About Seth Williams
Seth Williams (March 22, 1822 – March 23, 1866) was an American military figure who served as assistant adjutant general of the Union's Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War.
Williams was born in Augusta, Maine. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1842, 23rd in a class of 56. He served as aide-de-camp to General Robert Patterson in the Mexican-American War with the rank of second lieutenant. Williams received a brevet to the rank of captain for his conduct at the Battle of Cerro Gordo as a first lieutenant. He was adjutant at West Point from 1850 to 1853 before moving to the adjutant general's office in Washington, D.C..
Promoted to the rank of major in August 1861 and lieutenant colonel on July 7, 1862, Williams became a brigadier general of volunteers on September 23, 1861. He was a groomsman at George McClellan's wedding in New York City on May 22, 1860.
Seth Williams served as assistant adjutant general to Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan in the Department of the Ohio in the summer of 1861. From August 20, 1861 to March 1864, Williams was assistant adjutant general of the Army of the Potomac, responsible for the routine drafting of orders, correspondence, and reports. George McClellan named him to that position after unsuccessfully requesting the assignment to Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter. McClellan and Williams became friends during their service together. Williams was called before the United States Congress Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War to testify about the Battle of Gettysburg. Williams's testimony was especially helpful to Meade.
Williams was a convivial officer to whose quarters other officers resorted for company.
Williams later served as inspector general on the staff of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant from the spring of 1864 to February 9, 1866. When Grant decided to recommend surrender to Robert E. Lee during the Appomattox Campaign, it was Williams who took the message to the Confederate lines. He also delivered Grant's terms to the Confederate army. He was present at the surrender on April 9, 1865.
Williams was awarded the brevet of colonel for the Battle of Gettysburg and of major general of volunteers for his service in 1863 and 1864. On March 13, 1865, Williams was appointed brevet brigadier general and major general in the regular army. Although slated to begin service as assistant adjutant general of the Military Division of the Atlantic, Williams became ill later that month and left for Boston, Massachusetts. There he died of a brain ailment, described as an "inflammation". He was buried in Augusta's Forrest Grove Cemetery. Fort Williams on Cape Elizabeth, Maine, is named for him. The name was assigned on April 13, 1899.