Tuesday, June 17, 2008

On Google Books

While searching Google Books this morning, it occurred to me to search for Union Faces. It struck me as humorous that I've made hundreds of searches for books, but never thought, until this morning, to look up my own book!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Worth the Wait

Back in 2002, I reluctantly cut 2nd Lt. James W. Converse Jr. of the Twenty-fourth and Forty-seventh Massachusetts Infantries from my manuscript for Union Faces because my research efforts turned up so little information about his life. Moreover, his military service record contained little information beyond his muster reports, and his pension file yielded few personal details.

A couple weeks ago, while sorting through my files, I came across Converse's folder and wondered if any new information might appear online. A search of Ancestry.com turned up several excellent references, the best of which is the Family Record of Deacons James W. Converse and Elisha S. Converse by William G. Hill (privately printed, 1887). This book includes a letter written by Converse's colonel, Lucius B. Marsh, who wrote, "Young Converse was, as his photograph shows, small in stature, but closely put together; a fearless eye and a calm, quiet, but determined countenance. He never indicated fear, but was always ready for dangerous work." The photograph that Marsh mentioned was not included in the book, but it may very well have been the image reproduced here.

Additional quotes from Marsh, and other details about Converse's life and military service, will appear in a future Faces of War column in the Civil War News.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Where They Lived

I have had it in mind for some time now to produce a Google map that displays the places of enlistment and/or birthplaces of the seventy-seven soldiers profiled in Union Faces. With the current book in the hands of the production team at Johns Hopkins University Press, I made time to complete the project. It is also linked from Faces of War.

The Google Maps API is easy to understand. Many of my questions were answered by trial and error and by viewing source code of similar maps. My friends at USA Today were also helpful. The most time-consuming part was producing the text and images for the profiles, plotting the latitude and longitude for each location, and building the xml file.

The payoff is seeing the locations of all the soldiers plotted on one map, and having the opportunity to look at them from a geographic perspective. To be able to view all the volunteers from Boston, or New York City, or Pennsylvania as a group is anew dynamic much different than the book's organization by the date of the soldier's central war story.

My next Google map project will be to track all the soldiers profiled as part of my column for Civil War News — about eighty-five men, North and South.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Camden Kids Provide Key Visual

My preliminary research into the life and military service of Lt. Col. Henry Franklin Chew of the Twelfth New Jersey Infantry (pictured here) turned up two death dates — 1910 and 1918. A Google search turned up a wonderful .kml file: When viewed in Google Earth, the planet spins and zooms into the Camden, N.J., area to show Harleigh Cemetery. Many Union veterans are buried there, including Chew. The location of his grave site is marked, and a photo of the marker clearly establishes the year of his death as 1918. The cemetery is also the final resting place of poet Walt Whitman.

The data was collected by children connected with Hopeworks.Thanks, kids!

Learn more about the project, and download the file.