The following article was written in 1923 by my
maternal grandfather, John Dryer Armstrong. He was born August 6, 1852,
in Springfield, Illinois, the son of Hugh McCracken and Lavinia Dryer
Armstrong. His father was a close friend of Abraham Lincoln, and served
in Lincoln's Company in the Black Hawk War.
A short history of the Armstrong family may be found
in Illinois State Historical Proceedings, Vol. XIV No. 2,
article by Mrs. Sarah B. Shifter entitled, "Unveiling of a Tablet to
the Memory of a Revolutionary Soldier, Joshua Armstrong." Joshua
Armstrong was the father of Hugh.
My grandfather made his home with his daughter, Ethel
Armstrong Foster (a 70 year member of NSDAR), and my brother John and I
were entertained during our childhood by grandpa telling us stories of
his memories of Lincoln and his family. After his death in 1933, I came
upon a file marked "Lincoln papers for Peggy," and this paper was among
many articles he had saved through the years. Also included was a copy
of the New York Herald dated August 15, 1865.
Orcelia Foster Angert (Peggy)
(Mrs. Paul J.)
Past Regent Wooster-Wayne Chapter NSDAR
John Dryer Armstrong
The life of Abraham Lincoln has been
written by many men in many tongues. The resources
of rhetoric and eloquence have been exhausted in the portrayal
by many writers of the character of Mr. Lincoln. I will confine myself
to my boyhood recollections.
My home was in Springfield,
Illinois, and located on Fourth Street, just four blocks from the
Lincoln home, and it was my pleasure as well as honor to personally
know Lincoln and his family. I was a playmate of his sons, Will and
Tad, and we were schoolmates.
One of the pleasures of my boyhood
days was the happy hours spent at the Lincoln home. In the good old
days there was not much to excite the minds of the young, but in our
hours of play we found ample amusement. The young of
the present day would not pay heed to the games we played sixty
years ago, but, I assure you, to us nothing was equal to the
game of tag which we played - such fun and laughter - and to
add to our pleasure Mr. Lincoln would come out where we were
playing and, at sight of him, we would call and say, "Come on,
Uncle Abe, and play tag." He would join in our play and, when he caught
the runner, he would toss him above his head and then gently place him
on his feet and say, "Now you catch me." Then the fun began. With his
height of six feet four inches, you can imagine the figure he made in
trying to evade the eager lads as they made an attempt to stop him.
Uncle Abe was a great lover of
children and ever had a word of cheer to offer. I think the most
pleasant hours we spent were when, after our tag game was over, he
would sit on the porch and we boys would sit on the lawn at his feet
and listen to the stories he would spin of his boyhood days, not full
of joy, far from it, but of the hard work, long hours, and privation he
passed through and each story had a moral. As we drank in the words he
uttered, it filled our hearts full, and I feel as though it was the
making of our future lives.
After Lincoln was nominated for
President and before he left for Washington, D.C., the manufacturers
and business men of Springfield gave a trade procession in his
honor, and each manufacturer and business was represented on
floats drawn by horses.
My father, being a manufacturer of
cloth known as the "Armstrong Jeans," had on his float a loom and steam
engine and, as the procession wended its way through the streets, he
wove a piece of cloth. A few days after the parade, my father went to
Mr. Lincoln's office and took me with him. As we entered the office,
Mr. Lincoln arose and greeted us. Then my father presented to him the
cloth he had woven for him.
Mr. Lincoln opened the package and I will never forget the
expression on his face; a tear dropped as he extended his hand
grasping the hand of my father. He said, "Hugh, I thank you
for this expression of your friendship and shall have trousers made up
as soon as I get located. God bless you." Then he turned to me and
lifting me, drew me to his breast, then placing me on the floor he
placed his hand on my head and said, "My boy, I hope you will be as
good and noble a man as your father." Oh, those words are still in my
At eight a.m. February 11, 1861,
Mr. Lincoln left Springfield for the National Capitol to enter upon his
duties as President. With these following simple words he took leave of
his friends and neighbors:
"My friends! No one not in my
position can appreciate the sadness I feel at this parting. To this
people I owe all that I am. Here I have lived more than a quarter of a
century; here my children were born, and here one of them lies buried.
I know not how soon I shall see you again. A duty devolves upon me
which is perhaps greater than that which has devolved upon any other
man since the days of Washington. He would never have succeeded except
by the aid of Divine Providence, upon which he at all times relied. I
feel that I cannot succeed without this same Divine Aid which sustained
him, and on the same
Almighty Being I place my reliance for support. I hope you,
my friends, will all pray that I may receive that Divine Assistance
without which I cannot succeed, but with which success is certain.
Again, I bid you an affectionate farewell."
These words proved to be his last
words to his old friends and neighbors. And, as the train left the
Wabash Depot, on the rear platform stood "Uncle Abe," hat in left hand,
his right pointing towards Heaven, as though appealing to God for
strength and guidance. His friends and neighbors, with bowed heads,
were held in deep sorrow as the train carried away a man whom all loved.
Time passed, and on the 15th of
April, 1865, our morning papers gave the sad tidings of the death of
our President. After several days, the remains of Lincoln lay in state
in Springfield, and thousands of people, all day long and through the
night, filed through the State House to view the remains.
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