Volume XII · Winter 1957 · Number 2
Samuel Ward, Alias Carlos Lopez
Further light on the fabulous career of Samuel Ward, who has figured in several books published during the past few years, can be found in a series of ninety-two letters which he addressed to Secretary of State William Henry Seward or to Seward's close associates, during the early months of the Civil War, and now a part of our manuscript collection at Rush Rhees Library. Part of these letters have been used by historians, but the greater part of them, particularly those which were written under a pseudonym, appear to have been overlooked. Written in Ward's small, neat handwriting, they are long, gossipy letters, filled with information on the course of events in the South, on the strength and morale of the Confederates, and finally on the public and official attitude of Great Britain and France toward the policy being followed by the Union in its struggle for survival during that critical first year of the war.
The only full-length biography of Samuel Ward was published in 1938 by his niece, the late Mrs. Maud Howe Elliott, of Newport. This delightful book, Uncle Sam Ward and His Circle, was based largely on letters and diaries preserved by various members of a family which figured prominently in nineteenth-century American life. For the period of the Civil War, Mrs. Elliott was unable to give as complete a picture of the life of her uncle as she wished. "For this decade of the sixties," she wrote, "the most important historically in his life, little has been found that throws light on Sam's activities. It is possible that the matters he handled were of so private a nature that few records were kept, or they may have been among the papers that were destroyed after his death." What a pity that she did not have access to these letters written by her uncle for the information and guidance of the Secretary of State!
Ten years later, in 1948, Dr. Frank Maloy Anderson published the results of years of research on the identity of a figure who had long puzzled American historians. In 1879, there appeared in the North American Review a series of articles with the title "The Diary of a Public Man." Published anonymously, the articles professed to be extracts from a daily record kept during the Winter of 1860-1861 by a resident of Washington who had wide acquaintance with the leading figures in national affairs. If authentic, it is a document of great historical significance because of its intimate portrayal of men and events in Washington during that tense period, and its contribution to the great body of Lincolniana which has grown up since the Civil War. Dr. Anderson's research led him to believe that the document was based essentially on a genuine diary, later revised and embellished by the author, and that the diarist could be none other than Samuel Ward. In the course of his studies, he visited Auburn to consult the Seward papers, and found the letters which Samuel Ward wrote to Seward during the early months of 1861. The results of his deductions were published in a volume entitled The Mystery of "A Public Man"; a Historical Detective Story. After a minute and critical study of the diary, Dr. Anderson established thirteen criteria which he used as clues to the identity of the author. He systematically eliminated the names of many "public men" who had been considered as possibilities by historians. Then, in a sketch of the life and personality of Samuel Ward, Dr. Anderson produced convincing arguments to prove that Ward alone could fit into the pattern.
Sam Ward in the Gold Rush, edited by Carvel Collins and published by the Stanford University Press in 1949, is another addition to the growing literature of this less-known member of the Ward family. Here again we have a study of a phase of Ward's adventurous career, together with a reprint of a series of articles which he had published originally in Porter's Spirit of the Times in 1861. The articles bore the title "Incidents on the River Grace," and were issued under the pseudonym of Midas, Jr. Why Ward concealed his identity in this instance is not clear, but in later years he was to use pseudonyms for reasons which were more obvious.
In the fall of 1956, Mrs. Louise Hall Tharp published the latest contribution to the history of the Ward family:Three Saints and a Sinner; Julia Ward Howe, Louisa, Annie and Sam Ward. As in the case of Mrs. Elliott's biography of Sam Ward, the book is drawn largely from the great body of letters, diaries, and records kept by Sam's sisters and their children and by their many friends. It is a living picture of a family which contributed much to American social, literary, and artistic life for almost a century. Once again, Sam Ward the "Sinner" emerges as a man of charming, magnetic personality, often maligned by his contemporaries, always loved by his devoted sisters and their children, an adventurer, a bon vivant, and a raconteur of wide fame at home and abroad.
