, 1912- any help you could offer would be great.