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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

 

BOYHOOD RECOLLECTIONS

OF LINCOLN

by

John Dryer Armstrong

Abraham Lincon and Son Tad 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 mind.

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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