Samuel Ward was born in New York City, January 27, 1814, the oldest child of Samuel Ward, a prominent banker, and a descendant of a former governor of Rhode Island and an officer in Washington's army. He had three sisters. Julia, who became the wife of Samuel Gridley Howe, humanitarian, attained distinction as the author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Louisa married first Thomas Crawford, American sculptor, later Luther Terry, painter, and lived most of her adult life in Rome. Her son Francis Marion Crawford became the author of numerous historical and romantic novels which were popular toward the close of the century. The third sister, Annie, became the wife of Adolph Maillard, grandson of Joseph Bonaparte, Count of Survilliers and onetime King of Naples and Spain. Sam's formal education consisted of four years at Round Hill School in Northampton, followed by two years at Columbia College, which he entered at the age of fourteen and from which he was graduated in 1831. A year later he went abroad to further his education, extending his stay for four years during which he travelled extensively, studied spasmodically, and indulged in many pursuits which could scarcely be called intellectual.
Returning to the States in 1836 at his father's insistence, he entered the banking house of Prime, Ward, and King, but found the pursuit of money-making an "irksome avocation." His father's death in 1839 was the first of a series of disasters in his personal affairs. In 1841, after three years of married life, his wife Emily, daughter of William B. Astor, died, leaving him with a two-year old daughter Margaret. Two years later, a second marriage caused an estrangement from the Astors, who assumed full care of his infant daughter. Financial failure and a separation from his second wife and their two sons, in 1847, brought to a close the first chapter in the life of the young New Yorker whose prospects had once been so brilliant.
With characteristic optimism, Sam and his two cousins Henry and Ward McAllister joined the gold rush in the spring of 1849. Six months after his arrival in San Francisco, he set forth for New York with a newly acquired fortune! Here again, through a series of unfortunate speculations, he met financial failure in a very few months. Returning to California in January, 1851, he remained on the West Coast for the next five years, engaging in numerous adventures but having little success at regaining his wealth.
One of Ward's first sallies into the field of public affairs has been made the subject of a study by Professor Pablo Max Ynsfran of the University of Texas. His article "Sam Ward's Bargain With President López of Paraguay" appeared in the August 1954 issue of the Hispanic American Historical Review. In this amazing episode we learn something of Sam's activities as secretary to the diplomatic mission sent to Paraguay in 1858 by Presdient Buchanan to negotiate claims arising out of the "Water Witch" affair. The mission, headed by James B. Bowlin of Missouri, resulted in a treaty of commerce between the United States and Paraguay, an apology from the latter country for the"Water Witch" incident, and an agreement to submit further claims to a joint arbitration commission. In order to insure the ratification of the treaty by the United States and to scale down the amount of indemnity to be paid by Paraguay, President Carlos Lopez and Sam Ward appear to have entered into a secret agreement, whereby the latter promised to return to Washington and exert what influence was necessary to secure a favorable settlement for the Paraguayan President. In a series of letters exchanged between the two men, Lopez using the pseudonym of Nicolas Perez and Ward signing his name Pedro Fernandez, Professor Ynsfran found material for a new chapter in the history of Paraguyan-American agreements. What part Ward actually played in securing the final settlement is a matter of conjecture, but his finanacial gains are reputed to have been in excess of $10,000.
During the course of these machinations, Ward had taken up residence in Washington and begun a new career which was to win him the title "King of the Lobby." Thus we find him in a position of influence, a host of great renown, and a man of remarkable talents, firmly intrenched in Washington life at the time of Lincoln's inauguration and Seward's appointment to the office of Secretary of State. It is at this time that the long series of letters from Ward to Seward began.
