Scott Kennedy Snively

 

Click for First-hand accounts of Scott K. Snively,

regarding his encounters with President Lincoln

during the Civil War and the events of that fateful

night, in the saloon of Ford’s Theatre, on April 14, 1865.

 

Scott Kennedy Snively’s soldier’s story has not been published since February 20, 1927.  He was born, in Antrim Township, on September 9, 1845, the son of Melchi and Elizabeth Newcomer Snively.  Melchi founded the village of Shady Grove.

 

Just after the pictorial history book 2004 Images of America Greencastle-Antrim went to print, Daniel Wolford, Omaha, NE and a great-great-grandson of Scott Snively, emailed the museum and inquired if we’d be interested in the Snively family history records and photographs.  Over the next several weeks, he mailed and emailed a tremendous amount of Scott Snively’s family history, which included copies of the letters to the editor, which are transcribed at the end of this column.  Other than telling the story for special exhibits, I’ve waited 11 years, to publish Scott’s story to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination.  Scott’s story is ultimately one of the most amazing Greencastle-Antrim Civil War soldier’s stories, for many reasons, but most especially because he, “a young pippin” from Shady Grove, PA, was on leave and in the saloon of Ford’s Theatre the night Lincoln was assassinated.

 

With his father’s signature, Scott K. Snively of Antrim Township enlisted, at the age of 16, on August 2, 1862, in Company K, 126th Pennsylvania Volunteers. But he is recorded as being 18.   Scott was discharged on May 20, 1863, along with the rest of the regiment.

 

Within less than a year, Snively went to New York City, where he re-enlisted, on March 25, 1864, in Company M, 13th Regiment New York Cavalry Volunteers.  He was discharged the second time on July 13, 1865, with the rank of sergeant.  Snively had an illustrious tour of duty during the Civil War, having been shot through the lung and liver (the bullet was never removed) and being shipwrecked off shore.  The wound was the same kind of wound, from which President Garfield died.  Officially, the President’s death was caused by infection.

 

After the Civil War, Scott taught school for a couple years in the Antrim Township schools and then, like many young Civil War veterans from this area and the East Coast, he went west to find his fortune and became one of the pioneers who settled the West.  “In the fall of 1867 I landed in Nodaway county [sic], Missouri, purchased 1,000 acres of land (paid cash for same) located six miles south of Maryville on the Savannah road [sic].”

 

Scott then returned to Greencastle in January 1868, and married Jane “Jennie” Elizabeth Grace Irwin, in the Greencastle Presbyterian Church, on January 23.  Rev. Wallace officiated.  Jennie was the daughter of Alexander L. Irwin and Sarah Montgomery Irwin.  Alexander L. Irwin built the house that is now home to Allison-Antrim Museum, at 365 South Ridge Avenue, Greencastle, PA.  Scott and Jennie, as she was known, then moved to Nodaway, MO, “and lived there and at Arkoe, Missouri, 25 years, represented Nodaway county [sic] (from 1902 to 1908) in the 26th and 27th General Assembly.  I introduced the first bill asking for an appropriation and establishment of Normal School at Maryville, MO, went through the House but was defeated in the Senate. Introduced the bill that became a law restraining hogs from running at large.”

 

“I was run out of Missourri by a cyclone.  On the 14th day of June 1893, I left Missouri, broken up financially and every other way, paid every person I owed and migrated to Sheridan, Sheridan county [sic], Wyoming.  Represented Sheridan county [sic] for three consecutive terms, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Legislatures, was elected speaker of the house of the Ninth Legislature in 1907 and at the adjournment the House presented me with a solid ivory gavel inlaid with gold.  I am now a resident of the great state of Iowa and the beautiful town of Blockton, Taylor county [sic].”

Snively established and was involved in numerous business ventures throughout his life, including ranching, livestock, mills, general mercantile stores, and real estate.  In Wyoming, he had one of the largest sheep raising businesses in the northwest.  Scott was Commander, for many years, of Sheridan’s GAR post.  He was also greatly involved in the Mason, Shrine, and Elk Lodges.

 

Scott and Jennie had seven children, five of who survived to adulthood.  They were: Melchi Irwin, Edith Vance, Scott Montgomery, Bertha Bell (April 26, 1875 to November 29, 1880), Hugh Erle, Frederick Bryan (September 28, 1879 to December 2, 1879), and Grace Jane Elizabeth.

Scott Kennedy Snively was 85 years, ten months, and 15 days old, when he died, in Blockton, Iowa, on July 24, 1931.  His body was taken back to Sheridan, and is buried in Mason Circle, Block K, Lot 5, of the Sheridan (WY) Municipal Cemetery, alongside his wife Jennie, who died December 15, 1916.  Scott Kennedy Snively and Jane “Jennie” Snively were Presbyterians, from the time they lived in Greencastle.

