With the help of our new digital library site, VT Special Collections Online, we will soon be sharing some of our digitized civil war diaries in new and interesting ways. Using plugins designed by Neatline will allow us to create exhibits that display both transcripts and digital images of diary entries on timelines or as location points on maps. An early example of this can be seen with The Richard Colburn Diary.

Colburn, of Ellington, Iowa, started his diary on December 18, 1861, the day he enlisted in the 12th Infantry of the United States Regular Army. After two months of training he traveled east to New York and Washington DC, entering the fight to defend the Union. His daily diary entries recount his movements, which when plotted on the map, illustrates the vast distance he traveled to fight, as well as the significant difference that railroads made to travel.

Colburn’s 12th Infantry became involved in the Peninsula Campaign, including the Battle of Williamsburg and the Battle of Gaines’ Mill, where on June 27, 1862, Coburn was wounded and taken prisoner by the 5th regiment of Virginia. The remainder of the diary describes his hospitalization, his release on January 15, 1863, and his trip home. The exhibit helps to visualize his experience in the Civil War in an age of GIS and global connectivity. By overlaying his journey onto modern maps, it is easier to connect our world today with the events that took place over 150 years ago.

Make sure to check back to VT Special Collections Online in the coming months for more diaries to come!

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