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Manuscripts of the American Civil War
Technical Details

Table of Contents

Notes on the Transcriptions: General Conventions

Spelling is retained as written. This is so even of the most obvious errors of inscription or slips of the pen. In cases where words are identifiable but constituent letters are ambiguous, we have sought to render the author's intended spelling as accurately as possible, as suggested by practice elsewhere in the manuscript(s). The long "s", still common at the time of the Civil War, is presented as a short "s".

Capitalization is retained as written. If in a particular instance the author's intent regarding uppercase/lowercase remains unclear after consideration of a letter's form, its relative size, and tendencies elsewhere in the manuscript(s), we resort to modern practice.

As a general rule, punctuation is retained as written. Terminal punctuation is never inserted where it is lacking in the manuscript; nor, in such cases, are sentence endings indicated by the inclusion of an additional space. Especially elaborate, idiosyncratic, or decorative usages of punctuation marks by particular writers, often in the context of dates and other numbers, may be modified or normalized to the keyboard. Dashes that might serve some purpose as punctuation are retained. Hyphens or other marks used for words broken between lines are omitted. Apostrophes replace alternative punctuation forms in contractions. Ampersands are used to indicate all symbols meaning "and"; "&c" is used for "+c".

Crossed out words or passages that remain legible have been indicated with strikethrough type, as have readable erasures; the corrected version follows. Illegible crossouts have been silently omitted. False starts have been silently corrected. Running corrections have not been noted.

Interlineated words or passages are silently incorporated into the text at the point indicated by the author (or, lacking this, at the point in an adjacent line that renders the text most coherent). Marginal text has been silently incorporated in a similar manner. Text added by the author to the margins of previously completed pages is included in the transcriptions at what appears to be its proper point in the narrative. Such blocks of text are identified by headings reading "Additional text on Page 1," etc.

Superscript letters are treated in two distinct ways, depending on context. Superscript letters used in conjunction with numerals to render ordinal numbers — 8th, 33rd, and so on — are brought down to the line. Superscript letters used in proper names (such as "McCook") are also brought down to the line. All other superscript letters are retained as written. The punctuation marks and/or underlining often used beneath superscript letters are regarded as embellishments, and are omitted.

Abbreviations and contractions are retained as written, and are never expanded.

Underlined words or passages are indicated with underscoring. Different underlining practices (i.e., single or double underlining; continuous or broken underlining) have been regularized to a continuous, single-line underscoring. Words or passages written in capital letters for emphasis have been rendered in small capitals.

Illegible words or word fragments are indicated by [illeg]. In the case of fragments, the [illeg] is adjacent to the transcribed part of the word. Illegible passages are indicated by [2 words illeg], [3 words illeg], and so on. The number of illegible words so indicated may be an approximation. Lines of illegible words are indicated by [1 line illeg], [2 lines illeg], etc. Illegible numerals are indicated by single bracketed spaces ([ ]). Sequences of illegible numerals are indicated by sequences of such spaces. Words or numerals are considered illegible when they are present on the page but cannot be transcribed with confidence.

Missing words or word fragments are indicated by bracketed ellipsis points. Three bracketed points [. . .] are used: 1) for missing word fragments (with the brackets placed adjacent to the transcribed part of the word); 2) for missing individual words. Four bracketed points [. . . .] are used: 1) for missing sequences of words; 2) for missing sequences of words and word fragments. Missing words or phrases are never interpolated.

Paragraph indentations are standardized to the customary five-character space. When an author has chosen not to indent the first line of a new paragraph, that format is respected. Long dashes or gaps within the text typically have been interpreted to indicate a new paragraph, and are so rendered. Gaps left by the author to be filled in later are indicated by ten-character spaces.

Textual additions to a manuscript are treated in distinct ways, depending on their relevance. Markings or notations regarded as extraneous to the content of a manuscript are silently omitted. Endorsements and other forms of integral and relevant commentary are transcribed, and may be preceded by a bracketed identifying note for clarification. Later editorial commentary is not typically transcribed, but is referenced in a header note.

Non-textual manuscript elements that are essentially decorative in function are not represented.

Printed text is transcribed in italic.

