Fortunately, James Merrill Linn’s handwriting and I share some history, so I did not have as difficult of a time transcribing his writing this time around. I transcribed two letters, one to his brother and one to the Lewisburg Chronicle. I think it is fascinating to have to basically decode a letter in order to read it. I really enjoyed transcribing the letter to the Chronicle in particular because it was different from his journals and letters I had read in the past. While I would consider myself a sufficient subscriber, there were still many words and phrases that were indecipherable. I discovered a range of solutions to my problems. First, I would search the letters I could read into Google. This worked maybe 20% of the time to find the word that I was searching for. This is one example where I knew it was a name but could not figure out every letter to get the correct name. So I searched “Beauveyard” into Google, where it suggested searching for “Beauregard” instead. It turns out that he was a famous Southern military officer, and was the first prominent general of the Confederate States Army during the Civil War. Another way I discovered a word was with the help of my peers. They proved incredibly helpful many times because they provided a fresh set of eyes or had seen the same word in their letter. If none of these ways worked I forfeited and marked it up as unreadable.
Thankfully the Linn letters are located in the Archives, because in the end it is helpful to have the option of seeing them in person. I thought it was beneficial to have the option of looking at the physical letter with a magnifying glass, or zooming in on the photo of the letter on my computer. I found that both ways were equally helpful. Sometimes the computer image would blur the word too much that I could not see the one line that was necessary to decipher the word. On the other hand, it was helpful to have it on the computer because I could zoom in as close as I wanted. I also liked transcribing from the computer image because I would constantly lose my spot in his letter when looking at in while in the Archives.
Interestingly, the letter that James wrote to the Lewisburg Chronicle is very dissimilar to his journal entry written on the same date. Linn wrote his journal solely for himself, assuming that he would be the only one to read them, so he wrote about his personal experiences, rather than what was going on in the war. His letter to the Lewisburg Chronicle was meant for the whole public to have read. This is why he wrote about where they were going, the Colonels and officers he encountered, and their battles. He wrote about the batteries, the rebels, and the swamps they had to wade through rather than about the weather because that is what the people of Lewisburg would have preferred to read about.