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!

 

Bibliography:

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

Linn’s Letters During the Battle of New Bern

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Figure 1

As my final project for Digging into the Digital, I chose to look at the letters James Merrill Linn wrote home from March 16 to 26, 1862. I chose these particular dates because they are the letters that he sent as the Battle of NewBern was taking place. In the archives, the diary entries that he would have written during this battle are missing. Either they were lost on the way to Bucknell University’s archives, or he did not write in his diary during the battle. Either way, the letters he wrote home are the only pieces of his first hand occurrence of the battle. My research question is “Do the letters he wrote from March 16 to March 26 actually help to make sense of what happened during the Battle of New Bern?

To get the most accurate answer to my research question, I chose to do close reading. I did not think mapping would be as helpful since I was not worried about the particulars of his location, but rather what was said in the pages. I thought that this would be the most helpful because I could compare it to the diary entries before and after the battle, to see if it does accurately fill in what happened during the battle of New Bern. I was given ten letters from the archives to do a close reading of. I transcribed eight letters written to his brother, John that look like the page shown in Figure 1.

I did not find transcribing the pages too strenuous but I did come across a few difficulties in the letters. In one letter, he must have spilled water on the corner of the page because part of the first line was illegible due to

Figure 2

Figure 2

water damage (Figure 2). There were only a few words that I could not decipher. The majority of my difficulties came from words that Linn used that I have never heard before and had to look up, or words that I have never heard in that context before. The most interesting example of this is in Figure 3 where Linn writes, “I have an altered Harpers ferry which is boxed to send from here”. I had never heard of a ferry that you can box and send home before, so I turned to the Internet to do some research on “Harpers ferry”. At first I came up empty-handed, all the sites said was that this was a National Historic Park of a historic town in West Virginia. However, when I added the word “gun” to my search, it revealed that Harpers ferry was the first rifle made by an American armory.

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Figure 3

After transcribing the letters, I began to analyze them through TEI. I put the transcriptions into Oxygen and marked them up. We did the same for Linn’s diary entries in the beginning of the year so I was able to compare his letters to John during the battle of New Bern to other diary entries he wrote. While tagging the letters I noticed a few different things than when tagging the diary. I do not think we used the “affiliation” tag at all Screen shot 2014-12-16 at 9.55.39 PMduring the tagging of the diaries. This time around I used it much more often though. Such as when tagging his company, or the rebels, or anything that refers to a formal relationship with a group of some kind. I also used the “state” tag very often this time around. I think this is because the letters he wrote home to his family are much more personal than what he wrote in his diary. Most likely because he wrote this diary for himself for the future, or for the public to read so he doesn’t put more facts into it than his emotions.

The letters he wrote to John are not as factual, although he wrote about the dates a lot. Most likely because Linn constantly wanted his brother to know what he was doing and where he was going. He also wrote more about generals and the men higher up in the ranks, rather than his comrades, unlike what he wrote in the diaries. I think this is because the diaries are for him personally and he knows who the comrades he is writing about are. John does not know the soldiers fighting alongside James, so he wrote more about the men who tell him and his comrades where to go and what to do. For example he never once mentioned his friend and fellow soldier Beaver in the eight pages that I transcribed, while in the diary he talked about him more than anyone else. Linn wrote about home much more often in the letters than in the diary. He talked about sending relics home, like an altered Harpers ferry, sending money home, and the letters he receives from his family. One part that I found very interesting was when he wrote, “My don’t Annie or Laura write. I have not received anything from them for a long while. I am glad the old shop is gone, though I think you let it go cheap”. In all the diary entries I read, he barely mentioned his sisters, but in a letter to his brother he did. Also, he wrote of events going on at home, something he would rarely do in the diary entries.

Since his diary entries are much more factual than the letters this might seem unfortunate because I am trying to see if the letters written in this time period fill in what happened at the battle of New Bern. I do not have as much information as I would have in a diary entry about this battle, because he writes more about what is affecting him in the battle, and especially the annoyances. One was when he “loaned a pair of my boots to a little Jew belonging to my company, but he disgraced them by blacking out in the battle”. Fortunately, we do have facts about the battle besides through these letters to John.

03161862aThe first two letters, on March 16, were solely focused on the events that unfolded during the battle of New Bern. These letters were not to his brother John, but to a newspaper from his hometown of Lewisburg, called the Star & Chronicle. Captain Hassenplug asked Linn to forward to the newspaper the casualties, loss, and present state of his company. Linn wrote that more have died of disease than have been killed in battle. He also wrote of their advances, attacks, and retreats. On the top of one of the pages Linn wrote “Recapitulation” and gave a summary of who dies, who transferred, who was discharged, who deserted the company, and who was wounded and where they were hurt. He even dedicated a whole paragraph to experiments that him and his company performed in light of the sentence “I have often been reminded of the remark we often hear that it is a wonder so many escape”. Linn thought the newspaper would find their experiments of firing funs at different ranges, and the accuracy of the guns to be interesting.

