My great-grandfather (my mother's grandfather) grew up in Maryland, born in 1851, and did some scampering around on civil war battlefields as a boy. He met both Lincoln and Lee. He moved to Ohio as a young man, and spent his adult life there. In 1938, when he was 87 years old, a newspaper interviewed him about what he saw. He lived to be 97, died 6 years before I was born so I never knew him.
This newspaper article, including copies of it, are getting in pretty bad shape, so I retyped it so it won't be lost - easy to c/p it here. His last name is different from mine, and out of respect for people with that name, I've just changed it to "Mr. Jones", since his name isn't important to anyone but our family.
THE DAYTON DAILY NEWS SUNDAY FEBRUARY 20, 1938
LINCOLN, LEE STILL LIVE FOR CARPENTER WHO SAW CIVIL WAR BATTLES
Mr Jones, 87, who operates a little carpenter shop at the rear of his home here, got a far away look in his eyes last week while mounting a bronze plaque of Abraham Lincoln to present to a friend.
His thoughts turned to the debates in his native Maryland in the days preceding and immediately following the rebellion. Into his mind came a picture of county fair time in Frederick, with a gaunt figure standing on a wooden platform and addressing a huge crowd who, though most of them could not hear because Lincoln's voice was high pitched and did not carry well, stood motionless.
"After he finished his speech - I don't think he talked over 20 minutes - everybody rushed up to shake hands with him. My father carried me in his arms and worked his way to where the president stood", Jones recalls. "A man they called 'judge' gave my father's name. The president put his hand on my head and asked my name. And then he said as solemnly as you please, 'He's a mighty likely looking litter feller'. Think I don't remember Lincoln? Would you?
"I saw Lincoln twice after that", relates Jones. The second time was on Monday after the battle of Stone Mountain. My father was guide for Gen. Hooker and the Union army from Middletown to South Mountain. He showed the general exactly where Gen Lee was camped. Father pointed out all the roads, the paths and creeks. You see, nearly all the fighting was done right there on our farm.
"After a while advance guards started out and it was plain enough, even to a boy my age, what would happen. We youngsters were all thrilled - I don't know what to call it but it was one of those feelings that come to boys and makes them remember.
"Gen. Hooker told father and the neighbors to get all their folks out of the way because a battle might start almost any minute, and he didn't want to see anybody get hurt that wasn't actually in the fight.
"During the fight Gen. Reno was killed. I saw the whole fight from the top of the next hill. We weren't exactly out of range nor out of danger but that gave us that much more thrill. It just seemed that both sides knew we were over there and didn't point their guns in our direction.
"Before the battle, Gen. Lee had his headquarters at the farmhouse of my uncle, Johnson.Silkneck. After the fight, Gen. Hooker moved forward and Gen. McClellan took over Uncle John's house for his headquarters.
The next morning there was more excitement than there had been when the army marched from Middletown. Everybody was running toward our farm. President Lincoln had come out from Washington.
"They showed him the spot where Gen. Reno fell. I got as close as the soldiers would let me and could see him plain enough. He wore a long black coat and a high hat. He looked older and more worried than he had a year before at the fairgrounds. When he stood where his friend, Gen. Reno was killed, he cried.
"While the president was on the battlefield, the news came that Col. Miller had surrendered Harper Ferry. We also got the news of Gen. Lee's appeal to the people of Maryland. We all knew that there would be a bigger fight right away because Gen. Stonewall Jackson and his army had arrived.
"Gen. Lee was at Austin Poffenbarger's house where he made his headquarters. Austin and my father were friends and neighbors. Us boys wanted to see what Gen. Lee looked like, so we went over there. That's another time I won't ever forget.
"Gen. Lee came out in the yard to talk to us. I thought then that I had never seen such a handsome man and I'm sure I haven't since; at least not one who made the impression on me that Lee did.
"The general talked to us kindly, asked us about our schools and our farms and warned us to keep out of danger. It didn't make any difference to us boys whether our fathers were Unionists or Confederates; Gen. Lee was a hero to us.
"I did not get to see the battle of Antietam but we could hear it plainly enough, six miles away. But the next day we all went over to see where the fight was.
"I saw it through a boy's eyes - horses and men piled up there like rubbish. I can't forget the sight.
"I saw Lincoln again that day. He had gone back to Washington after Stone Mountain, then came out to Antietam again. He looked even more worried than he had a few days before. History tells us that Lincoln was elated over the battle of Antietam. He may have been glad for it's effect upon the war - the fact that it would hasten the end, but it certainly did not look to us boys like he was jubilant.
"When Gen. Lee brought his army back up north we were all excited again. We - at least us boys - had formed a mighty high opinion of Gen. Lee and everybody knew he was a sure-enough fighter. McClellan wasn't so popular. There was many a smile at Frederick afterwards when we read about the telegram Lincoln sent him about the horses. One of McClellan's alibis for his failure was that his horses were fatigued and had sore mouths. Lincoln wired him from Washington:
"I have just read your dispatch about sore tongued and fatigued horses. Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done to fatigue anything.
"I was about 20 miles from Gettysburg when that big fight was going on. We couldn't see the smoke of the battle but heard the cannon. The way we did that, there was a well on the farm so we climbed down into the well and heard the cannon hour after hour. That some of us weren't drowned is one of the many miracles I have seen in my day.
"War was bad enough when I was a boy but from what I've heard and read, it must be worse now. I don't have any idea how long it will keep up but if it's true that there are too many people in the world, that will soon be remedied at the rate they are making war equipment and fast automobiles.
"I often think that while I stood and watched two armies trying to destroy each other, I wasn't in as much danger as I am now walking across the street here in this quiet little town.