Path to Freedom

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For the Final Project, I chose to look into the 19 slaves Linn encountered on February 2, 1862. In his diary, Linn said that nothing happened except for a small boat with 19 slaves escaped from above Roanoke Island. This pique my interest since slavery abolition is the primary objective of the Union but Linn seems to be unfazed by the sight of 19 escaped slaves. This brought me to my question “how did the Civil War battles affect slavery?” I thought understanding the slaves’ origin, destination, and escape path would help us understand better about their lives hence giving us a better idea of the life of a slave during the Civil War. Depending on the path the slaves took, different difficulties arises.  To map their escape, there is no better tool than GIS. With GIS, I can illustrate multiple layers of informations associated with the escape.


When I started this project, I did not have much information about the 19 slaves. Linn only mention them once in the diary. All I know was that there were 19 slaves including 5 women and a baby and they came from above Roanoke Island. Without actual information regarding the slaves, I was unable to present this in a story format with GIS. This was the biggest struggle I had during this project. Without any information regarding the time and date, I cannot present this in a timely manner. To figure out their path, I have to find their origin and their destination first.

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Norfolk

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Slave Density

For the origin, I used a layer of the concentration of slaves and the battles fought before February 2, 1862. To come to the Cossack on a small boat, the slaves have to came from a place relatively close to Roanoke Island. There were 19 slaves so they must have all escaped together from a place of high concentration of slaves. Their escape itself is a clue that their origin must have been affected by the war for them to have to opportunity to escape. Using GIS, I can see that Norfolk has a high concentration of slaves and has 2 battles fought near it. After doing some reserching, I learned that during the Civil War, the Confederates used slaves to build their forts. With that, I concluded that the slaves must have came from Norfolk. While working on the forts, the slaves saw the opportunity to escape.

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Map of Underground Railroad and the Directions to Freedom

Professor Jakacki introduced me to the Underground Railroad leading me to find the slaves’ destination. Even before the Civil War, the Underground Railroad has helped freeing slaves in America. Using the Underground Railroad map layer, I could see the directions that the slaves were going in order to attain their freedom. Then, I created a map note for the possible directions that slaves could escape to during the Civil War. To understand the difficulties of each directions, I created a map note for the distance between Roanoke Island and the closest point for each direction. With this, I was able to see the difficulty of each direction in term of distance in kilometer and in days it would take to walk that distance. The slaves had limited resources. They most likely did not have any mode of transportation to travel far so they were trying to get to the North, the direction with the shortest distance. Using the Underground Railroad map layer, I found Wilmington to be the closest Underground Railroad site to where they encounter Linn and his regimen. With this, I can conclude that the slaves were going to Wilmington in order to go to the North.

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Two possible escape paths

With both the destination and the origin, I mapped out the different possible paths the slaves took in order to get to Linn’s location. After their escape, to get to Linn’s location, the slaves must have found a small boat first. If the shore is where they got the boat, they must choose the safest path possible. With 5 women and a baby, they cannot run so they must avoid being seen. They must also avoid conventional roads. They must go through the woods or swamps to avoid getting caught. Using the Terrain map, I can see the swamps between Norfolk and the Shore. Then I created a map note for the those swamps. There are 2 swamps that connect Norfolk and the shore so that must be a possible safe path for the slaves. The second path I found after adding the canals layer to the map. There is a canal that goes from Norfolk to the ocean. This canal goes through a swamp so it might have been safe enough for the slaves to use provided that the canal is big enough for the slaves to use. They must have stole a small boat from Norfolk and travelled down the canal to the Ocean and eventually to the Cossack.

With the help of GIS, I was able to deduce and map the escape path for the slaves with very little information and some research. The 19 slaves have encountered many difficulties in order to attain their freedom. Using GIS, I was able to see and understand the struggles that many slaves faced in their escape. I can see how the Civil War itself affect slavery. War is a double edge sword. Although slavery is the subject of the Civil War, the war itself caused the slaves to be under heavy surveillance. However, we can see that because of the battles, many slaves have to work on the forts providing them an opportunity to escape and gain freedom. This project has helped me to understand the state of slavery due to the Civil War.