Of these letters, perhaps the most unusual are those addressed not to Seward but to his close friend and associate George Ellis Baker. The latter had been appointed Financial Officer and Disbursing Agent of the Department of State shortly after Seward assumed office. In addition, Baker appears to have acted as Seward's private secretary. The signature of the letters, written unquestionably by the hand of Samuel Ward, is sometimes Charles, sometimes Carlos Lopez. It seems reasonable to assume that they were so addressed and signed because it lessened the danger of their being intercepted, and because their contents would immediately be brought to the attention of Mr. Seward by his fatihful friend and associate. The plan was no doubt prearranged, and Samuel Ward's choice of pseudonym is not difficult to understand.
As tension between the North and South grew more acute following the election of 1860 and in the early months of 1861 preceding Lincoln's inauguration, Great Britain was disposed to view the course of events with considerable alarm. It was at this time that John Thadeus Delane, then editor of The Times of London, chose to send to the United States one of his outstanding reporters "to act as a special correspondent in observing the rupture between the Southern States and the rest of the Union consequent upon the election of Mr. Lincoln and the advent of the Republican party." This was none other than William Howard Russell, who had established a reputation as a war correspondent during the Crimean War. Mr. Russell had first made the acquaintance of Samuel Ward in the summer of 1860, in London, through their mutual friend William Makepeace Thackeray, and had found Ward "refined, philosophical and cosmopolitan," far too much so, he said, ever to succeed in the United States. Ward met Russell in New York, when he arrived there on March 6, 1861, and from then until the middle of April, when the two men set forth on their southern journey, Russell was brought into informal contact with leading figures in New York and Washington under the guidance of his American friend. Russell's own account of the next few months has been given in his The Civil War in America (1861), My Diary North and South (1863), and "Recollections of the Civil War" published in the North American Review in February, 1898. Sam Ward's part in the journey and the record of his observations are preserved in the letters which he forwarded at regular intervals to William Henry Seward through his friend Baker.
The first intimation of Ward's intention to accompany Russell through the South can be found in a note marked "Private" and addressed to Seward on Tuesday, April 9, 1861:
"I have resolved—perhaps under the inspiration of vanity—to set forth for Montgomery on a peace errand in the morning. I have made out and signed my own roving commission and should esteem it a great favor if you could afford me the honor of a five minutes interview this PM at any moment convenient for you."
The following morning another note announced that "Mr. Russell & myself have been detained by the storm & expect to get away tomorrow."
The two gentlemen apparently did not leave Washington together, but met, probably by prearrangement, at Charleston. From this city on April 19, Ward addressed the first of his letters to George E. Baker, using the pseudonym Charles Lopez. By this time Fort Sumter had fallen and the rapidly changing scene gave Ward much food for reflection. He criticized the slow, bungling efforts of the North, remarking that:
"… While you are planning, these people are acting. They have been anticipating every contingency for months, perhaps years, and have concerted measures for every emergency. As proof of this, I have only to cite the movement upon Harper's Ferry and the obstruction of Norfolk Harbor … The New York Herald of this a.m. (dated 17th Inst.) says 'Recruiting has been unusually brisk today at the Chatham Street Station—13 men enlisted for Governor's Island.' What a mockery ! … The last call in South Carolina has been responded to so that a state of 55,000 voters has furnished 16,000 soldiers for this emergency … Russell is fighting secession sword in hand. He attacks these gentlemen with great vigor-stigmatizes the whole movement as impolitic and suicidal and invariably has the best of the argument… I feel convinced that the people here will never come back. They are as ready for the stake as the Smithfield martyrs. Had slavery been let alone the negroes would have bought themselves free in three generations more. But there is no use crying over spilt milk… I am opposed to abolitionism…"
Writing again from Charleston on April 25, Ward seemed to have modified his point of view somewhat:
