Discussion Did the confederate army need maps?

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Waterloo50

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Tripod signal erected by Capts. Dorr and Donn of U.S. Coast Survey at Pulpit Rock on Lookout Mountain.

I’ve just finished reading an article on the subject of maps or rather, the lack of maps during the war. Lots of reasons are offered for the shortage of maps for the confederacy, things like the lack of established government mapping agencies and a lack of reprinting facilities are to blame, there was also apparently a lack of trained military engineers and hardly anyone was trained to use the surveying and drafting equipment. Is this true and what kind of impact if any did this have on the outcome of the war?

At the beginning of the war, the Union already had the infrastructure in place to provide its army with maps, it was recognised very early on that any campaign in the seceding states could only be successful with detailed maps and a clear understanding of the topography. The Chief Engineer reported that in 1864, 20,938 map sheets were furnished to the armies in the field, and in the final year of the war this figure grew to 24,591.

Let. General Richard Taylor once claimed that ‘The Confederate commanders,"knew no more about the topography of the country than they did about Central Africa.

Gen. George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, lamented that "Correct local maps were not to be found, and the country, though known in its general features, we found to be inaccurately described, in essential particulars, in the only maps and geographical memoirs or papers to which access could be had; erroneous courses to streams and roads were frequently given, and no dependence could be placed on the information thus derived.

I’m sure most will agree that waging war without a clear understanding of the ground that will be fought over is problematic and possibly foolhardy, was this really the case for the confederate army, did they overcome this by applying local knowledge, did the confederacy ever manage to resolve their lack of maps?
 

Waterloo50

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Lack of accurate maps was a problem for both sides during the war. There are numerous references to this shortcoming. I don't believe the problem was ever resolved during the war.
Would it be fair to say that the Union was far better prepared...this from Library of Congress.
field and harbor surveys, topographic and hydrographic surveys, reconnaissances, and road traverses by Federal mappers led to the preparation of countless thousands of manuscript maps and the publication of maps and charts in unprecedented numbers. The Superintendent of the Coast Survey in his annual report for 1862 noted that "upwards of forty-four thousand copies of printed maps, charts, and sketches have been sent from the office since the date of my last report--a number more than double the distribution in the year 1861, and upwards of five times the average annual distribution of former years. This large and increasing issue of charts within the past two years has been due to the constant demands of the Navy and War Departments, every effort to supply which still continues to be made."6 By 1864, the number of maps and charts printed during the year reached 65,897, of which more than 22,000 were military maps and sketches.7 Large numbers of maps also were compiled and printed by the Army's Corps of Engineers. The Chief Engineer reported that in 1864, 20,938 map sheets were furnished to the armies in the field, and in the final year of the war this figure grew to 24,591
 
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Waterloo50

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Jedediah Hotchkiss gave his services of map making to many Confederate Generals which included Maryland Penna. Va. He enlisted in the Army as a teamster..
Thanks for that, I had to look on line for a bit of information on him, he was seen as the confederate secret weapon. He mapped the entire 150 mile length of the Shenandoah valley.
 
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Waterloo50

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Imagine that, your told to report to Stonewall Jackson and he looks at you and says...“I want you to make me a map of the Valley, from Harper’s Ferry to Lexington, showing all the points of offense and defense in those places. Mr. Pendleton will give you orders for whatever outfit you want. Good morning, Sir.”
 
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Ole Miss

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The lack of accurate maps doomed the Confederate assault at Shiloh. Instead of driving the Federals from their supply base at Pittsburg Landing the Rebels drove the Yanks back to the landing. Johnston did not have a precise understanding of the arrangement of Grant's army which cost the Confederates dearly.
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uaskme

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If the Confederates wanted a copy of a map, they had to do it manually. Have someone to physically draw the map. Federals had equipment that was mobile which could copy a map. So in a short period of time, maps could be distributed. Huge difference in time and the number of people who would have access to a map.
 

A. Roy

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I've wondered about this same question. Is it possible that a lot of the engineering and cartographic expertise was controlled at the state level rather than the CSA? The National Archives has this map of the fortifications around Raleigh NC, which I believe was captured by Union forces after the surrender of the city in 1865. If you look at the inscription, it says it was drawn up by H.T. (Henry T.) Guion, Lt. Col., Arty & Eng. and that it was commissioned by Gov. Vance.


GuionMap_Complete_SmallerLowerRes.jpg


Al B.
 
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Jamieva

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The confederates often relied on local expertise to find routes, paths, trails etc that were not on maps. The most prominent example of this is the local that led Jacksons flank march at Chancellorsville.

From what i recall, the union was hampered at the start of the war by relying on maps that were very aged.
 

Borderruffian

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Maps of the day were not the grid maps with accurate elevation and graduated elevation contours and such as is common with todays military maps, but rather crude by modern standards, but at least they gave an idea of the terrain and its features though not always accurate depending on the map maker.
 
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Belfoured

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By the end of the Civil War, the Union had advanced the art of map making to the point that they were able to photograph maps and distribute it to the Commanders that needed this information in a relatively short time.
If I recall correctly, George H. Thomas was responsible for organizing an efficient map-making and distribution system 'on the fly" in the Army of the Cumberland.
 

Belfoured

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The confederates often relied on local expertise to find routes, paths, trails etc that were not on maps. The most prominent example of this is the local that led Jacksons flank march at Chancellorsville.

From what i recall, the union was hampered at the start of the war by relying on maps that were very aged.
Interestingly, the Confederates were probably under at least as significant a disadvantage as the Federals on the Peninsula, which was abysmally mapped. There are multiple instances of inaccurate place names and wrong roads affecting ANV movements.
 

DaveBrt

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The Chief of the Confederate Engineer Bureau sent several letters to various generals asking that all maps that had not been sent to him before, especially newly captured maps, be sent to him to be copied and returned (if desired). All Confederate Engineer officers were required to forward copies of all maps they made. Reproduction was by a photographic method in Richmond and was relatively fast for eastern needs. There are numerous responses to request for maps in the Eastern Theater in the Engineer Bureau letter books. As usual, there was nothing similar in the west that I can identify.
 
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Ole Miss

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The confederates often relied on local expertise to find routes, paths, trails etc that were not on maps. The most prominent example of this is the local that led Jacksons flank march at Chancellorsville.

From what i recall, the union was hampered at the start of the war by relying on maps that were very aged.
Unfortunately for the Confederates, the citizens of Hardin county, where Shiloh is located, were rural small farmers who had voted against sucession and provided limited if any assistance to the Rebel army. Johnston's army was ignorant of the true positions of the Federal divisions and their campsites. Lack of knowledge plus the poor, very poor logisitcs of the Army of Mississippi doomed the them to defeat.
Regards
David
 

James N.

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During the Gettysburg Campaign Jubal Early "appropriated" a wall map showing the postal routes of Adams County that turned out to be helpful!
 
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