Annapolis to Roanoke: The Troubled Naval Voyage of the Burnside Armada

The Movement of General Burnside’s Armada

When I started this project, I knew I wanted to talk about Linn’s naval travel, but I was unsure about what specific aspect would be most interesting. My research question was how did naval warfare effect the way that the Civil War was fought, and how did the weather, tides, wind, and other nautical issues effect the way that the war played out. The answer, however, was hidden deeper than I expected. In order to start teasing out the answers to those questions, I began to read through both the Linn diary from January 6th to February 1st and the 3rd and 4th chapters of the Burnside Diary, highlighting things that were related to naval movement, a struggle that they faced while on the water, and anything that I thought could be added to my map to further my story. Both accounts go into incredible detail about the terrible struggles they faced while on these ships, and my fear changed from not knowing what to talk about to not knowing how to pick out the best information and represent it on my map. My next issue was going to be finding what could be depicted as text and what could be added as visuals. After highlighting some sections of all of the texts, I went back through and changed the color of highlighted sections to green that I thought could be represented with symbols on my map.

A sample of my highlighting of the journal

A sample of my highlighting of the journal

As I continued to do this, I complied a sort of relative timeline, which was, at its core, chronological, but at the same time was not necessarily linear. I found that although information may not be grouped together in the journals, adding it together on my map would allow better understanding of how issues related to nautical travel harassed them during their passage. After moving all of the information from the highlighted journals to the progression of the story that I wanted to tell, I found that I had both information that was clumped linearly and information that went together best when pulled from different areas and presented together.

An example of non-linear information that helps my story when clumped together

An example of non-linear information that helps my story when clumped together. In this case, issues caused by large waves

An example of a section of my linear timeline, where it made sense to present the data chronologically

An example of a section of my linear timeline, where it made sense to present the data chronologically

Unable to find a true ending in the information that I had, I decided to continue on in the Burnside Biography, reading the 4th chapter, when I had initially intended to just use the 3rd, and decided that the perfect ending for my story was when they disembark from the Cossack and arrived at Roanoke. Then, I went onto my map and went through my new “storyboard,” adding map notes in places where I thought they would better represent an ideal better than just pure text. I broke these up into several different layers so that I could isolate the notes that represent different types of events, obstacles, and movements.

The different layers of my map notes

The different layers of my map notes

Then, I started to move the rest of my story into the panels, while trying to connect the images on my map to the writing on the panels. As I continued to work, my idea of how I was going to represent my story changed again, and I put different pieces of information where I thought they fit best, not necessarily where they landed in the story. After looking over what I had added and what I had left out so far, something that I found that I had not added were a lot of the direct quotes from the journal. Although I had used these quotes as evidence for some of the text in my side bar, I thought that adding the first hand perspective of these soldiers would strengthen my argument. In order to do this in a matter than continued my exploration of combining visual and textual aspects, I decided that the best place to include these quotes was in the bubbles of the map notes. By adding the quotes to these notes, I hoped to allow the reader to draw a deeper understanding of both what these visuals truly represented and how they connect to the writing in the side bar.

An example of the link between my quotes and writing

An example of the link between my quotes and writing.

The quotes also proved helpful in other ways, as the combination of quotes, historical maps, and the distance indicators on the charts allowed me to estimate several locations, such as the wreckage of the Pocahontas. In the journal, Linn describes the wreckage to be 15 miles above the lighthouse, so using the distance measures on the chart I literally used a note card to measure out 15 miles and guess where the wreckage could be.

An example of how quotes helped me create links to visuals

An example of how quotes helped me create links to visuals

Because I had to estimate a lot of the locations, using bubbles and free form areas seemed like the best option because it allowed some error in my approximations. The intersection of visuals and text turned out to be one of the hardest aspects, as representing a complex story through multiple different outlets is never easy. As things began to come together, I looked back over what I had done to see if I thought it presented my story well. Although I do believe that there are some limitations to the ArcGIS software, I think that there was no other medium that could present my story in a better way. By integrating visuals and text, I was able to show the audience the movement of the ships, key points of interest, projected locations of different anchorages, wrecks, and lighthouses, as well as explaining the story of the armada and the struggles they faced. A perfect example of this integration is my work on the “swash,” which was represented with a combination of quotes, map notes, text in the side bar, and an additional historical chart.

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An example of how the integration of text and visuals allows for a deeper understanding

Although all of this process may seem important, the building blocks of what of my successful story erupted from the storyboarding process. By laying out what I wanted to say, it allowed me to see all aspects of my thoughts, and manipulate them in the easiest way for my audience to understand. The image that my work had created said less about how naval warfare affected the Civil War as whole, but endless information on how the natural struggles of naval travel inhibited the travel and success of Burnside’s armada, and additionally, how the weather and its associates, such as wind, current, tide, waves, and fog, affected their movement and the advance of the armada as a whole. The data projected a story about nature, whether it be the land itself or the weather, and its effect on travel, and less about the war and the actual battles. The ships constantly had to stop sailing because of thick fog, lost contact with each other due to heavy winds and large waves, and in some cases, the ships were wrecked due to any number of reasons including being stuck on sand bars because of wild tides, thrown into each other by waves, and having water overflow over the sides while in the valley between waves. The Civil War was a dangerous era in naval travel, mostly because of the lack the technology we have today, and the Burnside Armada would have faced issues even in the most spectacular of weather. However, because they faced one of the worst storms in years, the struggles associated with naval travel were increased exponentially. This project allowed me to foster a deeper understanding of both naval travels during this time and how drastically weather conditions can alter the success of a voyage.


