Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Daniel R. Hundley Diary, 1859

Finding aid created by
R.C. Bates, April 2007; Philip Heslip, December 2009

Summary Information
Title: Daniel R. Hundley diary
Creator: Hundley, Daniel R. (Daniel Robinson), 1832-1899
Inclusive dates: 1859
Extent: 1 volume
The Daniel R. Hundley diary was kept by an Alabamian while he was in Chicago seeking a career as an author. The diary contains daily records of his activities, and his reactions as a southern Baptist, living in the North, to national and international political issues such as abolition. Of particular interest are his scathing comments on John Brown and his "assassins," whose fates he followed very closely in the days after the Harper's Ferry raid.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1991. M-2736.1.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Daniel R. Hundley Diary, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Daniel Robinson Hundley (1832-1899) was born to the slave holder John Henderson Huntley and his wife Malinda Robinson in Madison County, Alabama. His siblings were Orville, John, William, and Mollie. Daniel received a law degree from Harvard in 1853, and was married to a Virginian named Mary Ann "Nannie" Hundley around 1857; they had two daughters and one son by 1859. Around this time he moved to the outskirts of Chicago, where he maintained a small farm and tried to find work writing. In 1860, he published Social Relations in Our Southern States, which is often referenced as an important contemporary discussion of social and political climate of the South just before the outbreak of war. Hundley suffered financial difficulties in the late 1850s and returned to Alabama in 1861 to serve as a colonel in the 31st Alabama Regiment. He was severely wounded in the Battle of Port Gibson, was taken prisoner at Big Shanty, Georgia, and was moved to the Union prison on Johnson's Island, Ohio. He attempted an escape from this facility in early January 1865. After the war, Hundley and his family moved to Mountain Home, Alabama, where he worked as a farmer and attorney and continued to write. He died in 1899.

Collection Scope and Content Note

Daniel R. Hundley kept a diary while he was in Chicago seeking a career as an author. The diary contains daily records of his activities and his reactions as a southern Baptist, living in the North, to national and international political issues such as abolition. He wrote of current political and social events and of his deepening poverty. Interspersed with the political commentary are notes on the progress of Hundley's sick wife, whose condition he described almost daily. Hundley was not employed, but often went into the city, sold produce from the farm, and was an avid hunter of small game, especially passenger pigeons, quail, and rabbits. Throughout the year, Hundley worked on writing a book to explain the South and slavery to northerners. This volume was eventually published in 1860 as Social Relations In Our Southern States . Chapter titles include: "Southern Yeoman," "Middle Classes in the South," "Southern Bully," "Cotton Snobs," and "Negro Slavery in the South." He occasionally sent philosophical essays to The Harbinger and to Harper’s Weekly, but they were rejected for publication. Though not a secessionist, he was strongly pro-slavery, which caused some friction with his northern neighbors. Finally he sent his wife and children off to live with his father in Alabama and left for New York to study for the ministry.

Below are several highlights from the diary:

  • January 1: Hundley listed his debts and assets and voiced approval for Senator Stephen Douglas over Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln.
  • January 30: Hundley discussed reading Livingston’s "Travels in Africa" and points out abolitionists' inconsistencies.
  • February 5: Hundley recorded that his wife’s grandmother died in Virginia, leaving 17 family servants to her and her other grandchildren. The relatives in Virginia wanted to pay Hundley's wife for her share of the slaves, so that they would not have to be sold.
  • February 27: Hundley reported that some Chicagoans had contributed $10,000 to purchase Mount Vernon from a relative of George Washington.
  • February 28: Hundley wrote that General Daniel Sickles had shot and killed United States Attorney for the District of Columbia Philip Barton Keys for having an affair with Sickles's wife.
  • April 21: Hundley heard Henry Ward Beecher lecture and concluded that he was only a second-rate man with little grasp of intellect or depth of thought: "His forte is neither reason nor common sense."
  • July 1: Hundley wrote that Napoleon III’s Franco-Austrian war had depressed grain prices and that he wanted to buy some wheat on speculation. However, the depression in the grain market had caused some of the most prominent grain dealers in Chicago to fail.
  • October 18: Hundley learned of John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. He referred to Brown as a "crimson sinner," and called for his life as punishment for the raid.
  • October 20: Hundley revealed his happiness at the deaths of Brown's sons: they lie "stark dead upon the sail of Slavery."
  • October 22: Hundley incorrectly assumed that Harper's Ferry would "prove the death-blow of [the Republican] party, and will force them to abandon their separate organization and unite with the general position."
  • October 27: Hundley mentioned that an "ultra Republican [...] believed Brown would be canonized as a martyr for Liberty in one hundred years from to-day."
  • October 29: Hundley reported that William H. Seward was implicated in "the sad affair of Harper's Ferry," and Hundley predicted the end of Seward's political career.
  • November 2: Hundley wrote of Brown’s conviction.
  • December 1: Hundley worried about the "imminent dissolution of the Union." He argued with an abolitionist that the Bible sanctioned slavery.
  • December 2:, Hundley expressed his hope that the Union would be saved and that Brown's actions would not cause it to rupture.
  • December 21: his brother arrived from Alabama with $2,000, which enabled him to pay off his creditors. He put his wife, his three young children, and a servant on a train for Alabama and set off for New York City for the winter, where he planned to enroll in a seminary and study to become a Baptist minister.
Subject Terms

    • Abolitionists--Illinois.
    • Authors, American--19th century--Economic conditions.
    • Beecher, Henry Ward, 1813-1887.
    • Brown, John, 1800-1859.
    • Chicago (Ill.)--Social life and customs.
    • Farms, Small--Management.
    • Harpers Ferry (W. Va.)--History--John Brown's Raid, 1859.
    • Migration, Internal--Illinois--Chicago.
    • Mount Vernon (Va. : Estate)
    • Personal debt.
    • Secession--Southern States--Public opinion.
    • Slavery--Justification.
    • Small game hunting.
    • United States--Foreign relations--1857-1861.
    • United States--Politics and government--1857-1861.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Daniel R. Hundley diary,  1859 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Hundley, Daniel R. Social Relations in our Southern States. New-York: Henry B. Price, 1860.