William Henry Seward
William H. Seward is known best for negotiating the purchase of Alaska in March 1867, known at the time as “Seward’s Folly.” Seward was also a devoted father of five children, a loyal husband, an ethical lawyer, a dedicated abolitionist, and Secretary of State for two presidents: Lincoln and Johnson. His name is often overlooked, but Seward did many notable acts in his life. He assisted Harriet Tubman by selling land to her in Auburn, New York, for her home. His house served as a post for the Underground Railroad. He believed in freedom and the Northern cause during the Civil War. Seward was almost killed on the night Lincoln was assassinated, as he was stabbed several times by Booth’s co-conspirator, Lewis Powell. Seward dedicated his life to the United States, and the people and causes he believed in.
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Lewis Powell Tries to Assassinate William Seward
On the night of April 14, 1865, around the time President Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theater, Lewis Powell, also known as Lewis Payne, entered the Seward home and attacked Secretary of State William H. Seward. Seward was recovering from a carriage accident when Lewis Powell came into his bedroom and stabbed Seward with a bowie knife several times in the face and neck. Powell also attacked and injured Frederick and Augustus Seward, William’s sons, Private George Robinson, and a messenger Emerick Hansell. All five men survived the attack, but this night took a great toll on the Seward family. William’s wife Frances died in June 1865 partially from the stress of her family’s injuries, and Seward’s face was scarred for the remainder of his life. The incident was part of the larger plot created by John Wilkes Booth to kill President Lincoln and his supporters. The attacker, Lewis Powell, was executed with the other conspirators on July 7, 1865. William Seward, after his recovery, continued to serve as Secretary of State under President Johnson for the remainder of his term. His wounds from April 14, 1865, left scars but did not permanently damage his body or his spirit.