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Places in Civil War History: The Battle of Rich Mountain

This is part of a series of guest posts from Ed Redmond, Cartographic Specialist in the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division, documenting the cartographic history of maps related to the American Civil War, 1861-1865. The posts will appear on a regular basis.

At the conclusion of the Civil War, the U.S. War Department published numerous detailed battlefield maps and atlases to document significant military engagements, such as those at Antietam, Manassas, Gettysburg, and Atlanta, to name a few. The premier cartographic work of the postwar years, however, is the U.S. War Department’s The War of the Rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies (LC Civil War Maps no. 99). Initially issued in 37 parts between 1891 and 1895, it includes 178 plates and constitutes the most detailed atlas yet published on the Civil War. The maps present an especially well-balanced cartographic record of the war because both Union and Confederate sources were used in their compilation. Confederate topographic engineer Jedediah Hotchkiss, for example, supplied the editors with 123 maps for this atlas.

Rich Mountain

“Map of the Rich Mountain battlefield, W. Va. July 11-12, 1861.” [Anonymous] 1861. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Two of the maps Hotchkiss supplied for those compiling the atlas relate to skirmishes near Rich Mountain, in what is now Randolph County, West Virginia. In the early summer of 1861, both Union and Confederate troops increasingly engaged in skirmishes as both sides continued to test each other’s will. By July 1861, Union troops, led by General George B. McClellan, had entered western Virginia and could potentially threaten the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Virginia Central Railroad, both of which were vital Confederate supply lines.

Camp Garnett and Vicinity, Hotchkiss Map

“Camp Garnett and vicinity, Rich Mountain, Randolph Co., Va.” Jedediah Hotchkiss, 1861. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

On July 11, McClellan successfully attacked Camp Garnett near Rich Mountain and followed up the success with another victorious skirmish at Corrick’s Ford. These military successes brought McClellan to the attention of Union military leaders and were instrumental in McClellan’s eventual appointment as overall Union commander.

Camp Garnett

“Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 1891-95.” Portion of this compendium appears in “Atlas of the war of the Rebellion giving Union and Confederate armies by actual surveys by the Union and Confederate engineers, and approved by the officers in command, of all the maps herein published.” United States War Department, 1892. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

One Comment

  1. Paul Harbison
    July 12, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    Glad to have a cartographic seminars from the Library of Congress! You’re the best!

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