To 'the undiscovered country' again with Norwich's Ella Lubell and Albert Nye

What's left of Camp Parapet in Louisiana. From Ella Lubell's blog.

I'm not sure if Norwich Historical Society intern Ella Lubell, now at college, left behind more blog posts on the remarkable Civil War story of soldier and diarist Albert Nye, but I sure hope so. I can tell you that she has him safely home from the war -- and, as a good historian will, put two and two together and illuminated an unexpected dimension of her subject's life. 

Ella is a Hanover High grad who spent the summer transcribing much of the diary Nye kept while serving in Louisiana during the Civil War. I've written about the blog in which she's sharing what she learned once before. But at that point, Nye was sick in a New York hospital and hadn't yet joined his regiment in the field.

Since then, he did. And when he finally reached his comrades in March of 1863, he sounded as happy as a man at war could be -- which can never be entirely happy. "It is a beautifull Morning and I wonce more find myself with my Regt and company + it is one of the happiest moments of my life," he wrote. "I find the most of our men in good health altho the destroying angil has visited them 13 have gone to that land from which whose bourne no traveler can return."

Here's where Ella added a whole new layer to Nye's account. His phrasing rang a bell. He was quoting Shakespeare's Hamlet:

... that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovered country from whose bourn

No traveler returns, puzzles the will ...

That says something about Nye and his times, doesn't it? He was a painter, not a professor of literature.

In digging around, Ella also found this reference to Nye in the official history of his regiment, written after the war. "It is well remembered of him now, while lying in the dark wood in the night, and under the enemy’s guns, he could repeat with the skill of an actor, long sections from Shakespeare and other of the dramatic poets," the history says.

If you haven't read Ella's blog, please do. It's a terrific piece of local -- and national -- history.

This is Ella Lubell, in case you're wondering.

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