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A Mother’s Day Map from the Civil War

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A recent Library of Congress Blog post entitled “Trending: The Mother of Mother’s Day” reminded me of one of my favorite Civil War maps.   Although Mother’s Day as we know it (greeting cards, flowers, breakfast in bed, etc.) did not exist, a Confederate soldier sought to immortalize his mother – on a battle map.

On June 10, 1861, only three months after the start of the Civil War, Confederate and Union forces met at what is considered by many to be the first land battle of the Civil War near the village of Big Bethel, Virginia. The villages of Big Bethel and Little Bethel can be seen on the map below.

Topographical sketch of the Battle of Bethel, June 10th, 1861. Library of Congress, Geography & Map Division.
Topographical sketch of the Battle of Bethel, June 10th, 1861. Library of Congress, Geography & Map Division.

Fort Monroe, at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, was one of the last federal strong points in southeastern Virginia and was surrounded by Confederate sympathizers and, increasingly, Confederate troops. General Benjamin Butler, in command of Union forces in the area sought to attack Confederate positions near the communities of Little Bethel and Big Bethel, Virginia, approximately 10 miles north of Fort Monroe. Over the course of the battle, Federal troops were unable to successfully dislodge the Confederate forces and were forced to retreat.

Confederate forces were elated at the victory, including the production of commemorative printed maps such as the Topographical Sketch of the Battle of Bethel, June 10, 1861 shown above. Troop positions, vegetation, notes such “Enemies Headquarters”, and both Union and Confederate flags are printed on the map. This particular map was annotated with the words “Presented to Mrs. M.E. Taylor with filial respect by her son Wm. B. Taylor.”

A Belated Happy Mother’s Day to All.

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