Henry Mosler's daily entries of marching through Kentucky form the core of his Civil War Diary. In total, the diary is composed of roughly 4,700 words; 3,445 of which focus on the narrative of his time with the army troops. The frequency with which he used certain words is registered here in this “word cloud” graphic.
Words that Mosler used more often appear more prominently in the chart. Following the conventions of diarists, he oriented himself (and his readers) in time and space by recording the date, time of day, and place name. It follows then that words like night and day and evening and morning are larger. What other words emerge? Notice how the words march, miles, skirmish, and camp display on the screen. These are the action verbs and nouns that dominated Mosler’s days; it makes sense that they dominate the graphic.
By paying close attention to Mosler’s writing, we can learn more about him as a person. As we prepared the transcript of the diary, we puzzled over his sentence constructions, spelling, punctuation, and word choices. One Archives of American Art staff member observed, “It is as though he was thinking in German and writing in English.” For example, we noticed how often he capitalized nouns. Indeed, English was not Mosler’s first language. In other passages in the diary, Mosler wrote in German. And, he himself was interested in language and speech. On October 19, when Mosler encountered a woman along his journey, he mimicked her local vernacular accent and vocabulary, observing that she expressed herself in “the language of the mountain regions.”
Mosler’s use of language in the diary supplements and extends the illustrations he prepared for Harper’s Weekly during the Civil War. Would you like to experiment with a "word cloud" of the diary? Help yourself to a word-processed version of the transcript. We used Wordle to create ours.