Well that’s that, as they say. After two years of researching, writing, and transcribing, my little history project has come to a close. Cap’s final entries from February 1919 are his last, and so my part in publishing the journal also comes to a close. Of course, Whining Past will stick around for anyone who would like to read or peruse a bit of WWI history, but my role here is done.
As for the contents of this entry, Cap details his embarkation to the United States from the city of Brest, concluding more than eight months of fighting in France. He recounts sea sickness, celebration, homecoming, and an inventory of impressive steamships. He ends on a curiously brief note about the intent of his journal, which was, quite simply, to document his experiences during the war. So I got to thinking about my own intent and why I decided to transcribe and publish this journal nearly a century after it was written: Part of it was respect for history, part of it was family research, and part of it was just compulsion. These are influences that are probably not far off from what Cap was thinking when he first opened that 8.5 x 11.75-inch legal pad in June of 1918.
Now I can’t help but wonder if Cap ever could have imagined how large an audience his little pencil scribblings would one day have. At the time of this writing, Whining Past has received more than 40,000 page views and nearly 32,000 visitors. That’s a significantly larger audience than most historical publishers could ever hope to reach with this kind of text. On one day alone last year (July 23rd), the journal received more than 18,000 views (thanks to Reddit). Now compare that to the 94 years it spent collecting dust in homes throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut, or even to that of similar primary source documents published through traditional means.
The internet is a curious thing.
My biggest regret is that I could not complete the project before my grandfather, John (Cap’s only child), passed away. He followed this project diligently and was always interested to hear of its progress. I wish he could have seen it complete.
Still, from everything he told me while he was alive, and from what family members have relayed to me personally, he was overjoyed to see his father’s journals published in such a lasting manner. I’m proud to have contributed at least some joy to his last few years of life.
Finally, to all those who have enjoyed reading about Cap’s life, thank you. History is a difficult subject, if only for the disconnect most people feel towards generations past. But I think it’s important to latch onto those referential moments whenever we find them—be it through an old journal or even just a photograph—because if we don’t respect where we come from, we’re not likely to respect where we are now, or where we’re going. And that applies to individuals as much as populations.
Anyway, thanks for all your support. I hope you continue to enjoy the site.