Work Cited:

Linn, James Merrill. Diary. [February 2] 1862. MS. Bucknell University Archives and Special Collections, Lewisburg, PA.

“Underground Railroad.” History Net Where History Comes Alive World US History Online RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.

Rasmussen, William M. S., and Lora M. Robins. “How Did Slaves Escape?” Virginia Historical Societys Blog. Virginia Historical Society, 20 Oct. 2010. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.

“Underground Railroad Sites.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.

United States. National Park Service. “List of Sites for the Underground Railroad Travel Itinerary.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.

Walk in Linn’s shoes with GIS

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Map of Roanoke Island with GIS

GIS, Geographic Information System, helped us visualize the life of James Merrill Linn and the Civil War by showing us the travel path he took. Throughout the class, we have been introduced to different techniques which people have used to decode a text and learned to derive information through various means: TEI, TimeMapper, Voyant Tools, Transcribing. This tool is the most effective so far. It allows us to see many layers of information letting us to obtain a lot more informations. We are able to see it in geographic form and displaying informations including time and context.

Bodenhamer says “We recognize our representations of space as value-laden guides to the world as we perceive it” (14). We often associate ourselves with where we are from and where we have been. Locations has always been an important of our lives. Being able to see Linn’s experience in terms of location and path, we are able to integrate more information than we could with  other kind of representations. With the help of GIS, we can display the location, time, and context of these events.

In my experience with GIS, using a layer for the concentration of slaves in the United States in the 1860s and the battle won by the North, I was able to estimate the location for the 19 contrabands’ origin. In the diary, Linn says  “a small boat came in, said to have had on board 19 contrabands, who escaped from above Roanoke — 5 women & a baby”. From seeing the concentration of battles won by the North close to Roanoke, we are able to see its correlation with the escape of the slave.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 10.23.38 PM“Evidence about the world depends on the perspective of the observer” (19). In the diary, Linn mentioned that the gun boats went between Tyrrell Shore and Roanoke Island. As we can clearly see, Tyrrell is the slave concentration area which is far from Roanoke Island. Without the help of GIS, we would not have question Linn’s directional sense. This ,however, can also means that the maps they had back then was not accurate. The answer to this is not important but what important is the question itself. Without GIS, we would never have come up with this hypothesis and therefore another piece of information.

Bodenhamer says “visualize a spatially accurate physical and manmade environment that proved the attraction” (21). We were able to walk in Linn’s shoes. He noticed sightsee, he observed the shore and the lighthouse, He had a smoke at night. Seeing how close he was to the battle, we can have a close reading on his personal life.

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Analyzing Transcription with Tagging

Using close reading as a tool to analyze the transcription helped us to better understand the text. In class, we have used two tools/techniques, categorizing words by colors and TEI. Both of which were very useful, especially TEI, in categorizing important words. By tagging words, we analyzed every bit of information they might offer. Pierazzo stated “no transcription, however accurate, will ever be able to represent entirely the source document” (Pierazzo, 464). Although we can’t represent it entirely, we can at least get every bit of information we can.

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 9.31.15 PMCategorizing words by colors was a very interesting technique. It is simple yet efficient in highlighting significant words. We tagged words by categories (people, places, events, traits, states, etc.) and highlight them in different colors. As simple as it sounds, we encountered a lot of problems. We had to define what is and what isn’t tag-worthy. The categories were a problem themselves. We had many arguments on what should be in which category. For example, we had to define whether “Cossack” should be a place or an object. Like “Cossack”, many words were on the verges of two different categories. Overall, it was interesting to see how everyone chooses to tag and how Linn chooses to write down his observations. There were more tagging for people and objects than anything else. Linn seems to be more concerned with physical things.Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 10.19.14 PM

TEI changes the way we can analyze text.Similarly to the colorization technique, TEI allows us to categorize words with a variety of options. With the help of TEI, we have endless options in tagging significant words. In Pierazzo’s article, Dristol stated “to all intents and purposes there is no limit to the information one can add to a text—apart, that is, from the limits of the imagination” (466) when commenting on the possibilities of TEI. While encoding with TEI, I had a lot of problems with deciding how many different codes I needed to analyze a word. We had a lot of options but we also had a lot of words. With TEI, I found myself tagging more words than with the colorization. I tagged a lot of words that were not significant. However, by tagging them, I was able to learn everything we could from the physical states of the object to the time and place.

