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[Detail] The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865

Day-to-Day Life in Civil War Washington

Taft's diaries describe significant events in the history of the nation, but also reflect day-to-day life in Washington. Thus, the diaries are also a rich source of information on social history. For example, one can read about a variety of pastimes pursued by Taft and his family, from watching troops parade through Washington, to reading, calling on friends, and attending musical performances. Taft also spent time sketching new inventions he hoped to patent and pursuing news and gossip of the day at the Willard and the National (two Washington hotels). As the war progressed, some of the ways in which Taft spent time changed. While early in the diaries he described reading aloud to his wife and children, closer to the end of the diaries he talked about reading in a local bookstore. In addition, in the later years covered by the diary, Taft spent time helping soldiers by bringing them food and other necessaries and by intervening on their behalf with officials.

Choose one of the pastimes described above or another that you remember reading about in the diaries. Conduct a Keyword search to find at least five entries in which Taft talked about that particular pastime. Use information from the entries to create a poster explaining the pastime; your poster should employ both words and pictures to explain what the pastime involved. Do people today take part in this same pastime? If so, what similarities and differences do you note?