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.”

Screen shot 2014-12-12 at 5.48.14 PM

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

Screen shot 2014-12-12 at 5.43.21 PM

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.


Screen shot 2014-12-10 at 1.26.20 PM

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

Linn vs. Third Party Sources: The Battle of South Mills

Was James Merrill Linn accurate in his descriptions of his experience in the Battle of South Mills?

The Battle of South Mills

My research question was to find out if James Merrill Linn’s diary transcriptions were a legitimate primary source of information on the Battle of South Mills. To give background information to my audience, I started with my own diary entry date of April 17-18,

Layers from my previous map

Layers from my previous map

1862. I added these map notes to my new map of the Battle of South Mills. During this time, Linn left New Berne, stopped at Hatteras on Roanoke Island, and left for Elizabeth City. This is where I used transcriptions from Julia and Riz, who transcribed the actual battle. Using arcGIS, I mapped out exactly what Linn was writing to the best of my abilities. I used the color green to document anything Linn wrote in his diary to keep it separate for the next step in my research project. During this segment, I did not look at outside sources, besides a couple maps, in order to keep myself zoned in on Linn’s account of what was happening.

Working on web map

Working on Web Map

After mapping out Linn’s version of the Battle of South Mills, I searched for third-party sources that could give me more of an idea of what happened. Using objective sources allowed me to focus on the big picture of this battle and not just what Linn wrote in his diary. When utilizing these sources, I focused on the Pennsylvania 51st Regiment. This was Linn’s regiment, so I assume Linn was with these other soldiers. Gaining more knowledge about the Linn regiment’s whereabouts during this battle made allowed me to gain more insight to what Linn could have been talking about. Also, I wanted to contrast what Linn claimed in his diary to what these other sources claimed. I also mapped out the third-party’s account of the Battle of South Mills and the Pennsylvania 51st Regiment. When mapping this out on arcGIS, I used a new layer and used the color yellow to make all of the pushpins, lines, arrows, etc. This allowed me to see clearly both accounts of the Battle of South Mills.

Finished Map (Showing Green and Yellow)

Finished Map (Showing Green and Yellow)

When the Battle of South Mills was mapped out according to both perspectives, I created a web mapping application. Here, I chose the story template. At first I had a few slides to show the background information on the battle. Once I got to the actual battle, I switched between Linn’s claims and the third-party source’s claims. I utilized the zoom tool and tried to make this part of the project the most user-and-reader friendly. I added pictures of some of the maps that I found on my outside sources that really helped me visualize this battle. Because it happened over 150 years ago, there are not many official accounts of this battle. Technology was not exactly up to par. However, studying many hand-drawn maps of the Battle of South Mills allowed me to get a pretty good idea of how this battle played out.

Working on Web Mapping Application

Working on Web Mapping Application

I decided to narrow down my focus to just actions Linn and his regiment took. I did not want to complicate this research question by adding in emotions, causalities, etc. I took a very objective view while mapping out the Battle of South Mills. This made everything much cleaner and efficient when using the web map and later the web map app. Another “blessing” to me was a website Riz found on the internet called “Battle of South Mills.” It had an abundance of hand-drawn maps of the battle. Also, it was interesting to see some of the artifacts of the battle. Another person’s perspective I payed close attention to while mapping the third party sources’ version of the battle, was that of Lieutenant Colonel Bell. He referenced Linn’s Regiment, Pennsylvania 51st, many times. Whenever I saw something that mentioned Linn’s regiment I was payed extreme attention to it.

Finished Web Mapping Application

Finished Web Mapping Application

Ultimately, arcGIS was a great tool to use to map out the Battle of South Mills. I think it is very user-friendly and anyone would be able to use the web mapping application. I was able to take James Merrill Linn’s diary entries and compare them to third party sources to see his accuracy. At the end of this project, I was not able to completely decide if Linn is an accurate historical storyteller, because I only researched one battle. In my case, I think Linn was a somewhat reliable source. Besides for some minor contrasts in documentation of the battle, it is hard to tell which source was correct. I was only able to find one website that had other sources and account of the Battle of South Mills. I am not even sure how factual that website is. My research question could not sufficiently be answered with this one project.


