This post is a compilation of the Places in History series written by G&M staff in 2011 and 2016, which explores maps produced during the Civil War, their creation, and the geography they depict. Previous blog posts based on that series can be seen under Places in Civil War History.
According to the 1860 census tables found on S. Augustus Mitchell’s 1861 Map of the United States, the population of the United States was 31,429,891 million, an increase of 8,239,016 as recorded in the 1850 census. Of those 31 million, as also reported on the tables accompanying the map, 3,952,838 were enslaved. The map also provides statistics on the free and slave populations in each state as recorded in the 1850 and 1860 census.
Also published in 1861, Edwin Hergesheimer’s landmark map entitled Map showing the distribution of the slave population of the southern states of the United States provides statistics on slavery in the southern portion of the country. The differences between the two maps, both published in 1861 and both based on 1860 census data, are the methods in which the data is portrayed. Hergesheimer’s map breaks down the data into the percentage of enslaved people per county as opposed to the total country population. The choice of shading from lower percentages per county in light grey to higher percentages illustrated in darker tones, including a contrasting type color, provides a dramatic representation of slavery in the southern states.
Map of Kentucky and Tennessee
With the advent of hostilities in April 1861, both Union and Confederate armies sought cartographic information from any source available. This general map of Kentucky and Tennessee indicates roads and railroads, county names and boundaries, cities and towns, rivers, and topography, with a several color annotations. A nearly illegible pencil note in the lower right corner states that this map was “Turned into Bureau of Tpl. Eng. by Lieut. O. M. Poe, Top. Engr., August 1861, referred [to] in his letter of Aug. 17, 1861.”
At the time, Lieutenant Orlando M. Poe was a volunteer with the Second Regiment of the Michigan Volunteer Infantry but was eventually promoted Brigadier General and Aide-de-Camp to General William T. Sherman. Poe’s papers are housed in the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division.
Gloucester Point, Virginia
Maps of the Civil War ranged from small scale maps of the entire South to large scale maps of small geographic areas. This star shaped fortification plan was located at Gloucester Point, directly across the York River from Yorktown, Virginia, the scene of the siege and surrender of British forces under General Cornwallis during the American Revolution, only 80 years earlier.
In May 1861 Gloucester Point was the scene of one of the earliest naval engagements between Union and Confederate forces when the small battery at Gloucester Point fired on the USS Yankee. The Confederate battery was enlarged as additional cannon were added but eventually abandoned by Confederate forces in May 1862.
This map is from the personal collection of noted Confederate cartographer Jedidiah Hotchkiss which was acquired by the Library in 1948.
Ball’s Bluff, Virginia
One of a series of maps produced by Robert Knox Sneden during the course of the war, this vividly colored map depicts CSA (Confederate States of America) troops surrounding and defeating Union forces just north of Leesburg, Virginia. A small Union cemetery is currently located on the site of the battle.
Lower Shenandoah Valley
One of the key elements to any wartime activity was gathering intelligence and, unfortunately, these exploits were not always successful. This field note book belonged to William Luce, Engineer of Captain J.W. Abert’s party of United States Topographical Engineers. Luce and other Engineers traveled frequently performing reconnaissance duties. This volume has a pass from Union General Nathaniel Prentice Banks dated October, 1861 which allowed Luce and his party to pass through Union lines to gather intelligence.
In early 1862, however, William Luce and his surveying party were captured in the Lower Shenandoah Valley and the valuable geographic information and surveying instruments were presented to Confederate cartographer Jedidiah Hotchkiss as indicated in the note on the front cover of the volume:
“Luce and his party & outfit were captured, in the Lower Shenandoah Valley in Spring of 1862, by Ashby’s cavalry. This and his instruments were turned over to me by Col. Ashby, Jed. Hotchkiss, Lt. Top. Eng., A.V.D.”
Conceived in 1861, this map did not appear until late 1862 and was published by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, the same government agency preparing nautical charts for Union blockaders. This map of eastern Virginia is overprinted in red to indicate railroads and concentric circles centered on Richmond, the heart of the Confederacy. In his November 1, 1862 report to the Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey Walter L. Nicholson describes the success of this map:
“In addition to the printing of our charts proper, a map representing the seat of war in Virginia was, at the suggestion of the Superintendent, compiled by myself during the past year, and printed in colors, partly as an experiment in that class of work, and partly to meet the popular demand for information on the movements of our armies. This map has met with unexpected success, and has been much called for, and copies quite freely distributed; but, in order to cover the expenses of its getting up and printing, a number of copies have been placed in the hands of our sale agents, the proceeds of which have more than covered expenses; in all, some five thousand five hundred copies have been printed, over twenty-five hundred sold, and nearly three thousand copies gratuitously distributed.” (Report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey, showing the Progress of the Survey during the Year 1862 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1864, p. 151.)
The Library’s collections include seven variants of this map.
Maps for the High Command, Richmond
The vast number of troops involved in the peninsula campaign and Confederate defense of Richmond necessitated a great deal of geographic knowledge regarding the topography, transportation network, land cover, grazing and forage opportunities, as well as the location of rivers, streams, fords, and marshes in the region.
General Robert E. Lee, who assumed command of the Confederate forces defending Richmond in late June 1862 was known to have carried a Map of Henrico and Chesterfield Counties, July 12. 1862, prepared by Albert H. Campbell. Campbell, a postal clerk in Washington, DC at the outset of the war, left this job and moved to Richmond where he was interviewed and hired to make maps.
Historical Sketch of the Rebellion Series
The Civil War began on April 1861 with Confederate artillery firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. Nine months later, the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey issued its first map in its Historical Sketch of the Rebellion series that tracked the limits of the loyal states as of March, 1861; July, 1861; May, 1862; July, 1862; and July 1863.
“In addition to the printed maps, a manuscript draft depicts three lines of advance. The blue line on the map indicates the line occupied by U.S. forces previous to the genl. forward movement, whilst perfecting preparations; the green line indicates positions of U.S forces after the first advance; while red indicates the lines at the present time .”