Was there any new information revealed from Linn’s diary entries on April 18th, 20th and 21st?

As my final project for “Digging into the Digital”, I chose to look at the letters that James Merrill Linn wrote on April 18th, 20th and 21st. To get the most accurate answer to my research question, I chose to do a close reading. My research question is: “Was there any new information revealed from Linn’s diary entries on April 18th, 20th and 21st?” My answer is: Yes, a lot of new information was revealed to me. From reading these letters, I have discovered that he is writing all of this information to send to his brother, on April 18th they were preparing for battle, and that all the fighting occurs on April 19th. In addition, I have learned that that the Confederates won and that on the 21st, Linn is talking about the aftermath of what happened on April 20th.

Close reading helped to reveal that On April 18th Linn and his troops were traveling from Roanoke to Elizabeth City. Linn writes “Lt. Col. Bell called us all up- the officers & told us we should get our men ready to march in an hour back to Elizabeth City. That our safety depended on our doing it that night- that Gen.Reno had reliable information that large reinforcements had been sent for and would be there before morning.” They were all preparing for battle and following Lt. Col Bell’s and the officers’ instructions. On April 19th Reno marched to South Mills. Linn wrote “caps taken off. Then Beaver came in and told me the 21st
had formed & we were to form immediately,” and they were about to begin the fighting. During the battle of South Mills they were fighting the Confederate troops. After a long day of fighting, the war was over and the Confederates had defeated them. On April 21st ,Linn is in the cornfield near Elizabeth City. He writes “ we landed in a cornfield near Elizabeth City some one remarked that was always our luck, but it was not always our luck to have as bright and sunny day as we had now.” He talks about the aftermath of the South Mills battle. He says “One of our boats brought Stitzer, of Co. E. who had been wounded & left, who told us that about 30 their wounded & stragglers had left the battle field at 8 o’clock next morning and came through.” At the end is a note he wrote to his brother, where he says ““I send this act to you. You must keep it strictly confidential.” Linn didn’t want his brother to share all the information he had written about. At this point everything is revealed as to what he’s been doing by his writing; he’s been sending it all to his brother.

I approached my final project in five main steps. First, I copied and pasted the diary entries from the Google document into a word document.



I then decided to mark up the word types with different colors based on whether they were a place, people, object, event, dates, traits and states. People, organizations, things with proper names or titles were blue , places were gray, events were red, objects were green, dates and times were purple, traits were indigo and states were a brownish green. Screen shot 2014-12-12 at 5.38.25 PM

During the mark up process I had a little trouble. For example. I had no idea what cavalry was. I didn’t know whether it was an object, place, or person. So I looked it up on the Internet to find out that cavalry are soldiers who fought on horseback. So I then highlighted the word in blue.

The next step I did was adding tags. I tagged words with : “object type,” “persName,” “roleName,” “placeName,””time,” “role” and “date.”

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After I was done with the tagging, I copied and pasted my work into oxygen.

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The reason I worked in Microsoft word was because it was easier for me to tag and color code in there as opposed to oxygen. The last step I did was I added page breaks and made sure there was no red coloring and that it was completely green.

I then wrote down new information that was revealed to me on a document beside the one I had previously been working on.


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I had to read the entries over a few times to make sure my information was correct. For example, at first I thought that April 21st revealed that the fighting was still going on but then when I went back and read it over again I realized that April 21st was just Linn talking about the aftermath of what occurred on April 19th. I learned other things while using close reading. I noticed that in the beginning he talked about objects a lot. I think he talked about objects because he was surrounded by so many at the time. For example: cannon, shell, ball, red flag and buckshot. Those are all objects that would be present in the preparation for war.

Overall close reading allowed me to understand what was happening in the diary entries and helped me to get the answer to my research question. I enjoyed working with Oxygen because it was very easy to maneuver. Throughout the semester I came to a realization that tagging and color coding were two beneficial techniques in helping to understand the context of Linn’s diary entries. I am glad I chose this as my final project because otherwise I would have never known the ending of Linn’s diary entries!



Linn, James Merrill. Diary. 4/18, 4/20/ 4/21, 1862. MS. Bucknell University


Works Cited:

Battle of South Mills. (2014, November 29). Retrieved December 2, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_South_Mills

Experiences while mapping with ArGIS


Unfortunately, I could not glean enough information by just looking at Linn’s diary entries. Using other tools such as ArcGIS was extremely helpful and beneficial. This source revealed how Lynn had a huge role in the Civil War and participated in many significant battles. We also see how he appeared in many different places during the war. ArcGIS showed where the locations were in relation to one another. By seeing a clear layout of the map, I was able to have a better overall understanding of Linn’s participation in the Civil War. ArcGIS has a feature where you can add map notes, which was very beneficial for me. Adding map notes helped to connect the different “clues” Linn was giving. For example allowed me to connect what I knew about the battles of Roanoke and South Mills.