"…The aversion to volunteer for service out of the State is on the increase— only a few companies of crack regiments respond to the appeal… The Blockade and the word insurrection employed in the President's proclamation have produced a commotion here. Some of the more rational people, who are, however, quite as determined as any of the others, confess today that with power & ingenuity the North may render the South very uncomfortable… The uprising at the North, the large sums of money offered to the Government & the heavy fall of State stocks afford food for reflection… The same men fear now a protracted war because of the North's unfitness for the field-the cohorts unwieldy, inexperienced and un-officered must get the worst of it in the beginning and hostilities will only terminate when they shall have learned their strength by discipline and experience…"
On May 2 a third letter was written, this time from Savannah, where Ward reported that an atmosphere of repose and quiet formed an agreeable contrast to the military excitability of Charleston. A lengthy description of the fortifications and preparations for defense, and a critical study of military strategy fill the letter. A concluding statement tells of Russell's activities:
"…Russell continues the good fight-no one can stand against him in a forensic 'set to.' He ascribes will & intelligence to Mr. Lincoln & people change their tone and augur better for the future where assured of his force & intelligence by so competent & impartial a judge…"
A week later he was at Montgomery, and the letter of May 9 from that place contains further bits of gossip he had picked up in his contacts with Confederate officials. He discussed again matters pertaining to recruitment, supplies, and the blockade, and once more warned Seward that the military strength of the South must not be underestimated:
"…They say that by Spring they will have an army of 100,000 soldiers & will then cross the frontier & show you the difference between soldiers and Rail Road passengers… Northern soldiers will not compare with the tough & sinewy men I see here."
It seems likely that some of Ward's letters did not reach their destination, for the next one we have is dated June 18, from Memphis, and contains a résumé of information included in letters which he feared may have miscarried. Brief reports on the military strength of Fort Pulaski, Beaufort, Port Royal, Broad River, Fort Morgan, Fort Pickens, New Orleans, Camp Moore, Memphis, and Corinth fill the letter. Three days later he wrote from Cairo adding more information to that of his letter of June 18, a few "supplementary points" which he wished to communicate.
"…There is a plan on foot in N. Orleans to mislead the Brooklyn at night into shallow water & then attack her when aground with improvised flotillas of Gun Boats & large guns from a masked battery… there is a scheme of deception & surprize on foot & Capt. Poore must keep a sharp lookout.
"When I was in Mobile Capt. Meagher of the Steamer Southern Republic… showed me the plans of a floating Iron Battery destined to attack the U.S. fleet off Mobile…
"I cannot better explain my view of the difference between the aggressive tiger man of the South and your soldiers fighting for an abstract question than by reminding you that I have seen Billy Mulligan on two occasions clear out a bar room. These men, with their yells & bowie knives & blood thirsty manners will take by surprize the bravest men who are unused to such riot."
His final sentence in the letter of that date suggests that Ward had entertained hopes of a diplomatic appointment: "I am sorry you have given away the Paraguay mission, which is useless to the incumbent."
From Chicago, which he had reached by way of Cincinnati, he wrote again on the twenty-fifth of June:
"…Recent advices from Mobile & New Orleans confirm the intimation already furnished of a floating battery at the former place & of a scheme at the latter to surprize the Brooklyn which certain descendants of La Fitte have offered to capture for $100,000-no cruiser-no pay. Russell thinks that Capt. Wagner's battery at the point of Cairo will defend that place against any fair attack of 20,000 men…"
By the end of the first week in July, Ward and Russell were back in New York City. The latter proceeded to Washington, but Ward apparently decided to remain in New York, where he felt he would be of greater use. Taking up residence in a hotel frequented by Southerners and Southern sympathizers, he obtained there most of the information which filled the numerous letters which he continued to address to Baker, William H., or Frederick W. Seward, sometimes signed with the same pseudonym, sometimes with his own name, until the fall of 1862.
The first of the letters from New York is dated July 7, and urges Seward to be cordial toward Russell:
"… I hope you have been kind and attentive to Russell who as I wrote you from Savannah fought secession all the way through the South. He is as good a Northern man as you are & when you see his letters about slavery, which will shake all England, you will see that you could have no better ally. He is honest, kind hearted and in controversy the ablest general logician I ever heard converse."
