Three Huzzahs to our Volunteer Corps!

Today it has been three months since the launch of Decoding the Civil War and our volunteers have rallied to our project. Our work on DCW was a year in the making when it launched on June 21, 2016, with long hours spent by our staff to prepare a website that would make a difficult problem—transcribing United States Civil War telegrams in ledgers—seem easy and exciting.  Our volunteers have taken what we built and done truly incredible work. They have earned a hearty “Huzzah, Huzzah, Huzzah!”

Since June 21st there have been:

2,537 Registered Volunteers;
42,854 Classifications;
2,513 retired Subjects.

But these are just numbers. What the Volunteer Corps has added to the talk boards is truly wonderful. Of course there have been the battles, and their consequences, remarked upon. But the everyday nature of the telegrams has really captured the volunteers’ attention, as has the sometimes curious 19th century hand of the telegraph operators.

Among the numerous telegrams that have caught our volunteers’ attention are the death of Gen. Sherman’s son, spies and intelligence gathering, the hunt for Booth and other assassins and/or accomplices, and the capture of Jefferson Davis. They have created tags for their finds, including: #mysterymarginalmarks, #grant, #codebook, #lincoln, #prisoners, #troopmovement, #telegramtails, #cipher, #19thcentmadlibs, #spy, #deserters, and #prisoner.

There have been the telegram tails, those little messages at the end of many telegrams. Volunteer SarahtheEntwife has noted several, from “and then made water” to “nice country this” to “How are you Harp”. JustStardust noted “a merry Christmas” at the end of a telegram sent on December 25th. Hungmung found an odd one,”honi soit qui mal y pense,” correctly pointing out that this is the motto of the Order of the Garter in the United Kingdom. There are also the 19thcentmadlibs, those jumbled sentences created when arbitraries replace plain text. For example:

From mssEC_23_055, “At present the udder has one corps of Rabbit at Java with the Tanner at India with the manifest tendency of other corps to drift in that direction. I have two pedlars across the Hamlet ready to spring over the saint below Japan….”

From mssEC_25_13, “I wish to have four salmon carrying heavy saxon draft not exceeding eight and a half feet….”

From mssEC_17_178, “To remove all misunderstanding I now place you in the strict military relation to Applause of a Commander of one of the walnuts to the Genl in Chf of all the walpoles.”

and from mssEC_18_030, as pointed out by LimaZulu, this fantastic signature, “Lady Spunky Shark Chief of Satan”



In all this has been a wonderful start to the project. We have drawn great attention from the press and everyday users and you, the volunteers, have done fantastic work. I will post more stats in two months time in November. Thank you all for you your hard work!

Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

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