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Collection Nathan W. Daniels Diary and Scrapbook

About this Collection

The papers of Union army officer and Freedmen’s Bureau advocate Nathan W. Daniels (1836-1867), spanning the years 1861-1867, consist of three volumes of a handwritten diary with photographs, illustrations, and newspaper clippings mounted throughout the text. Also included are a typescript of summaries and transcripts of the bulk of the diaries prepared by the donor of the collection, C. P. Weaver, and a scrapbook of newspaper clippings.  The collection is presented online as follows:

In volume one of the diary, Daniels describes his Civil War service as colonel of the  2nd Regiment of the Louisiana Native Guard, an African-American infantry regiment chiefly stationed at Ship Island, Mississippi, and his time in New Orleans, Louisiana, during the summer and fall of 1863. The entries in the first third of the volume were written by New Orleans cotton merchant Hamilton McNeil Vance and wife Lizzie Luckett Vance, the original owners of the volume. They left the diary behind when they fled New Orleans in 1862, and Nathan W. Daniels found the volume in November 1862 and appropriated it for his own use. The middle third of the volume covers the months from January to September 1863, and documents Daniels’s service with the 2nd Regiment of the Louisiana Native Guard. This portion of the diary was edited by C. P. Weaver and published as Thank God My Regiment an African One: The Civil War Diary of Colonel Nathan W. Daniels (Baton Rouge, 1998). The last third of the volume spans the period September 1863 to May 1864, after Daniels had left the military and was residing in Washington, D.C. Summaries and transcripts for this final portion of the diary were prepared by C. P. Weaver and are included in the collection.

In volume two of the diary, Daniels discusses military, political, and social affairs in Washington, D.C., from May 1864 to December 1865. Subjects include civil rights, the Freedmen's Bureau (U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands), radical Republicans, and the theater. Summaries and transcripts for this volume are available in the collection.

Volume three was written jointly by Daniels and his wife, the noted Spiritualist medium Cora Hatch (1840-1923). Topics include the Freedmen's Bureau, speaking engagements at African-American churches in Washington, D.C., a visit with her family in Cuba, N.Y., and a lecture tour of the Midwest. Summaries and transcripts for this volume are available in the collection.

As a believer in Spiritualism, Nathan Daniels notes throughout the three volumes of diary his own interactions with Spiritualists and attendance at Spiritualist events. After his marriage to Cora Hatch in December 1865, some diary entries not only include content about the Daniels’s activities within the Spiritualist community, but occasionally also document the content of interviews with spirit guides speaking through Cora Daniels.

An addition to the Nathan W. Daniels collection consists of a scrapbook of newspaper clippings, 1863-1867, probably assembled by Daniels or his wife. The scrapbook complements the topics and events chronicled in the diary. They include references to either Daniels or his wife, or pertain to subjects of interest to the couple, such as African-American military service during the Civil War, the condition of freedpeople after the war, Reconstruction, and Spiritualism, particularly in Washington, D.C. A number of articles were written by Daniels under the pseudonym "Viator."  Several groups of loose newspaper clippings remained tucked into the scrapbook when it came to Library of Congress in 2015. When the scrapbook was digitized, these clippings were scanned in their original groupings and reflecting the place where each respective group was located in the scrapbook.

Readers of the first volume of Nathan Daniels’s diary will note that he employed a writing practice commonly referred to as “cross-writing” or “cross-hatching.” This technique was used to maximize the use of space when trying to conserve paper. The text is first written in a normal horizontal orientation. The paper (or volume, in this case) is then turned ninety degrees and the handwriting continues to be written over, but perpendicular to, the first section of text.

Researchers interested in the history of the 2nd Regiment of the Louisiana Native Guard throughout the Civil War should also search for the 2nd Regiment of Corps d’Afrique and the 74th United States Colored Infantry (USCI; part of the United States Colored Troops, or USCT). Some military records for the 2nd Louisiana Native Guard refer to or are filed under the unit’s other wartime designations as the 2nd Corps d’Afrique or the 74th USCI (also referred to as the 74th USCT).

Those interested in the life of Cora Daniels will also need to search under multiple names. Before Nathan Daniels married his second wife Cora in December 1865, she was known publicly both by her maiden name of Cora L. V. Scott, and by her first married name of Cora L. V. Hatch. During each of her subsequent marriages to Nathan W. Daniels, Samuel F. Tappan, and William Richmond she used the surname of her then husband. Although she appears in this collection with the surnames Scott, Hatch and Daniels, Cora’s official name authority as designated by the Library of Congress is her final name of Cora L. V. Richmond.

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