My role in this project was to spatially markup James Merill Linn’s journal entries from March 23- April 19, 1862, using ArcGIS online. Using the transcribed journal entries and historical research, I plotted, on various maps from the Civil War era, points where Linn mentioned he had gone for each of his journal entries (one point= one journal entry). Most of the points are around the New Bern area in North Carolina, where Linn spent most of his time (March 23- April 9, April 12-16, 1862) as part of the Union occupation of the town under General Burnside. On April 17, 1862, Linn and other Union troops left New Bern for South Mills in a (failed) effort to undermine Confederate transportation schemes by destroying the Dismal Swamp Canal locks. The Battle of South Mills (April 19, 1862) was one of only a few Union defeats as part of Burnside’s Expedition.
One of the hardest parts of mapping Linn was the fact that Linn rarely named the places he visited or the streets that they are on. For example, he mentions General Burnside’s headquarters as a white house in New Bern but doesn’t explain where it is or what the house was called. To find out what house it was so I could map it I had to do some research online. I figured out that the house was the Stanly House. However, the house was moved from its original location in the 1960’s and I couldn’t figure out where the house was originally located. I eventually found the general area where the house first was located after going through old land deeds but I hit another pitfall because the Stanly House isn’t listed on the map I was plotting the points on from 1866. The only building mentioned where the house was first located was listed as the Washington Hotel on the map. After even more research, I discovered that George Washington stayed at the Stanly house in 1770 and surmised that the map maker was referring to this moment in time when labeling the map.
My struggle to find Gen. Burnside’s headquarters was probably one of my easier efforts to find a location Linn talks about because at least it is a physical landmark. For a lot of the journal entries, Linn just talks about his time at camp yet he doesn’t give the name of the camp he stays at and only offers hints of the general location. I used his hints, research, and the maps (both the 1866 and 1864 maps) to try to locate the camps he stayed at to the best of my ability. For example, on April 3, 1862 Linn mentions moving camp to be on the other side of the river (the two previous camps were on the south bank of the Trent) on the west side of town. Using a map from a newspaper article from that time, I surmised that the camp was located north of the Railroad Depot. Unfortunately, I cannot be entirely sure that the locations I plotted for Linn’s time at the camps, or for any of the points for that matter, are correct. That being said, my spatial analysis is more of a communication device than a historical record of Linn’s location; the purpose of mapping Linn’s entries is to provide an engaging interface for readers to contextualize Linn’s situation. A large part of this goal is aesthetics and accessibility, two key elements of effective communication. To make the analysis clear and good looking, I colored coded elements as well as labeled them. For example, instead of tracking Linn’s travels within New Bern, I instead just used a blue circle to indicate the general area he traversed during the majority of this time and labeled it as so. I figured that if I tried to track his moves around the city, like I did with his journey to South Mills and Pollocksville, it would be too cluttered and visually overwhelming. Additionally, instead of including the whole transcribed entry for each point, I instead only included a quote from the entry that related to the location of the pin. I did this because 1) it is more clean and concise and 2) it makes the reader want to find out more and thus click the link to read the full entry.
Overall, I am satisfied with the work I did and I think that I was effective in achieving my goals. In terms of relating the process to the other work we did, I think spatial analysis can be considered another form of transcription since I had to transcribe his words in a spacial fashion. Just like with the actual transcription of Linn’s writings, I had to negotiate Linn’s actual words with what I thought Linn meant, or in my case, where Linn meant he was. I had to question Linn’s own accuracy of his locations and use historical research to try to determine where he was. As I mentioned previously, my spatial interpretation of Linn’s entries is just that- an interpretation. This relates back to what Pierazzo says about digital editions:
“We should simply say that the notion of objectivity is not very productive or helpful in the case of transcription and subsequently of diplomatic editions and that we should instead make peace with the fact that we are simply doing our works as scholars when transcribing and preparing a diplomatic edition.” (Pierazzo 466).
Just as I choose what to markup for the various transcription/ TEI work we did this semester, I decided what places I thought were the most important to my edition and used research as well as Linn’s words to spatially markup the entries. As Pierazzo says, we have to distance ourselves from the notion of objective truth- our editions will be inherently subjective and we can’t be stuck on trying to make it “correct.” This is exactly what I did- I adjusted my knowledge and did the best that I could to make a scholarly edition of Linn’s journal entries.