Foster, John G. Sketch Showing Route of the Burnside Expedition [to Roanoke Island, N.C., February 6, 1862]. Digital Image. Digital image.Library of Congress. Washington, Government Printing Office, 1866. Web. 12 Dec. 2014. <>.

Hatteras Inlet Map. Digital image. Sons of the South. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2014. <>. I found this map inside of a Harper’s Weekly Civil War newspaper from February 15th, 1862.

Linn, James Merrill. Diary. January 6th– February 1st 1862. MS. Bucknell University Archives and Special Collections, Lewisburg, PA.

Major-General Ambrose E. Burnside and the Ninth Army Corps: A Narrative of Campaigns in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee, During the War for the Preservation of the Republic. Chapters 3-4. Augustus Woodbury, 1866

“Map of the North Carolina Coast.” Extract from Harper’s History of the Great Rebellion, Feb. 1862, p. 243. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

United States Coast Survey. Preliminary Chart of Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina. Digital image. Library of Congress. N.p., 1862. Web. 12 Dec. 2014 <>.

Oxygen Mark Up of Diary 60

During the markup process of my Linn diary transcription, I learned a lot about the context of Linn’s writings through close reading. It allowed me to focus on certain words that helped me get a greater understand of the t text as a whole. Even collaborating with the editorial group in class helped me get a better grip on how to mark up certain words. One such instance that helped me decide what to mark certain words was the debate over whether a boat is a place or an object. In my opinion, I believe a boat is a place; it is extremely the case when it is named like the “Cossack.” The “Cossack” seemed to have much more of a meaning and presence than just an object. After a lengthy and intense discussion on why our class felt what they felt, we decided to mark up any boat, regardless of a proper noun, an object. We decided that this “object” would have a more descriptive mark up.

How do we mark up a boat?

How do we mark up a boat?

Elena Pierazzo really categorizes the, in Jakacki’s words, “richness of the marked up text as a form of intellectual engagement with its interpretation.” In her article, “A Rationale of Digital Documentary Editions” is exemplary of how people should mark up transcriptions. One way she wants people to consider the marking up process is to have “have limits, and limits represent the boundaries within which the hermeneutic process can develop”(Pierazzo). Basically, she believes that we cannot mark up and focus on every single word. That would one, very time-consuming, and, two, counterproductive. In order to interpret Linn’s transcriptions, we had to make decisions on what was important to us. If everything was marked up, wouldn’t we just end up at the beginning? We need to see the relationship between certain things and this is, ultimately, intellectual engagement.

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persName and placeName

Another point that Pierazzo brings up is that we ultimately choose what we rant to represent. There needs to be a meaning behind the mark ups. She states that “the process of selection is inevitably an interpretative act: what we choose to represent and what we do not depends eitherr on the particular vision that we have a particular manuscript or on practical constraints”(Pierazzo). There are certain influences that make us mark up certain words. In my case, I focused on people and places. What I found was that after zoning in on one particular area, I could then go deeper and mark up those words even further. While having some technical difficulties in the level I could describe different people’s roles, I at least was trying to make that one of my main goals.

The last crucial point that Pierazzo argues is that letters are not just marks on a paper. They are symbols we chose to make meanings for. Robinson insists, “‘an ‘i’ is not an ‘i’ because it is a stroke with a dot over it. An “i” is an “i” because we alls agree that it is an ‘i’’”(Pierazzo). Taking this into consideration, our class decided that we would always use “&” for every time Linn uses “&.” After coming to this conclusion, we had to make it clear in Oxygen that we wanted “&” to also mean “and.” An ampersand is not just some weird symbol, we came to a final conclusion, along with the English society, that an ampersand means and.

After using Oxygen and reading the Pierazzo article, I really have a better understanding for Diary 60 of the Linn transcription. Close reading individual words contributes to the overall meaning of Linn’s diary.

Blog Post 2:Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions

While trying to discover the validity of Professor Jakacki’s hypothesis, a new question came to my mind regarding the words “board” and “Cossack.” I want to know how closely “board” and “Cossack” correlate to each other in Linn’s writing and whether or not Linn uses these words more when on land or out at sea. To discover these questions, I will plug both words into Voyant (

To start solving my questions, I’m going to first plug in “board” to the Cirrus. After doing this, one can see that “board” appears 69 times. By looking at the corpus reader, one can see where in the text “board” is most frequent. Taking a peek to the right of the screen at the words trend panel, one can tell that the usage of “board” tends to spike in segments 4,5 and 7. These spikes are on January 6th, January 25th and February 9th (a Sunday to be exact). One must also remark on the sharp drop that the usage of “board” experiences in segment 6 (February 6th), which is between January 25th and February 9th.

