William Henry Seward was one of the most important Americans of the nineteenth century: progressive governor of New York, outspoken federal senator, odds-on favorite to win the 1860 Republican nomination, secretary of state during the Civil War and its aftermath, Lincoln’s closest friend and adviser, target of the assassins who killed Lincoln, purchaser of Alaska, early architect of America’s empire.
Seward was not only important, he was fascinating. His hair was unruly and his clothes untidy, yet he was suave and sophisticated, quoting the classics with ease. He and his wife, Frances Miller Seward, were often separated by his work and her illness, and yet they were close, and he relied upon her strong moral sense. Seward gathered around his table an eclectic assortment of diplomats, soldiers, politicians, actors and others, men who enjoyed a cigar, a drink and a good story. Even his enemies admitted that Seward was good company.
Most Americans know Seward’s name, and that he bought Alaska, but not much else. Some people know Seward better, through Doris Kearns Goodwin’s bestselling book, Team of Rivals, in which Seward is a central figure. But there is far more to learn about Seward, especially his years before and after the Civil War.
Drawing on hundreds of sources, many of them neglected by previous biographers, Seward will shed new light on this complex and central figure, as well as on pivotal events of the Civil War and its aftermath.
Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man will be published by Simon & Schuster on September 18, 2012.