Ultimately, transcribing Linn’s letters during the battle of New Bern did help me to comprehend the events that unfolded as Linn and his company were in the battle and the aftermath of it. Close reading allowed me to understand what happened during the battle, and also to look at how Linn wrote his letters compared to in his diary. I thought that this project was extremely interesting, and I enjoyed transcribing the letters to figure out how Linn wrote his letters home. It was also very fascinating to read the letter to the Star & Chronicle because it is very different from everything we have looked at in class. Overall, this project allowed me to have a better understanding of the battle of New Bern, and Linn’s writing techniques.

 

Links to my marked up files:

http://www.students.bucknell.edu/projects/HUMN10002/Wigginton/content/Wigginton_final.xml
http://www.students.bucknell.edu/projects/HUMN10002/Wigginton/Wigginton_file.xml

 

Works Cited

Linn, James Merrill. Letter to Star & Chronicle. March 16, 1862. MS. Bucknell University Archives and Special Collections, Lewisburg, PA.

Linn, James Merrill. Letters to John. March 19-26, 1862. MS. Bucknell University Archives and Special Collections, Lewisburg, PA.

Linn, James Merrill. Diary. March 12, 1862. MS. Bucknell University Archives and Special Collections, Lewisburg, PA.

Linn, James Merrill. Diary. March 24, 1862. MS. Bucknell University Archives and Special Collections, Lewisburg, PA.

Lightning Talk

On Monday, December 8 (last class) each student will present a 3-5 minute lightning talk about their final research project.

Your lightning talk should focus on work process, including discussion of data sources (maps, data layers, text), and plan for how data will be gathered/displayed/published with emphasis on tool chosen.

Your talk should be illustrated with slides (PowerPoint or Prezi) and  should include

  • research question/hypothesis
  • 2-3 slides w/ images of progress (e.g. close-up of tagging with problem or approach; map layers & data)
  • next steps in terms of evidence gathering and demonstrating that evidence in tool

In order to ensure that all students can present within the class period, please email your PowerPoint or Prezi link to me in advance. I will load them all on the computer before class so that transition between lightning talks is efficient and quick.

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.

Blog IV: TEI, XML, and Close Reading

The density of brown descriptive terms in the second day of the diary.

The density of brown descriptive terms in the second day of the diary.

Through the markup of Linn’s diary entries and close examination of the words and phrases he used to express himself, I have developed a deeper understanding of Linn’s words and have begun to formulate new questions based on the last two weeks’ exercises.  I consider myself lucky that my page of Linn’s diary contained two days worth of writings.  This has allowed me, through markup of descriptive terms, to witness how Linn’s writing styled changed by day, and by his emotions at the time.  By looking at the density of negative descriptive terms, I was able to pick out a distinct change in Linn’s tone between the 7th and the 8th.  More specifically, the occurrence of negative descriptors was roughly three times as dense on the 8th than it was on the 7th.  I was able to assume from this information that Linn’s mood dropped dramatically between the two days, likely a result of the incessant rain and cold weather he had to sleep in.  This kind of revelation is possible through the features Pierazzo describes as “Semantics,” the markup of “dates, names of people, of places, keywords.”  I would never have noticed this subtle change, nor really understood Linn’s feelings these days without close reading and markups of the text.

 

Collaborating with the rest of the class in creating a standardized markup style gave me insight into the workings of editorial boards; specifically how long the editorial decision process takes.  As a group of ten, we spent the better part of 15 minutes discussing the benefits of labeling boats as objects or places.  Both sides of the argument made good points, and we found it difficult to come to a consensus.  I think this illustrates a point made by Elena Pierazzo, “objectivity is not very productive or helpful in the case of transcription and subsequently of diplomatic edition… it is argued here for informed, circumspect, documented, scholarly interpretation.”  There was no right answer in the debate we had.  It was a matter of weighing the facts in front of us and making a subjective decision, a decision that was in part based on what information we wanted the markup to carry.  We ended up marking named boats as objects because we wanted readers to know that they were only referred to as places in specific circumstances.  This is an example of the purpose of a digital edition as defined by Pierazzo, that they are meant “to achieve the scholarly purpose of the edition–a purpose which, by definition, varies.”

A selection of my original markup...

A selection of my original markup…

... vs. the same selection after group editing.

… vs. the same selection after group editing.