 

The following is a letter written by Scott Kennedy Snively to the publisher of The Iowa Homestead newspaper in Des Moines, Iowa.  The letter was printed verbatim in the Thursday, February 10, 1927 issue, under the column “The Publisher’s Views on Topics of the Times.”  A photocopy of this newspaper article is part of the Scott Kennedy Snively collection which was given to Allison-Antrim Museum by his descendants in Nebraska and Wyoming.

 

Here follows the first-hand accounts of Scott K. Snively, regarding his encounters with President Lincoln during the Civil War and the events of that fateful night, in the saloon of Ford’s Theatre, on April 14, 1865.

 

From The Iowa Homestead Newspaper:  Iowa Farmer Writes New Chapter about Lincoln

 

Editor: Among the many letters written to me by these men who saw, knew or voted for Abraham Lincoln, none is more interesting or of greater historic value than that written to me by Scott K. Snively, of Blockton, Iowa. Mr. Snivley’s letter is a real contribution to the history of Lincoln and I am glad, indeed, to have the privilege of printing it, as follows:

 

“I was born and raised four and one-half miles north of Mason Dixon Line in Franklin county [sic], Pa., on the 9th day of September, 1845.  My birthplace is located on the Baltimore, Maryland, turnpike 13 ½ miles from the Antietam, Md., battlefield, 16 miles southwest of Gettysburg, Pa., battlefield, and nine miles south of Chambersburg, the county seat of Franklin county [sic], Pa., which was burned down by command of Confederate General McCauslin.  Only the block that the Masonic Temple was situated upon was saved.  Evidently the General was a Master Mason.  I was 16 years old and had to have the consent of my father before I was accepted, but I recorded at the age of 18.  One had to be a pippin, sound as an acorn to be accepted in the year of 1862.  It was the same with the cavalry horses, but in the year of 1864 and the first half of 1865, any kind of a man or boy was corralled and mustered in and any kind of an old nag or mule went.  We were mustered out by reason of expiration of term of enlistment before General Lee’s army came across the Potomac river [sic] through Hagerstown, Md.   I was wounded at the battle of Chancellorsville, Va., and was moving around on crutches after the wound in the ankle healed up.

 

“The first time I ever saw Mr. Lincoln was after the battle of Antietam.  He was sitting on the south side of a small stand and Gen. Geo. B. McClellan was on the north side in a large headquarters tent.  I was not close enough to hear them talk, as a heavy guard kept us back 100 feet or more, but we could plainly see Mr. Lincoln, and I thought he had the longest index finger on his right hand I ever saw.  He appeared to us like he might be reading a riot act to General McClellan for letting General Lee get away when we had the Confederate northern Virginia army whipped.  Of course we were only big grown-up boys and heard older men say that General McClellan had no right to accept a flag of truce from General Lee to bury the dead and instead march away over the pontoon bridge over the Potomac.  The fact of the business was that on account of the high water of the Potomac Lee at first could not get his pontoon bridges to stay, but shortly after the flood subsided they stuck and he and his army skiddooed and we performed the most of the burying of the dead.

 

“The next time I saw Mr. Lincoln was at Golansville, Va., when General McClellan took leave of the Army of the Potomac and turned it over to General Joe Hooker.  Our regiment was on the extreme left of the Army of the Potomac and we were ordered out in line of the review on the road and after standing at parade rest for a short time we stacked arms and laid [sic] down on the ground and waited for the reviewers.  It was claimed that Mr. Lincoln would be in the line of reviewers and we all were considerably exercised.  The length of the army was estimated to be 17 miles and after waiting a couple of hours we began hearing the cheering and we were ordered to fall in and take arms and come to a present arms when the head of the cavalcade came in view, Mr. Lincoln in the lead riding a very common looking old roan mare (said to have been selected on account of being gentle).  Mr. Lincoln had on a high hat, low shoes, red socks and his pants, the legs of which had crawled up to his knees, and my boyish recollection of it was that he was exceedingly homely; the good dear man that he proved himself to be.

 

“The next time that I saw Mr. Lincoln was at Alexandria, Va., a bunch of us had slipped down to the river to go in swimming and we went through a vacant lot of several acres that was occupied by a large body of contraband negroes [sic], and they told us they were destitute of something to eat.  All we could do was to extend our sympathy and just as we were returning a fine big carriage drawn by a beautiful span of iron gray horses stopped and the negroes [sic] gathered around and when Mr. Lincoln got out of the vehicle an old black mammy exclaimed in a loud voice, ‘My God! Dere is Master Abe,’ and of all the screaming and clapping of hands, a regular pandemonium, and when they quieted down he began talking to them.  Everything became as quiet as death and all my life I regretted that we were too far away to comprehend what he said.  Mr. Seward was with him, we found out a couple of days later, when we went again to bathe.  It was quite a different camp.  We could smell the fat meat frying and the corn pones putting forth a fragrant odor about made us feel like eating, and the poor colored people, how happy they were.

