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The Library of Congress announces the release of the online collection,
Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft,
1861-1865, available at the American Memory Web site at
This small collection of three volumes, from the holdings of the
Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, comprises about 1,240
digital images as well as transcriptions of the complete diary.
Horatio Nelson Taft (1806-1888) wrote his diary while working as an
examiner in the United States Patent Office in Washington, D.C. The
collection is significant because of Taft's connection to President
Lincoln and his family. The Lincoln boys, Willie and Tad, were regular
playmates of Taft's sons. Until Willie Lincoln died of typhoid fever in
February 1862, the boys were almost inseparable. Even more importantly,
included in Taft's diary is a report of President Lincoln's
assassination, based on accounts he received from friends and
particularly his older son, Charles Sabin Taft, a U.S. Army surgeon who
was in Ford's Theater the night Lincoln was shot. He was one of the
physicians in attendance throughout the night of April 14, 1865, until
the next morning.
Taft's diary is also significant because of his description of daily
life in Washington during the Civil War. The content of the diaries
includes details about his family life as well as various events in
Washington. Taft also describes the arrival and quartering of the
various regiments, hospitals, and the daily news reports of battles.
The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft was generously donated to the Library
of Congress by Mrs. Willoughby Davis, a descendant of Taft, in 2000. The
three volumes had been in the possession of the Taft family since the
author's death in 1888, and the diary has never been read or discussed
at length outside the Taft family.
American Memory is a gateway of rich primary source materials relating
to the history and culture of the United States. The site offers more
than 7 million digital items from more than 100 historical collections.
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