Linn’s Journey to South Mills through Mapping


Reading and transcribing the diaries of James Merrill Linn and even analyzing them helped a bit with understanding the text, but what we have done recently helped even more. Mapping out his diaries allowed us to visually comprehend where Linn went and how it related to the events occurring at the same time. Through ArcGIS I could map out where Linn travelled in my particular diary entry, April 18-19, and get a clear view of Linn’s participation in the Civil War.

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Linn’s Journey to Battle at South Mills

From the text I could think about the places where he went, but I had no idea what it looked like mapped out, and I couldn’t fill in the blanks about where he went and in what time period. I knew that he somehow travelled from the Pasquotank River to Currituck and then to the battle at South Mills but I did not know through what route. I also did not realize until I mapped it out that Currituck is so far out of the way, I thought it would just be in a straight line to the abttle. Through ArcGIS it was easy to see the route Linn and other soldiers took to get to South Mills. ArcGIS is a geographic information system used for working with and creating maps. It is such a good tool to use because “stories are both individual and collective, and each of them link geography (space) and history (time)” (Bodenhamer, 16). ArcGIS allows you to connect where something took place and when, and create a map using both of them. Although “the humanities and social sciences especially have advanced new lines of inquiry characterized by a different and more nuanced understanding of space…” (Bodenhamer, 15) and this tool works so well in the humanities department like in our situation, it can be used in other subjects too. “Archaeologists came early to GIS… Maps of uncovered human habitats, long a staple of the archaeologist, were easier to chart with the survey-based techniques of GIS. Artifacts bore a spatial relationship that was important in interpreting the past…” (Bodenhamer, 21). It’s easy to relate our experiences of trying to figure out where Linn travelled and when to uncovering human habitats for archaeologists. We are both just trying to connect geography and history to map out where¬†everything took place in relation to another.

I really like that through GIS, there is a more set map of where Linn travelled. Without this technology, it would just be left up to each of us to interpret the¬†diaries our own ways. However, using this tool, it allowed us all to map out where Linn definitely wrote that he was. Whether that is true or not all depends on the accuracy of Linn’s writings. Unfortunately, critics of GIS claimed that “evidence about the world depends upon the perspective of the observer, a distinction that GIS obscured. Two people who view the same object may interpret it quite differently because of their different assumptions and experiences” (Bodenhamer, 19). Personally, I think this is a good part of GIS because it is left up to facts and evidence, not opinions and assumptions.


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