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To completely answer my question, I must not plug “Cossack” into Voyant and look for the correlation. Cossack appears 46 times throughout the diary, and tends to have the same frequency of appearance as “board.” To me, this is not a surprise because both words have to do with ships and more likely than not, when Linn is talking about ships, he is probably talking about the Cossack. The Cossack experiences its spikes on January 6th (segment 4) and February 9th (segment 7). The only difference between the two words is that the largest decline in usage happens on January 9th (segment 3).

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After looking at both words in Voyant, I can now see that there is a strong correlation between “board” and “Cossack”. On top of this, the usage of these words spikes when Linn is onboard a ship (most of the time it is the Cossack). There are many reasons behind this. In my opinion, Linn tends to use words regarding ships when he is in fact on the ship. However, there are many possible reasons as to why Linn does this (mood, weather, time of day). The only real way of knowing would be speaking to Linn himself.

Hypothesis and Distant Reading

I could not think of anything to support or contradict the hypothesis given. So instead I used Voyant tools to choose a word that would pose a question or two for me to think about. I started with “Cossack” because I thought it would be interesting to see which words linked to it, and then I though “sick” would work really well connecting to it.

So rather than finding data to support or contrast Professor Jakacki’s hypothesis, I made my own hypothesis by looking at the two words, “Cossack” and “sick”. My hypothesis is that I think that the words “Cossack” and “sick” will consistently appear together because James Merrill Linn wrote how people were always getting sick aboard the ship. This was either because they got seasick out on the rough ocean, or just since they were all stuck in a tight space together for long period of time, diseases spread faster.

First, I started by seeing how many times the different words appear in the text. “Cossack”, appears 46 times, while “sick” shows up only 38 times. Then I decided to look at the relative frequencies of the two words compared to onScreen shot 2014-09-24 at 1.49.53 PMe another. The first thing I noticed was how extreme the frequencies were, they never really remained flat for a long period of time. The result of comparing them was also not what I expected. In segments 1, 2, 3, and 4 the two words did not have even slightly similar word trends, they were complete opposites. However, in segments 5, 7, 8 and 9 they had either identical word trends or very similar ones, as shown below. And although this somewhat supports my hypothesis, it does not completely.

The most uses of the word “sick” were in the third segment of the text, where almost all of the men were getting sick from the rocking of the boat. In one Screen shot 2014-09-24 at 9.31.33 PMdiary entry, “sick” was used 4 times, and in the one right after it was used 5 times. “Cossack” is used, as I expected, most often when they are aboard the ship, but also when they are about to go on it or right after they got off the boat. The word frequencies overlap especially in segments 5 and 8 because that is when the men in the army and their prisoners were getting very sick aboard the ship.

Distant reading was very helpful in this situation with looking up those two words. Although I did not get a clear answer to whether my hypothesis was accurate or not, I think it was in the broad sense, and distant reading definitely helped to prove that.

Can Distant Reading Prove Hypothesis?

With respect to Professor Jackacki’s hypothesis about James’ perspective, I have used Voyant tools to attempt to either affirm or deny that James shows a loss of innocence roughly halfway through our class transcription. The words I decided to utilize during my distant reading instilled upon me new questions.


Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 1.37.51 PM The first world I selected was “night.” This word appears 82 times throughout the text. As I clicked on the word in cirrus tool and viewed it on the word trends tool, I did not notice any patterns whatsoever. Especially during the time period Dr. J. addresses, there was a consistent frequency of the number of times night was used. It also did not appear to be too much different than the beginning diary transcripts, either.  Distant reading using this word alone, did not help with Professor Jackacki’s research question.



Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 1.38.10 PMHowever, when I added a second word, “boat,” I noticed a distinct interesting. I noticed these two trends were almost mirror images of each other. There seemed to be a negative correlation between talking about night and talking about boats. Whenever Linn was talking about a boat, typically the Cossack, he did not seem to be mentioning night. This leads me to the question: when Linn is on board the Cossack, is he writing at night, therefore he does not mention night, or does all the action seem to talk place during daylight hours? Why does is there this strange relationship between “boat” and “night”?


These two words do not necessarily reveal anything about Linn’s experience in battle. I just know that when talking about his boat, the Cossack, does not seem to have a correlation to his innocence or lack thereof. This plays out to be true when Linn mentions night. Unfortunately, I was unable to affirm or refute Professor Jackacki’s research question and hypothesis; yet, maybe other words will be able to. They do guide me towards the thought that Linn may have a pattern of the time he rights his diary entries.

I benefitted from using Voyant tools and feel that once I am able to come up with a better research question, I will be more successful with the program. Distant reading is a very intriguing concept and, although I was “unsuccessful” with the goal of getting to some type of conclusion over the accuracy of Professor Jackacki’s hypothesis, I have used this as an experience that can improve my skills in this field.