The Valley of the Shadow

About the Valley Letters and Diaries

Through collaboration with the Electronic Text Center at the University of Virginia, the Valley of the Shadow Letters and Diaries collection has been coded in Extensible Markup Language (XML), making them completely searchable. A few collections include digital images of the letter or diary. The personal papers collection on the Valley of the Shadow primarily includes letters and diaries written between the years 1855 to 1870, but include documents as early as 1840 and as late as 1873. Most of the letters and diaries on the Valley of the Shadow site were either written by or to a resident of Augusta County, Virginia, or Franklin County, Pennsylvania, or discussed events in either of the two counties. The Valley also includes a number of letters and diaries written by men and women who shared similar experiences with Augusta and Franklin residents. For example, you may find letters and diaries written by soldiers who served in military units with Augusta and Franklin men.
To ensure accuracy between the original handwritten manuscript and the digital document, the final version of each Valley of the Shadow letter and diary has been proofread by two separate individuals. The final version of a letter and diary lists a transcriber, tagger, and reviser under the "About the electronic version" section in the "Bibliographic Information" link.
The personal papers pages are arranged chronologically into three main sections for each part of the Valley of the Shadow: Eve of War, War Years, and Aftermath. Within each part, the personal papers pages are divided by county and then ordered alphabetically by collection name. Each collection entry includes a brief description of the family or individual and a summary of the available documents.
Franklin County Personal Papers: Eve of War | War Years | Aftermath
Augusta County Personal Papers: Eve of War | War Years | Aftermath
Most collections have a central collection page, accessible by clicking the collection name on any of the main personal papers browse pages. Previous versions of the Valley limited browsing to each chronological division. The new Valley personal papers pages provide users a central location to access all Valley materials on particular individuals or families. The collection pages include brief biographical sketches as well as summaries of the documents. In addition, the collection pages include links to the Valley of the Shadow databases when records are available. Most of these links are exact matches, but occasionally likely matches have been included. The collection pages divide the documents chronologically into prewar, wartime, and postwar sections.
You may search either letters or diaries. Valley letters and diaries have been tagged with keywords for the prewar, wartime, and postwar periods that highlight social, political, cultural, and economic life for residents of the two counties. Keyword tagging provides additional searching capabilities for Valley of the Shadow users. For example, having the category "African Americans" saves users from performing separate searches on "slave," "colored," and "negro." In addition, keywords provide a modern vocabulary for nineteenth-century concerns. For example, residents of Augusta and Franklin were unlikely to use the words "Race Relations" to describe the constellation of interactions encompassed by the keyword.
You may search letters by any word or phrase that suits your purposes. Search results provide a list of letters that include your word or phrase as well as the number of times the word or phrase appears in the letter. You may limit your full-text search to a specific county, author, keyword, or year. A full-text search which has been constrained by keyword will search only in the letters which contain the specific Valley-defined keywords. For example, to search for the word "negro" in Augusta County letters about African Americans, enter "negro" in the "Search for word or phrase" box, choose "All Augusta County letters", and enter "African Americans" in the "keyword" box. Keywords may only be chosen from the list defined by the Valley of the Shadow as keywords for letters and diaries.
You may also search diaries by any word or phrase. Your search results will include a separate listing for each year division within a diary that includes the word or phrase you entered. For example, if you search for "love," your search results will include six separate listings for the Abraham Essick diary, one for each year in which he wrote the word "love." Including a space after a word searches for that exact word. Omitting a space searches for any words that begin with the letters you entered. For example, if you search for "love " with a space, your search results will only list diaries with the exact word "love." If you enter "love" without a space, your search results will include "love" as well as other words that begin with the same letters such as "loveliest" and "lovely." You may also limit your search by a Valley-defined keyword. These keywords are chosen from a full-down menu. For example, if you are interested in familial love (rather than love and courtship), you might find relevant diaries by entering "love" in the "Search for word or phrase" within the keyword "Family." The word or phrase search looks for words and phrases with the exact sequence of letters entered. Therefore, if you wish to find diaries with two or more specific words that are not adjacent, you may perform a compound search of the diaries. The compound search allows you to search for words or phrases in close proximity, specifically within 40, 80, and 120 characters, not words. For example, if you are interested references to love and the country, enter "love" in the "Search for word or phrase" box and "country" in the "second word or phrase" box. This search will provide a list of diaries in which "love" and "country" are within 40, 80, or 120 characters of each other. Specifically, this search will return, among other listings, Abraham Essick's contention that "Our people love their country as they love their mothers."

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