Samuel B. Morse, a Baptist pastor, kept this journal (460 pages) while teaching at Urania College in Glasgow, Kentucky, and Pacific Methodist College in Vacaville, California, during the Civil War, as well as throughout his studies at Newton Theological Seminary in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, in the late 1860s. He began the diary on January 1, 1861, describing his life in Kentucky and his love for "Miss Mary." He reported on the secessions of Alabama and Louisiana (January 11, 1861 and January 25, 1861), expressed his hope that Abraham Lincoln "may prove better than the people think him to be" (March 4, 1861), and observed the growing animosity between the North and South (March 19, 1861). On April 2, 1861, he mentioned his wish to move to California, and over the next few weeks described his journey onboard a "California Steamer." After his arrival, he wrote about his social life, particularly his courtship with Mary Isabel Wilson.
Morse occasionally commented on the war and politics, including the First Battle of Bull Run (August 3, 1861), the Battle of Corinth (April 15, 1862), the Emancipation Proclamation (August 25, 1862), the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 17, 1862), the Battle of Vicksburg (July 9, 1863), and the 1864 presidential election (November 8, 1864 and November 12, 1864). On April 3, 1865, he reflected on the capture of Richmond; on April 15, 1865, he mourned the death of Abraham Lincoln and, mistakenly, William Henry Seward. He wrote less frequently after the war, but provided an account of his May 1866 journey to Massachusetts, via Nicaragua, to study at Newton Theological Seminary in Newton Centre; there, he heard Charles Dickens give a reading (April 3, 1868). He returned to California by railroad (August 16, 1869), and ended his journal on December 30, 1869, 2 months after his wife and daughter joined him in California.
The journal contains 4 enclosures, including 2 tintypes of a young girl and a printed portrait of Samuel B. Morse. A lock of hair from Mary Page, whom Morse courted during his time in Kentucky, is taped onto the journal's last page.