At first, I did not understand the purpose of GIS. I did not grasp the concept of reading words and thinking of them as places. It was extremely frustrating and I was hesitant about the overall process. For example, I was reading about musketry and had no idea how to think of that as being a place on a map. I eventually realized I think of the center location as the medial part of the civil war, so musketry must be located in the middle.

GIS enables students to learn more information and get a better understanding of history. “(Bodenhammer 21) Archaeologist came early to GIS, as well as to other spatial instruments such as global position systems in large measure because it provided a handy and more accurate toolkit for managing their research in familiar but speedier ways” (21). ArcGIS reveals Linn’s participation in the civil war in a more accurate and succinct way.

Visual learning helped me to understand and learn more about Linn in the Civil War. “GIS relies heavily on visualization to display its results” (24). One example of the visualization displayed on the map is the hospital. It was extremely helpful to see where other places were in relation to his location. When Linn was passing by the hospital, I was able to see that he was near fort Hugers and the routes of the escaped rebels.

ArcGIS is a form of close reading. You are visually presented with a map, versus just reading words. Bodenhammerr said “GIS is fundamentally what happens in a geographic space (page 23)”.  Basically, It enables us to take what we have read and be able to visualize it in a way that provides us with more helpful information. By the end of this project, I enjoyed using GIS. It ultimately helped me have a better understanding about Linn’s participation in the Civil War.

Click below to see my final product! :

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close reading

The process of marking up my transcription has effected my understanding of the text. It helped me to understand the context and learn specific words. For example, I had no idea that a battery was a place; rather, I thought a battery was an object. By looking at it closely, I was able to come to a realization that the battery was a significant place during the Civil War. In my specific entry, I found color coding and marking up words very interesting because I could see whether or not people agreed with what I coded them as. For example, I coded Rengler’s Old Mill as a place, whereas someone else might have thought of it as an object

In her article, Elena Pierazzo speaks about limits. She said, “So, we must have limits, and limits represent the boundarieswithin which the hermeneutic process can develop”(466). Therefore she meant that we couldn’t mark up everything because then we wouldn’t be limiting ourselves.  “The challenge is therefore to select those limits that allow a model which is adequate to the scholarly purpose for which it has been created (466)”. I faced this problem when I was choosing which words to tag. I had to limit myself with the tagging; otherwise I would’ve gone overboard and tagged the whole paper. It was hard to choose which ones I wanted to tag because they all seemed taggable. After I got the hang of it, it became easier and limiting the words that I tagged become more natural and less of a process.

In Pierazzo’s article G.T Tanselle says: “The process of selection is inevitably an interpretative act: what we choose to represent and what we do not depends either on the particular vision that we have of a particular manuscript or on practical constraints”(467). I related to this when I was trying to decide whether something was an object or a place. For example, our whole class was disputing over whether a Cossack was a place or an object. Some people have particular visions as boats being objects where others have envisions of boats being places. My feeling was that Cossack was a place because it’s a place that people go to. Another time I was interpreting things while selecting was when I had to select whether something was just a persons name or a role name. For example, I interpreted col as being a role name. So I selected the tag “roleName” opposed to “persName.”

Another point made in Pierazzo’s article was when E. Pierazzo said “Capital letters were preserved and marked; Austen used these inconsistently for any part of speech, so we have distinguished nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, articles, and adverbs(470).” I agree with this because if things weren’t being capitalized, I’d have trouble distinguishing what the words were and when new sentences were starting. Also without the proper punctuation, it would be hard to follow the entry and understand what was going on. “The original fluctu- ating punctuation was also kept”(470). If it weren’t kept, there would be no proper flow to the diary entry

As a class we came to an agreement on whether specific words were places or objects. At first, everyone would bicker but by the end we all came to an agreement with what we thought the word should be categorized under. I found this process very engaging, yet frustrating, but overall I liked it!

Below is me tagging the word wagon track as an “ object type” in oxygen:


Tagging in Oxygen 

Below is me marking the word “wagon track” with the color orange to represent an object:

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Color Coding

As seen in the two pictures the things I marked up and tagged as objects ended up being objects.

In conclusion I enjoyed close reading. It really helped me understand the context of the diary entry more. At first I thought oxygen was going to be extremely difficult to use and overwhelming but it turned out to be very maneuverable and to my liking!

