TABLE OF CONTENTS
An Inventory of the John Hancock Diary at the Texas State Archives, November 28, 1864-June 30, 1865
John Hancock, congressman, judge, and lawyer, son of John Allen Hancock, was born near Bellefonte, Alabama, on October 24, 1824. After attending the University of East Tennessee at Knoxville, he began to study law in Winchester, Tennessee. He was admitted to the Alabama bar in 1846, then moved to Austin, Texas, in January 1847 and began a successful law practice. In 1851 he was elected district judge of the Second Judicial District for a term of six years, but he resigned at the end of four years to resume his law practice in Austin and engage in planting and stock raising. Hancock married Susan E. Richardson in November 1855.
Hancock was elected to the Texas legislature in 1860 as a Unionist Democrat determined to keep Texas in the Union. He was expelled from the legislature in March 1861 when he declined to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederate States. He remained a conscientious objector throughout the Civil War and continued working as a lawyer, practicing only in Texas courts and refusing to try cases in Confederate courts. After the Confederate draft was enacted, officials began looking for him to press him into army service, so on April 20, 1864, he left his family in Austin to head for Mexico, possibly to Matamoros or Monterey. Several months later he moved to Union-held New Orleans, living in a hotel and doing his best to help "Texas Refugees"—those who had fled Texas due to Union sympathies and, later, those who had deserted the Confederate army. Typical Texas refugees were not judges or former politicians but usually laborers, farmers, or artisans who arrived in New Orleans destitute and hungry, often with only the clothes they were wearing. Hancock provided them with both monetary assistance and met with members of the military and the Louisiana legislature on their behalf. He also worked to recruit these refugees to fight for the Union, a venture that was only mildly successful.
Near the end of the Civil War, Texas Governor Pendleton Murrah and General John Bankhead Magruder, commander of the district of Texas, appointed Confederates William Ballinger and Ashbel Smith special commissioners to secure terms of peace for the state. The commissioners arrived in New Orleans on May 29, 1865, and met with Hancock and several other prominent Texans to begin this task. Hancock reunited with his family in Austin at the close of the Civil War. He later went on to be elected as a Representative to the 42nd U.S. Congress (1871-1877) and again to the 48th U.S. Congress (1883-1885). He died on July 19, 1893, in Austin, Texas.
(Sources include: Bridges, Ken, "Texas history minute: Lawyer John Hancock supported Union in Civil War," Waco-Tribune Herald, March 29, 2018; King, C. Richard "Ballinger, William Pitt," and Hooker, Anne W., "John Hancock," Handbook of Texas Online; Marten, James, "A Wearying Existence: Texas Refugees in New Orleans, 1862-1865," Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association 28, no. 4 (1987): 343-56, accessed through JSTOR; all websites accessed August 31, 2018; and the collection itself.)
John Hancock was a Unionist congressman, judge, and lawyer in Austin, Texas, who moved to Mexico in 1864, then New Orleans, Louisiana to escape Confederate army conscription. The John Hancock diary consists of one bound journal of 210 pages, dating November 28, 1864, to June 30, 1865. Hancock kept this diary during the time he was living in New Orleans during the Civil War. He writes about the trials and tribulations of his daily life and his efforts to help other "Texas Refugees" who had less resources and influence than himself. This diary includes news of the war, the struggle to obtain and sell cotton and livestock, his meetings with Louisiana Lieutenant Governor (later Governor) James Wells and other members of the Louisiana legislature, and his sadness at being separated from his wife and child. The diary also documents meetings with other prominent Texas refugees, including A.J. Hamilton and George Denison; and later meetings with William Ballinger and Ashbel Smith, Confederates appointed by the Texas government to secure terms of peace for Texas.
Diary pages are numbered inconsistently by the author; entry date is the preferred citation method.
Restrictions on Access
Materials do not circulate, but may be used in the State Archives search room. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.
Restrictions on Use
Under the Copyright Act of 1976 as amended in 1998, unpublished works are protected for the life of the author plus 70 years. The term of copyright for published material varies. Researchers are responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
The diary is fragile and may not be photocopied.
(Identify the entry date), John Hancock diary. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession number: 2018/132
This diary was purchased on February 27, 1931, by the Texas Library and Historical Commission, Division of Archives and History, from E.L. Shettles, book dealer, Austin, Texas. An accession number was assigned for control purposes on August 1, 2018.
Processed by Angela Swift, August 2018
The diary in this finding aid has been digitized and is part of the Texas Digital Archive, available online at https://tsl.access.preservica.com/tda/manuscripts/john-hancock/.