Letter from Samuel Swayze Seward to William Henry Seward, September 9, 1861

  • Posted on: 1 December 2021
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Letter from Samuel Swayze Seward to William Henry Seward, September 9, 1861



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Letter from Samuel Swayze Seward to William Henry Seward, September 9, 1861

action: sent

sender: Samuel Seward
Birth: 1838-04-16  Death: 1916-02-22

location: San Francisco, CA

receiver: William Seward
Birth: 1801-05-16  Death: 1872-10-10

location: Washington D.C., US

transcription: cnk 

revision: agw 2021-02-19


Page 1

San Francisco Sept. 9. 1861.
My dear Uncle,
It would be the most flagrant pre-
sumption for me to interfere in the conduct of
the present unhappy war, upon my own judg-
ment simply. I do not propose to do so; but I have
heard so much said here upon various subjects
connected with the policy of the war department,
and especially with regard to the plan now un-
der way of sending a column of 5000 California
troops across Mexico to attack the frontier of Tex-
, I cannot but think you will excuse me
for giving expression to the prevailing opinion
here. I am aware that this plan may be
designed simply as a faint, yet there is so lit-
tle to be gained by such a course. I cannot but
believe it will be carried out unless the Depart-
ment can be convinced of its impracticability.
It is generally believed here that the
plan was set on foot by Genl. Fremont
Birth: 1813-01-21 Death: 1890-07-13

who desires to distract the attention of the
rebels and thus ensure him an easy march
down the Mississipi. Now supposing that a
column 5000 strong well armed, disciplined
and officered, could be landed in Texas in
Page 2

the vicissitudes of war Genl. Fremont himself
might meet with reverses and thus leave our
little army at the mercy of the whole rebel
force, without any place of safety to retreat upon,
and with no other choice than to surrender them-
selves and all their equipments to the enemy.
This is not the worst view of the case. Every
Californian knows how toilsome such a march
over miles of almost burning desert must prove
to our soldiers, and if attempted they must arrive
at their destination so worn out as to fall
an easy prey to their enemies. However, I
believe our soldiers would cheerfully undertake
such a march if it were necessary, but it is
argued that if it is at all desirable to make
such an attack upon Texas it can be accom-
plished more speedily, cheaply, and successful-
ly by sending the troops all the way by sea
via Panama. It is said (and I believe) it will
cost the government twenty times as much to
send troops overland via Mazatlan as by way
of Panama, and it will require three or four times
longer. I know of but one man who is really in
favor of this plan and that is Rich L. Ogden
Birth: 1822-09-13 Death: 1900-10-03
in charge of the Commissary department, a man whose
public character is only less dark than his private
reputation. Another reason why the people of
this State are opposed to the proposed expedi-
tion is because it will deprive us of nearly
all our available defense. California will speed-
ily furnish ten regiments to go East and take
Page 3

their stand by the heroes now defending Wash-
ington, but she cannot afford to be deprived of
all her light batteries which her harbors remain
open and unprotected. I am informed by an
experienced officer of the army that Genl Sum-
Birth: 1797-01-30 Death: 1863-03-21
proposes to take with him every light ar-
tillery battery in this coast except one which is
now unmounted and useless at Benicia. To re-
capitulate I believe the proposed expedition to be
utterly impracticable, if practicable ill advised
and too insignificant to accomplish its design,
while all our officers in this coast are opposed
to it, and I believe if persevered in the volun-
teers will mutiny against their officers and re-
fuse to march upon what their early experience
has taught them must be nearly certain
While I am upon this subject I might as
well say what I have so often wished to
say with regard to Genl Fremont. I have some
little reason to believe that your opinion of him
is not flattering, but I am sure it is better than
he deserves. It is the universal opinion of the best
men here that Genl Fremont is wholly incom-
petent, that he knows not the first rudiments of
warfare, that he owes his reputation to one qual-
ity – a rather slippery one for a great nation to
depend upon in times like these – namely luck,
and it is hinted in some circles that his loy-
alty will last him only so long as he can
make it useful. Notwithstanding his immense
Page 4

wealth I would not take his note for $500 –
By a private letter written by Senator Latham
Birth: 1827-05-23 Death: 1882-03-04

I understand that it was through his influence
that Denver
Birth: 1817-10-23 Death: 1892-08-09
was appointed Brig- Genl This also
is much to be regretted. It is only two or three
weeks since that his letters were paraded in the
columns of a secession paper published in Marys-
as strong arguments in favor of the peace
policy of the Breckinridge party of this State, and
I look when him a traitor at heart.
I hope, my dear Uncle, you will not think from
what I have written I am one of those narrow-
minded persons who meddle with public affairs
only to find fault. On the contrary I assure
you I always throw my influence wherever I
think it may be felt in favor of what has been
done, arguing that where disaster has overtaken
us it has not been equalled by our success, and
that whatever may have been the success, if any
particular step it seemed wise at the time it
was taken.
If these hints shall be of any use to you my
object will be gained. I could wish that I
might be able to put them in fewer words
but I have no time even to copy.
With my best wishes to all your family
x Birth: 1844-12-09  Death: 1866-10-29  Birth: 1830-07-08  Death: 1915-04-25  Birth: 1839-06-18  Death: 1920-04-29  Birth: 1826-10-01  Death: 1876-09-11  Birth: 1805-09-24  Death: 1865-06-21 
sincere hope that your health will be spared in
these times I sign myself
Your Nephew
Samuel S. Seward.
Hon. Wm He. Seward
Sect of State