In breaking up my soldier’s life, I have decided to put more emphasis on the war than on his post-war life. While he did live a relatively long life after the war, it was fairly uneventful. Since he was disabled during the war, there are no records of him working, so it is unclear how he passed his time. However, I do have some information on what he did before the war. So, my first section will be “Life Before the War”. My second section will be “Beginning of the War”. My third section will be “End of the War.” Lastly, I will have a section covering the little that I know called, “Life After the War”.
I decided to break up the war because I think there is enough information to do so. This way it will be more of a “bite sized” piece of information for readers to consume. However, if I end up feeling that there isn’t enough information to split those sections up, I may end up combining them.
When evaluating the usefulness of tools such as Voyant, versus reading a source in its entirety, there’s no doubt that both have a time and place. Being able to see the key, or most frequently used, words before reading a document, decreases the chances that you will spend a lot of time reading a source that turns out to be useless to you. However, without the right amount of context, tools like Voyant could potentially steer you away from sources that could have been just what you needed. Sometimes, knowing the frequency of certain words doesn’t actually tell you what a document is about (even with eliminating the stop words). In fact, I think I would prefer using “Ctrl + f” to find words that I am specifically seeking out. That way I can quickly read the context in which they are used to help me determine how useful the information will be.
Reading a document in its entirety, or close to it, is definitely the best way to interpret and understand a set of material. However, with the vast amount of information on the internet, it isn’t even close to being possible. Using a tool like Voyant is perfect for getting you “out of the weeds” as a researcher. It gives you a preliminary way to establish if a source is worth diving into. The right balance of both tactics is certainly a recipe for successful research.
After mapping out Alfred Thayer’s travels, it is much easier to look at his life with a much broader scope, than if I was just reading his documents in a spreadsheet. While dissecting the documents in the spreadsheet, I can track all the places Thayer lived, but it is still one item at a time. When using a map, labeled with times, I can see the entirety of his life in one picture.
This tool is effective, and gives new perspective. That being said, it could be even more useful with a soldier other than Alfred Thayer. Thayer was born in New York, traveled with his unit during the war, and then lived primarily in two locations, Michigan and Illinois, for the rest of his life. While I would bet that there are soldiers that traveled less, an soldier who did more extensive traveling would be even more suitable for a map tracking their movement.
Before starting my data collection, I had certain expectation for all three categories that I would be tracking. In two out of the three categories, my prediction was was off.
I thought that I would be contact with more people than I was. Perhaps this was a product of having a pretty uneventful weekend, but I certainly didn’t stray too far from my family and good friends.
As far as beverage consumption goes, I wasn’t surprised by the lack of variety in what I was drinking, but I was surprised by the quantity of it. I have always known that I drink a lot of water, at least more than the recommended daily amount, but I was surprised to see my average water consumption close to 150 oz. per day. Generally, I think I would have more variety, but in this four day period I almost exclusively drank water.
Lastly, keeping track of my articles of clothing was the category I ended up being the closest on. This surprised me in itself because I would have said it was the category that I was the least aware of. But, I figured that once I actually kept track of it, I would realize that I change my clothes more than I would think, so I took that into consideration when making my prediction. I don’t know if this was a lot, or a little, but I averaged about 10 different articles of clothing per day.
I am interested to keep track of different aspects of my life to see if the results would vary from my predictions. Having such a narrow focus on these three things makes it hard for me to imagine how the guy who created this site lives his life at all. For the most part, I tracked my data retrospectively throughout the day (except my oz. of water) but it was still something I was conscious of throughout. Having many more categories seems almost impossible!
After adding three items to my Omeka site, I think that it is a useful tool for accessing my data. It gives me a way to quickly summarize an item in a way that will make them much more available to use. It wasn’t to access all my data before, when it was all together in an Excel spreadsheet.
After adding the items to my site, I am still a little bit confused about one aspect. I used the image number of each item that I added, so I can find it easily, but I never physically added the documents to my site. I was under the impression that I would be adding the file, but I didn’t see an area to do that.
As far as post-war information on Alfred Thayer goes, the prominent theme is the grudge match between him and the pension office. Ever since he was no longer active in the military, he was in a constant battle to raise his pension to an amount that he felt was just.
There is very little information regarding his personal life. After the war he married Mary Jane Thayer in 1867. With his wife, he had two sons, Edward and Willard Thayer. He predominantly lived in Jackson, Michigan, but later moved to Decatur, Illinois. I have not been able to figure out was Thayer’s occupation was.
During the war, Thayer was shot in the shoulder, which continued to ail for him for the rest of his life. Doctors claimed that his arm was essentially paralyzed and was equivalent to the loss of his hand and arm.
I’ve had trouble using Zotero. I generally use Chrome as my browser, so I made sure to download the version of Zotero that wasn’t Firefox exclusive. However, I still have not been able to get my sources into my Zotero account. Even though I have downloaded and installed Zotero, there is no icon near my URL bar when I am searching and looking at secondary sources.
Should I just download Firefox and try to use it there, or am I missing an important step that will allow me to use Zotero while in Chrome?
One source I’ve found is a website posted by the New York State Military Museum, which is dedicated to the 16th Infantry Regiment in New York. That is the regiment that my soldier, Alfred Thayer, belonged to. This source gives an overview history about the travels of the regiment during the Civil War. It also tell me where all the different companies were recruited from.
The source is of public domain and the information was provided primarily by Patrick Fultz.
In many ways going through the various documents about my soldier, Alfred Thayer, has been very tedious. But, after trying looking for specific information, opposed to the inventory stage, the task has become much more interesting. Hitting on the previous post about immersing yourself in the history, looking up information about a soldier from the civil war has been a much more narrow focus than what I am used to. It has been interesting trying to piece together the various aspects of his life by using documents that are well over 100 years old. One of the most challenging parts of accumulating this data has been trying to decipher the handwriting. I am always relieved when I find a transcribed, typed document. However, after spending some time looking at the documents, I am starting to get a better idea of what took place during Thayer’s time in the army.
Looking at the different ways historians like to look at history, the most unfamiliar aspect, to me, was the tendency to deeply immerse themselves in one particular area or time period. Being a product of public schooling in the United States, I am conditioned to look at history through a broad lens, barely cracking the surface of what actually happened. Much of the history I have been taught has been brushed over quickly, and been redundant from year to year.
This isn’t necessarily the fault of the education system. There simply isn’t time to go into great depth, while still covering your bases on a lot of basic history. Never the less, the only people that really can look that deeply into history, are historians. To get that much depth you need to be fully immersed, meaning not spending time on any other aspects. The way students are taught has probably affected the way they look at other educational topics as well. We are taught to skim.