Letter from Frederick William Seward to Frances Miller Seward, October 14, 1861

  • Posted on: 22 February 2018
  • By: admin
Letter from Frederick William Seward to Frances Miller Seward, October 14, 1861



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Distributor:Seward Family Digital Archive

Institution:University of Rochester

Repository:Rare Books and Special Collections


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Letter from Frederick William Seward to Frances Miller Seward, October 14, 1861

action: sent

sender: Frederick Seward
Birth: 1830-07-08  Death: 1915-04-25

location: Washington D.C., US

receiver: Frances Seward
Birth: 1805-09-24  Death: 1865-06-21

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: crb 

revision: crb 2018-01-19

Page 1

Washington, Oct. 14th 1861
Monday morning
My dear Mother,
We are entering on a new
phase of the War. Washington is no longer
considered in danger. The two Armies are nearly
back again to the old positions they occupied
before the battle of Bull Run.
Tuesday was the day of the great Review
of Cavalry & Artillery. It was on the plain
east of the Capital. Over a hundred cannon
and eight thousand horsemen were in the display
which the Prince de Joinville
Birth: 1818-08-14 Death: 1900-06-16
says was greater
than any he has ever seen in Europe of
the kind. – Captain Schultz
Birth: 1804-08-15 Death: 1867-05-02
, who has just
returned from England where he was sent as
Page 2

special messenger, came to dinner. He was one
of the unfortunate passengers on the Great Eastern
when she was disabled in the gale, of which
he gives a terrific picture.
Wednesday, Clarence
Birth: 1828-10-07 Death: 1897-07-24
was here for a few
hours. He looks better than he did. – The news
of the skirmish at Lewinsville came in the after-
noon, and is interpreted to mean that the
Confederates do not desire to fight. – In the
evening we went over to see Mrs Lincoln
Birth: 1818-12-13 Death: 1882-07-16
found her in the Blue Room with N.P. Willis
Birth: 1806-01-20 Death: 1867-01-20

and Com. Chauncey
Birth: 1800 Death: 1871-04-10
, the latter of whom had
just come from Hatteras with the intelligence
of the morning fight between the Monticello
and the Secessionists.
Thursday, Another rainy day. The Potomac
is now eight feet above fording level and
promises to continue so,– so that Johnston
Birth: 1807-02-03 Death: 1891-03-21
Page 3

attack Banks
Birth: 1816-01-30 Death: 1894-09-01
at present.– A dispatch from
Mr Motley
Birth: 1814-04-15 Death: 1877-05-29
detailing his conversations with different
members of the English Administration, in
London where he has just arrived, came today.
It gives a much more encouraging view of
English opinion than anything heretofore, and
gives strong assurance that we need appre-
hend no foreign interference, for the present,
at least. – Thomas Biddle
Birth: 1827-01-02 Death: 1875-04-07
, (who is a son,
nephew, or grandson, I did not make out which)
of Nicholas Biddle
Birth: 1786-01-08 Death: 1844-02-27
) came to dinner. Father
Birth: 1801-05-16 Death: 1872-10-10
decided to appoint him Secretary of Legation
at Rio with Gen. Webb
Birth: 1835-02-15 Death: 1911-02-12
Friday, Gus
Birth: 1826-10-01 Death: 1876-09-11
has finally decided
to accept the Paymastership instead of the
appointment in the line. Most of the Army
officers say it is the choice they would make.
Governor Morgan
Birth: 1811-02-08 Death: 1883-02-14
and Col. Arthur
Birth: 1829-10-05 Death: 1886-11-18
, one of his
staff, together with Mr Weed
Birth: 1797-11-15 Death: 1882-11-22
, dined with us.
Page 4