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Notes on the Transcriptions: Annotations

Editorial interventions, indicated by characters in square brackets, are used throughout the transcriptions as a means of annotation. Such interventions are used mostly with reference to proper nouns, especially the names of persons and places. Interventions whose purpose is limited to the correction of misspelled words take the form [sp. _____], with the intervention following the misspelling. Interventions more typically take the form [i.e., _____]; these are used to expand upon or clarify the preceding term. Typical usages include the fuller identification of individuals and the positive identification of people and places not cited by name in the manuscript. Normally, these interventions are used only on the first occurrence of a given name within the series of which the manuscript is a part. In certain exceptional instances bracketed interventions are used to correct obvious misstatements of fact, when those misstatements would cause the reader undue confusion. Such interventions take the form [properly _____], and are used mostly in conjunction with dates.

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Notes on the Transcriptions: Letters

The formats of the original letters are not duplicated in the transcriptions. Dates and places, salutations, closings, and postscripts are normally left-justified and separated from letter bodies — and from one another — by single spaces. However, if any of these elements are patently integrated into the body of the letter, they are so rendered in the transcription. Line breaks are retained primarily in opening and closing elements and in the bodies of letters following the ends of paragraphs. New paragraphs are either left-justified or uniformly indented (five spaces), depending on practice in the manuscript. Line breaks are also observed in certain unusual instances within the bodies of letters; for example, the inclusion of verse.

Insofar as possible, the text of each transcribed letter is presented in the order in which it was originally written. Thus, text added by the author to the margins of previously completed pages is included in the transcriptions at what appears to be its proper point in the narrative. Such blocks of text are identified by headings reading "Additional text on Page 1," etc.

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Notes on the Transcriptions: Diaries and Journals

Each link in the diary index — and each electronic page of transcribed material — corresponds to an opening of two pages within the diary itself. The transcribed text is arranged in two columns; the left-hand column represents the left-hand page of the opening (the reverse side or verso (v) of the diary's leaves), and the right-hand column represents the right-hand page of the opening (the front side or recto (r) of the leaves). This is so even for openings in which the handwriting is inverted relative to the proper orientation of the volume. The handwriting in Civil War diaries frequently lacks a consistent orientation; money accounts, for example, were occasionally begun from the back of the book and inverted relative to the diary entries proper. In such cases, the transcribed text of each page of the opening has been reoriented, independently of the book, as it were, so that the verso of the opening remains to the left, and the recto to the right. A note in the header above the transcription indicates when this has been done. Scans of such openings are provided with both the proper orientation relative to the book — the writing in these will frequently appear "upside-down" — and inverted, for legibility's sake. It must be born in mind that in these latter, inverted scans the page to the left is now the recto, and corresponds to the right-hand page of the transcriptions.

All openings in the diaries are scanned, with the exception of those in which each page is blank. But not all openings are transcribed. Because of their small size, their varied content, and their private nature, not to mention the hard knocks to which they may have been subject, war diaries very often contain pages or passages that are difficult to read. This is particularly true of content that lacks a narrative structure — like the lists of debts and other such memoranda that are a feature of so many Civil War diaries. Such pages may not be transcribed. Pages in partly printed diaries that contain only printed text are typically not transcribed.

Generally speaking, the transcriptions do not attempt to duplicate the specific formats of the original pages. Individual entries are separated from one another by a space if they are discretely rendered in the manuscript. If the entries contain obvious headings, postscripts, or marginal notations, these too are set off by a space. (This includes the printed dates characteristic of partly printed diaries; printed text is indicated in the transcriptions by italics). Elements set off from one another by spaces are usually left-justified. Entries that are not discretely rendered in the manuscript are not separated in the transcriptions. Specific line breaks within entries or other blocks of prose are not duplicated, except in unusual circumstances; for example, the inclusion of verse, tabular data, etc. New paragraphs are either left-justified or uniformly indented (five spaces), depending on practice in the manuscript. Some non-narrative information has been presented in tabular form, which echoes but does not necessarily duplicate the format of the original. When the sequencing of textual elements is not apparent, the most logical conceptual order has been adopted.

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Notes on the Images

To create the images used in this Web site, manuscript materials are originally scanned in full color at 300 DPI and saved as compressed .TIFF image files. These color images are then archived on CD. Earlier materials were scanned on a UMAX Mirage II flatbed scanner (2001-2005); materials are currently scanned on one of two Microtek ScanMaker 9800XL scanners. All images are acquired and archived using Macintosh computers.

From the archived color images, the online black and white .JPEG files are created at 150, 100 and 72 DPI. These images are, as necessary, digitally manipulated a minimal amount to increase the contrast between the words and the page on which they are written, and thus increase the legibility of the text.

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Questions and comments regarding this Web page should be directed to Special Collections.

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