During the following week, on July 15, he continued his correspondence with a letter filled with information on the situation in Mexico, on the British-French attitude toward the American crisis, and interesting tidbits which he had picked up here and there in New York, through his many contacts:
"…Hurlbert told my friend Barron that he was on his way South to obtain the privilege of representing overtly or covertly the Richmond clique in Mexico. He felt sanguine of the cordial acceptance of his services volunteered to undermine the efforts of Mr. Corwin…
"A Captain Johnson, recent bearer of despatches for Lord Lyons from ye Br. Govt. assured me on Saty. PM of his conviction that England & France would act in entire concert in American affairs & that a private treaty or stipulation to that effect had already been passed between them. Barron has just received letters from Mexico predicting the speedy overthrow of the Juarez Government by Marquez…
"Any communications had best be addressed by G. E. B. to me in my own name at the N. York Hotel where I shall stay for the present as it is good gleaning ground."
Five days later came further news of Hurlbert, a gentleman of unsavory reputation but considerable literary talent, who had been associated with the New York Times, and later was to become editor of the New York World.
"… I hear from pretty good authority that Hurlbert has made his peace with Davis & taken a charming cottage near Richmond where he is giving dinners which have been more than once partaken of by Davis who is said to be 'quite fascinated with the fellow.'
"You know he took with him $7000 made by the fall of stocks upon that of Sumter & taken out of the pockets of Blatchford, Weed & others … It is even intimated that his pen may be traced in the message Davis delivers today in Richmond…"
A month later, we learn further developments in the story of Hurlbert, whose affairs seem to have taken an unfortunate turn for the worse:
"…Barlow has received a letter from Hurlbert saying that he is a close prisoner & Benjamin powerless to help him. Constitution Browne fears to go near him lest he shd compromise himself. He has been told that shd he attempt to escape North he will be hanged because possessed of so many plans & secrets of the C. S. A. This caution is needless as H____is too nearsighted to be able to see his way home. He anticipates a long confinement & says the only comfort he has is a letter from Toombs when Secretary stating that he is in durance for no crime civil or military but simply as a necessary precaution for his own safety & that of the C. S. A."
History records that after several months imprisonment, Hurlbert escaped from Richmond during the summer of 1862 and made his way on foot to Washington. Whether his escape was effected by bribery or whether his release was deliberately contrived by the Confederates in order to have him free to serve their cause in the North is a matter of conjecture. His every action during the remaining years of the war was marked by distinct hostility toward the Republican administration.
Ward's letters during the fall and Winter are more concerned with the attitude and activities of England, France, and Italy toward the Union as well as the Confederate States, and are filled with quotations from conversations he had with various foreign representatives or from letters which were brought to his attention. He wrote on Oct. 11, for instance:
"…I saw a letter today intended to have been from the 'Paris Correspondence of the Daily News.' It declares from personal knowledge 'that Marsh and Sanford instead of remaining at their posts paid a visit to Garibaldi to urge him to accept the U.S. offer & that he was strongly induced to go; but that Victor Emmanuel refused his consent because Garibaldi is still wanted at home. It is supposed that V. E. had a wink from Napoleon; England & France being opposed to all Foreign intervention until the fullness of time shall come when both may pitch in… The correspondent then gives particulars of the French, English & Spanish intervention in Mexico…"
On October 28 he wrote again:
"As I was on the point of leaving town on Saturday, I recd a note from Barlow pressing me to dine with him yesterday &, as he usually has items of interest to impart, I abandoned the chase of which I had promised you the results in an anticipatory bag of game.
"I left his house last evening in greater tribulation than I have felt since I saw the flag shot down at Sumter. I give you the substance of my gleanings—although none of them may be novelties to you.