TimeMapper and Chronology of events

TimeMapper is a tool that helps to organize historical figures and events in a chronological order. After you fill in the correct info for your specific event and submit the information, it is then documented in a google doc and is placed into the timeline. In our TimeMapper we created a database of historical events that were happening around the same time that Linn was writing his diary to see what events could relate to James Merrill Linn in the winter of 1862.

Chronology of events is important because if it wasn’t in the correct order the context wouldn’t make sense to the reader and they would have trouble following what was going on. Chronology illustrates the sequence of historical events.

Graphical representation clarifies historical events, because I believe it makes the information more clear and interesting to look at as opposed to just words. It shows the chronological order of events in an organized and easy to follow format.

TimeMapper doesn’t give any representation of the ideas, similarities and connections between different events except for time. In Linn’s narrative the timeline was very helpful in showing the chronological timeframe events were occurring in, but not the connections between the different events.


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Battle of Gettysburg

When I was reading Linn’s diary, I was sometimes confused with the specific events he was talking about during that time period. However, when I saw the timeline comparing his story to the rest of the history, I was able to better understand the context of certain events and have a better perspective of why certain things were occurring. TimeMapper helped me to see where Linn’s diary entries were in relation to history around that time period.


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King of Madagascar Strangled to Death

In Grafton’s essay he states how he believes that graphic representation is among the most important tools for organizing information. Grafton states that one of the reasons for the gap in our historical and theoretical understanding of timelines is that people generally consider chronology as a kind of study. He says people see them only as distillations of complex historical narratives and ideas. Chronologies work and that’s pretty much enough for the average reader. But this is a false belief. For example, from the classical period to the renaissance in Europe, chronology was held at a status higher than the study of history itself.After creating a timeline called the Chart of Biography, Priestley reveals that “historical narrative is not linear”. He claimed that a linear timeline does not represent the connections between events and historical figures in a precise way.

Linn’s loss of innocence ?

In this blog post I will present my hypothesis in response to the question being asked.

I think Linn does have a loss of innocence because he’s becoming more complacent and less sensitive to the terrible things happening to his fellow soldiers around him. I believe he had to adapt in this way, so he could emotionally survive this horrible war experience. When you’re exposed to bad things over and over again, you usually become less sensitive and hardened to them. This is a common survival and coping mechanism.

I can demonstrate Linn’s loss of innocence with the word “saw” in the word trends. In the first battle he uses the word “saw” frequently, but less often in subsequent battles. He uses this word to describe things he is looking at with his innocent eyes. For instance, when he “saw” a friend. He’s using this word in a friendly and warm context. It seems apparent that as he got further into the war, he used the word “saw” less often because it was too painful for him to see what has happening around him. He was changing his focus and looked at things differently. He was less naïve and less sensitive and he “saw” less

When I used the word “wounded” in the word trends tool, I didn’t believe it was helpful or insightful. This is because the frequency pattern of the word “wounded” did not correlate with my thesis that Linn became less sensitive and had a loss of innocence. The word “wounded” speaks to empathy and sensitivity and I would expect its use to decline as Linn became more hardened. There is a frequency spike toward the end of Linn’s diary, which may be related to the battles becoming more frequent and more intense. This certainly would have resulted in many more people getting wounded. The word pattern seems more related to the intensification of the war rather than his loss of innocence.

Below is a screenshot of the word trends graph. The first thing I did was type in the word “saw” into the “search” bar. Shortly after typing the word, a graph appeared showing the relative frequencies of the word.Then I typed in the word “wounded” into the search bar. I then saw the relative frequencies of the word “wounded” and the word “saw”.

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Word Trends Graph showing frequency of “saw’ and “wounded”


Below is a screenshot of the keywords in context tool. After I typed in the word “saw” into the “search” bar all of the ways the word “saw” was used in the diary show up. This tool was extremely helpful with helping me to see the context of the word “saw”.


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The key word “saw” in context


The value of distant reading is that is that it gives you a different perspective on text, which provides a quantitative and qualitative approach to language. This helps to highlight word usage, frequencies and patterns. Distant reading is quantitative because it computes word frequency and its qualitative because it shows you how he’s using a word and in what context. While this approach is helpful it doesn’t tell the whole story; it misses subtleties and messages that can only be grasped when reading the entire passage in a fluid way.

For example, as the war gets worse and more people are getting wounded, he uses the word “wounded” more frequently. This doesn’t mean he’s more or less sensitive. The circumstances of war can be so strong that it practically forces the frequency of a particular word without regard to values and attitudes.