Civil War Maps

History of Mapping the Civil War

Official Battlefield Maps

When time permitted topographical engineers in both armies were called upon to prepare accurate, detailed maps of the fields of battle. Cultural and topographical features were carefully shown and the position of troops and batteries was depicted in detail. Many of these maps were used to illustrate official reports of the field commanders or were sent back to headquarters in Washington and Richmond for placement in the official files. Excellent examples of maps made to accompany an official account are those prepared by Hotchkiss to illustrate the "Report of the Camps, Marches & Engagements, of the Second Corps, A.N.V., Army of the Valley Dist. and of the Department of Northern Va., during the Campaign of 1864." Both the handwritten narrative and the accompanying manuscript atlas containing 59 campaign and battle maps are preserved in the Hotchkiss Map Collection. The maps were carefully executed in pen and ink and watercolors by Hotchkiss and his assistant Sampson B. Robinson between November 1864 and March 1865 (LC Civil War Maps no. H8).

Federal mapping authorities, aware of the need for good public relations, made an occasional attempt to inform the populace on the progress of the war. In May 1862, for example, the U.S. Coast Survey issued the first of at least four editions of a "Historical Sketch of the Rebellion," which depicted the "limits of loyal states in July, 1861," the "limits occupied by United States forces March 1st 1862," and the "limits occupied by United States forces May 15th 1862" (LC Civil War Maps no. 34). For the most part, however, the responsibility for keeping the public informed as the war unfolded rested with the private sector and not the government.

Richard W. Stephenson, Civil War Maps

Jedediah Hotchkiss

[Jedediah Hotchkiss, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left].