“Battle Summary.” Battle of South Mills. Ed. Bruce Long. 10 Apr. 2010. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.
Civil War Cannon. Digital image. Mediad.publicbroadcasting. Web. 16 Dec. 2014. Linn. Digital image. Diane Jakacki. DianeJakacki.net. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.
Civil War Fence. Digital image. Big Stock. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.
Currituck Beach Lighthouse. Digital image. Currituck Beach Light. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.
Currituck Courthouse. Digital image. Appox. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.
Cypress Swamp Along Pasquotank River. Digital image. Champiii. 5 May 2014. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.
“Eastern Coast.” Eastern Portion of the Military Department of North Carolina. S.l. 1862. Print.
Hatteras Island. Digital image. Ocean Front Hotels. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.
Historic Old Jail in Currituck. Digital image. Albemarle Commission. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.
Mouth of Pasquotank River. Digital image. Api.ning. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.
Museum of the Albemarle. Digital image. Battle of South Mills. Bruce Long. Web. 16 Dec. 2014. Operations in North Carolina. Digital image. Battle of South Mills. Bruce Long. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.
Shenandoah 3. Digital image. Tom McMahon. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.
Sneden, Robert K. “Plan of Battle of South Mills.” 1862. ArcGIS. Web. 16 Dec.
“South Mills Battle.” ArcGIS. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.
The Battle of Camden. Digital image. Battle of South Mills. Bruce Long. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.
The Battle of Camden: Plan of the Battlefield. Digital image. Battle of South Mills. Bruce Long. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.

Linn’s Journey from New Bern to Roanoke Island to Elizabeth City: Map and Web App

Linn's Journey from April 17 ,1862 to April 18, 1862

Linn’s Journey from April 17 ,1862 to April 18, 1862

In the past couple of weeks, we have used ArcGis as a form of technology. First, we were instructed how to use the maps,create layers, and add map notes. After doing this, we could create our own maps and upload archival maps to help us see the same landmarks Linn saw in 1862. I specifically chose the map “Eastern Coast” to help me see New Bern, Roanoke Island, and Elizabeth City a little bit more clearly as it was in the mid-nineteenth century. After creating our own maps with map notes and layers, we, then, created an app. This allowed us to show multiple diary entries basically as a story. We could take our audiences, interactively, through Linn’s diary entries and show them where Linn was and what he did. This map layer “Eastern Coast”, however, turned out to be very grainy, so I only used it when necessary and did not need to be zoomed in.

In the article, there is a crucial point: “through observation and testing we are able to understand how the world operates” (Bodenhammer). We saw the maps of where Linn’s journey and diary entries take place, but, until we can physically make our own maps and “test” things out, we cannot fully experience Linn’s perspective. GIS really helps us be present in his diary entries. We are essentially re-living what Linn did. We are trying to, using different aspects of technology, to better get an understanding of this soldier’s life during the Civil War.

The only time I have ever heard about Roanoke Island was in history class. We learned that this was the “lost colony.” After hearing Linn mention Roanoke Island, my mind had drifted back to history class, because this was my personal interpretation of the island. As Bodenhammer writes, “two people who view the same object may interpret it quite differently based on their different assumptions and experiences” (Bodenhammer). Linn had a very interpersonal experience with Roanoke Island, and, I am guessing, he never even thought about the fact it was called the “lost colony.” He may have heard about it, but that is not what comes to his mind when he hears the island’s name.

At the end of the day, “gis is fundamentally what happens in a geographic space” (Bodenhammerr). It is as simple as that. It allows us to take what we have read and be able to visualize it in a way that makes us more aware of what is happening in certain situations. I have never heard of New Bern or Elizabeth City, but GIS helped me understand exactly where Linn was and the encounters he had.