 

“The next time I came in contact relation to Mr. Lincoln was the night after General Lee had surrendered his army to General Grant, at Appomattox, Va.  The city of Washington was celebrating the important event by illuminating the public buildings and private homes of the citizens. We had moved from Alexandria, Va., to the old Scott’s camp at the head of Seventh street [sic], Washington, D.C., and we all were informed that we could take advantage of a French leave of absence and if we conducted ourselves as men should the provost guard would not molest us.  Nearly all of the soldiers of the different camps in the vicinity of the defense of Washington, D.C., took advantage of the accorded privilege and were upon the streets and in places of amusement.  The capitol building was a jet in all the windows and the dome represented, as it were, a great ball of fire.  In going along the street one could designate the Confederate sympathizer from their homes being dark as night and the homes of the Union people bright as day.

 

“Our First Lieutenant, John W. Hutchison, a real fighter and most wonderful scout, came to a bunch of us, six in number, and said, ‘Boys, you accompany me down in the city as my bodyguard,’ and we all spoke in unison, ‘All right.’  So we washed our hands and faces, shined our shoes and down into the city we went and after looking around some we came to the Ford theater [sic] and some one proposed we all have a stein of beer and some Swiss cheese.  So we went into the saloon, took a table and the waiter came and took our order.  Some ordered Limburger instead of Swiss and while we were waiting for the order Lieutenant Hutchison began counting his money.  He says, ‘Boys, I was just counting my cash to see if I could take you all upstairs and see the play, President Lincoln will be there tonight, but I find I haven’t got sufficient funds to buy the tickets so we will not go up.’ The tickets were $2.50 per and inasmuch as we had not had a pay day for some time we were all shy.  But we all in unison said he must go, and we would be waiting around close to accompany him home to camp after the performance was over.  Finally he considered he would and did go up and we enjoyed ourselves as well as we could and were so happy that the ‘cruel war’ would now be over.

 

“I think it was about 15 minutes after the lieutenant left us there came walking in the door of the saloon the finest specimen of humanity I ever looked upon – a tall, well built man, long black hair, a fine, well trained mustache, broad brimmed black hat, high top boots well shined and gloves upon his hands.  He walked up to the bar, took off his right glove and called for Pennsylvania rye, and he took a glass plumb full and those days the whiskey glasses were much larger than later days.  He paid for his drink, pulled on his glove and went out.  Near to us at another table there were two civilians and one remarked to the other, ‘That man is J. Wilkes Booth, the great actor.’  Otherwise we would never have known it.

 

“I cannot remember for sure how long thereafter it was but my recollection is 10 minutes, when all at once the dreadful news was proclaimed ‘some one has shot the President.’ My, Oh My! I wish I could describe the dreadful scenes.  Lieutenant Hutchison described the awful incident to us.  He said the shot was fired and in an instant almost Booth landed on the stage pronouncing the words ‘Sic Semper Tyrannus’ – Death to Traitors.  He said the audience seemed almost paralyzed and from where he sat he could see the President’s box where he was seated.

 

“The lieutenant came pale as death, tears falling down over his cheeks, ‘My God, boys, we must return to camp quick as we can,’ and said to me, ‘Sergeant, you come leisurely.’  I was on the invalid list and acting sergeant major of the camp and by the time I got out there they had saddled up, mounted and were turning in fours for the street.  They reported to General Augers’ headquarters and were ordered to place a corporal and three men at all exits from the city as far as the squad went.  Our company was depleted from 108 men to 84 and there was a company from the 16th N.Y.V. Cavalry also stationed at our camp.  The man who shot and killed Booth, through the cracks in an old barn near Bowling Green, (VA) was Sergt. Boston Corbett, with whom I was well acquainted.

 

“Co. M 13th N. Y Cavalry got on Booth’s trail and followed to the home of Dr. Mudd and got the boot that was cut off the foot of J. Wilkes Booth, and kept on his trail.  The company from the 16th N. Y. V. Cavalry were several miles back of our company.  Then our company came to a swamp and proceeded to march on up to the head of it and in the meantime the company from the 16th N. Y. came up and rode across the swamp and when our boys got around, Booth was killed.  Some department in the affairs of the nation offered $100,000 for the man who shot the President, dead or alive.  Our fellows just laughed and used some language that would not be suitable to express before ladies.  The reward was never paid, it was declared unconstitutional on account of the soldiers having captured him.”

 

 

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