The Governor has come on to perfect arrangements
in regard to the new Regiments he is organ-
izing– We went out in the afternoon to see the
x Birth: 1832  Death:   Birth: 1816-09-24  Death: 1886-10-16 
who have just come back from their
tour with Prince Napoleon
Birth: 1808-04-20 Death: 1873-01-09
. They say he was
much pleased with his visit and reception.
Saturday, by a new arrangement was
devoted to the reception of Foreign Ministers
and the transaction of business with them,
the doors of the State Department being
closed against all other comers, after
twelve o'clock. Each of those in town
came for an interview. The plan seems
to be mutually convenient for them and
the public, as well as for The Depart-
About half the visitors to the Department
now are people whose relatives, friends or clients
Page 5

are in Fort Lafayette. The 144 prisoners whom
we have there, create a great deal of work.
Each one wants interviews with his friends
and his lawyers, privileges of writing letters
and improved accommodations, in addition
to wanting to get out. The examination
of the cases and the listening to applications
consumes half the day, and the correspondence
growing out of it occupies four clerks.
Charles Warden
Birth: 1830
has come, and I have
assigned him to that bureau. However
we are releasing more rapidly than we
arrest now. All who exhibit signs of
returning loyalty and repentance and
have committed no very serious crime
are released on taking an oath of allegiance.
Page 6

Yesterday, Sunday, we learned in the
morning that a battle had been considered
imminent near Lewinsville & Prospect Hill
(which is about eleven miles from Fairfax Court House)
and that General McClellan
Birth: 1826-12-03 Death: 1885-10-29
and his
staff had remained over there all night,
while reinforcements more rapidly hurried
forward there during that time. But the
enemy having withdrawn, the troops were
ordered back to the city again. Father
proposed to drive out there, Gus, Anna
Birth: 1836-03-29 Death: 1919-05-02
and I went with him. We went up to
the Chain Bridge, crossed there, and went
on seven miles to Prospect Hill. All the
way, we met batteries, troops of horse and
squads of infantry returning from the battle
which had not come off. At Prospect Hill
we found the Headquarters to be a large house
abandoned by some Secessionist family around
Page 7

which our troops had thrown up entrenchments
and planted twelve cannon. It commanded
a fine view of the country towards the West
and South. Here we found General Hancock
Birth: 1824-02-14 Death: 1886-02-09

in command, who was at West Point with Gus,
Captain Ayres
Birth: 1825-12-20 Death: 1888-12-04
of the Artillery who ^also^ was his
classmate there. Major Larrabee
Birth: 1820-11-09 Death: 1880-01-20
who was a
member of Congress last year from Wisconsin, and
a young Lieutenant
who was a schoolmate
of John Wharton
Birth: 1841-12-14 Death: 1896-10-14
, besides Captain Mott
Birth: 1831 Death: 1894
other acquaintances. They were watching for the
enemy with field glasses, through which we
all took a look for him, but in vain. They
told us they had seen squads of cavalry and
infantry moving about all day on the heights
about two miles off, and occasionally the gleam
of a Secession bayonet in the bushes nearer
by. Behind the house three ^U.S.^ regiments were
encamped, and in front of it, a thousand
axe-men had gone to cut down the forest, to
clear the way for troops & artillery. We had
Page 8

brought lunch with us, which we shared with our
military friends in an upper room of the house,
looking out on the domain of the Secessionists.
While drinking our champagne, an officer came
in to report that his horse had been shot
under him, while out reconnoitering about a
mile distant. We voted not to go home by
that road. A sergeant
was sent by the
General to pilot us by the new military
road, which has been cut through the woods
from Prospect Hill down to Arlington. It was a
strange, dreary & instructive ride. All the houses deserted,
many in ruins, or ashes, the fields devastated,
the woods leveled for acres around and for miles
along the road, and no signs of human life
but the fresh earthworks & frowning guns that
looked down from the summits of the highest
hills. The march of two Armies across Fairfax
has desolated it, civilization will have
to begin anew when the war is over, there
Page 9

In one of the armies our carriage got fast in
a hole, and the horses snapped the traces
in endeavoring to pull it out. Our guide
rode forward for help, and came back with
a trace he found in the yard of a deserted
house. An Army teamster
, who happened
to come along, lent us a chain halter, and
so after half an hour's delay, we managed
to patch up, and go on. We came out
just at sunset, near Arlington, crossed
the Ferry and came home, after a ride of
some twenty-five miles in all.
Affectionately your son
P.S. I have your letter about the blankets. It is
thought best they should be given to the new Regiment
if they are needed by them. Any supplies can be sent
on here.
Page 10

Hand Shiftx

Frances Seward

Birth: 1805-09-24 Death: 1865-06-21
Oct 14th