"1. Foreign diplomatists in Washington collectively & separately without an exception declare that the blockade will be opened in January by England & France, upon the principle that 'charity begins at home' & that both countries are on the verge of a Revolution which can only be averted in England by a supply of cotton & in France by one of cotton & Tobacco. They will insist upon having two ports open at which cotton & tobacco may be exchanged for gold.
"2. A letter reached town on Friday, by the Africa, from Yancey asserting that he had the most reliable assurances from Louis Napoleon & his ministers, with whom.he was in almost daily intercourse, that France was only delaying her recognition of the C. S. until she could supply herself with enough grain from our section to ensure her people against starvation.
"3. Another letter from one of the Commissioners says that the French Emperor suggested the despatch of a regular Ambassador from Richmond-As they could not have heard of Slidell's & Mason's escape, at the time this letter was written, it is not difficult to believe it may be partly true.
"4. Mr. Ferguson, M.P., said at dinner on Monday last—before sailing—that he had the authority of Lord Lyons for saying that Mr. Seward was assuredly bent upon provoking a war with England and was likely to succeed in the attempt. His motive was unfathomable 'unless by this new and complicated embarrassment to exonerate himself & party from the political responsibility of the irrepressible conflict—though possibly he may have an eye to repair in Canada the geographical loss of Southern Territory."
And so the letter continues for five closely written pages. Writing the next morning, "Lopez" remarked:
"I forgot to say that the presence of Stoeckl in N.Y. & his intimacy with Barlow would seem to warrant the surmise that the diplomatic on dits which I took the liberty of communicating by yesterday's post were derived from him."
To make a complete study of the letters would be no mean task. Separating fact from fiction and evaluating the worth of the information thus passed along to Seward would be time consuming but might very well be worth the effort involved. There is evidence that Seward read the letters, a few of them bearing notations in his handwriting. There is evidence that Seward kept in touch with Ward, for Ward occasionally refers to letters or communications he had received, and there is at least one entry in Baker's records of State Department disbursements which shows that Seward sent a wire to C. Lopez. What Seward's letters may have said can only be guessed at. It is doubtful if they have been preserved, for surely some of the recent biographers of Ward would have discovered their existence and pursued the matter further.
What were Sam Ward's aims in becoming Seward's self-appointed Argus? I think it safe to say that his reasons were to some extent patriotic. Although disposed to be pessimistic and impatient with the administration, Ward was fundamentally a Northern man but, as Dr. Frank Anderson had said, "not antagonistic to the South on sectional or antislavery lines." Ward obviously liked intrigue, and enjoyed the role of a bearer of tidings. Finally, and perhaps most important, Ward was constantly on the alert for some sort of diplomatic mission or political appointment. There is evidence that he felt he should have been sent abroad on the mission which included Thurlow Weed, Archbishop Hughes, and Bishop McIlvaine. He proposed a more or less elaborate plan for a secret mission to South America to ascertain the "cotton capacity" of that continent, a mission which he, being familiar with the people and languages of the Latin-American countries, would gladly undertake. "I should feel gratified to add this feather to your cap," he wrote, "and proud of the confidence it would betoken." That his suggestion was not immediately rejected is evident from allusions to the plan in letters of the next few months.
The letters stop abruptly at the end of September, 1862, and, except for two rather formal notes to Frederick Seward in 1867, there is no further evidence that the "friendship" was continued. Apparently in the fall of 1862 Ward began to make preparations for another journey to Latin America, this time to Nicaragua on two errands. One was to investigate gold and silver mines in the region for his friend Samuel L. M. Barlow, New York lawyer. The other presumably was to bring about a restoration of the transit franchise allowing passage across the Isthmus, which had at one time been granted to an American steamship company by the Nicaraguan government, but revoked in 1857 following the shooting of a native at San Juan del Norte. There is no evidence in the Seward papers at Rochester that the United States government, particularly the State Department, was in any way connected with this mission or with others in which Samuel Ward was involved in the years which followed immediately. We can add no further chapters to the story of Sam's adventures, of which there were many, before his death in Italy in 1884.