The collaborative process works in our advantage. As we were able to work with each other, we made sure that we had the same guidelines for tagging these words. Pierazzo said that the opinion of the editor changes the interpretation of the transcription. By deciding on the tagging of certain words, we can have similar interpretation of the text, therefore prevents us from deviating from the accepted guideline.

Chronology:TimeMapper

TimeMapper is a great tool for organizing and representing events. Through TimeMapper, we can organize informations into a timeline of significant events. We often think of time as a linear line, however, time is nonlinear (Grafton, 20). Historical events usually don’t start and end in a linear fashion. There are many events happening at the same time with different causes and ends. Using timelines, we can illustrate time as an order of events.

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Above is our TimeMapper of the 1860s. The key idea of chronographic is not to design “more complex visual schemes” but rather to “simplify” it (19).  By treating time as a linear line, we can see the connections between different events in an era. For example, we often relate the 1860s to the civil war but there were a lot more happening in the 1860s than the Civil War. The Civil War took about 4 years from 1861 to 1865. There were also the American-Indian Wars and the inventions of telegraph and dynamite which we are oblivious to. Using TimeMapper, we can understand a lot more about the 1860s. Like Linn, we are confined to a certain amount of informations which we can only experience personally. In the diary, Linn was oblivious to the world around him. He was only concern with what he was personally experiencing. With the help of timelines, we can study history more chronologically correct.

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 11.27.32 PMThis is an example of many events that are significant but not directly correlated with the Civil War. Since time is nonlinear (20), the connection between events in a timeline is not easy to grasp. Grafton stated in his article that “the line can be everywhere because it is so flexible and its configurations so diverse” (13). We don’t usually associate the Indian War with the 1860s since the Civil War was considered more significant. Seeing the orders of events of the Civil War and this massacre, we can make the connection between the Civil War and the Indian Wars.

Distant Reading

In this post, I will discuss Linn’s loss of innocence with the use of Voyant Tools. While messing around with Voyant Tools, I was able to see the correlations between a lot of different words. The first word I looked at was “shot”. As a soldier in the civil war, I expected Linn to have seen a lot of gruesome battles. “Shot” was the first word that came to my mind when thinking of the Civil war. However, when searching for “shot”, there was 11 times that this word come up in the diary. The only places that the word “shot” was significant was when Linn talked about people getting wounded. Though the word was not often, it did show Linn’s loss of innocence as he witness more injuries and death. Lenig’s and Buskirk’s injuries seemed to take a toll on Linn as he mentioned this twice in his diary, on April 15th and April 19th. Since the word was not used as often as I expected, I moved on to “sick” and “hospital”.

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Remembering Linn mentioned a lot of people getting sick throughout the whole diary, I decided that “sick” and “hospital” would give a better idea of Linn’s innocence. Using Voyant Tools, I was able to see the connections between “sick” and “hospital”. “Hospital” was used 16 times and “sick” was used 38 times. Looking at the graph, we can see that the frequencies of these words are very similar. This directly correlate with the horrible conditions of the war. As the war progress, the use of “hospital” increased. This proved that injuries and illness took a big part in this war and on Linn’s innocence.

The connections of these wordScreen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.07.12 PMs brings me to a new question: What words are connected with these? Using Links, I tried to see how they intertwine. However, seeing that they never directly intertwine, I decided to use different variations of “sick”. I used “sickness”, “disease”, and “illness”. Finally, with “disease”, I was able to find a direct connection with “hospital”.

Seeing these connections, I learned that distant reading can be very useful in understanding a large document in a short time. Using these tools, we can process a large amount of informations that would take a lot of work and time otherwise.