Discussion Map makers and topographic engineers.

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
For a commander to be successful having good maps for planning could make the difference between being successful and not being successful. The problem was there were not always good maps of the area of operations. Sending out scouts were helpful but the scouts could make mistakes and miss important details. Even experienced topographic engineers made errors.

This made me wonder how maps were reproduced during the Civil War. I would take it that there were some navigational charts of coat lines, bays, and rivers. There must have been battles where lack of proper maps had a great impact on the outcome of the battle.
 

Lusty Murfax

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Location
Northwest Missouri
I took 20 to 25 hours of cartography, aerial photo interpretation, photogrammetry, etc. as electives to my geosciences degree. We enjoyed the vantage point offered by aircraft and spy satellite photography. However, we did utilize field exercises where we were dropped off on foot in Mark Twain National Forest and assigned to rough in a topo map from visual observation. It was the mid-70s and almost every skill I acquired was replaced by computers within five years after I graduated. Many of those who completed their degree in the field ended up working at Defense Mapping Agency in St. Louis. I imagine accurate topo mapping was very difficult for those cartographers back in the mid-19th century.
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
The Confederates had a shortage of former Army Topographic Engineers and, I would assume, also former members of the Coast Survey.

Non-government cartographers like Hotchkiss seem to have been a rarity in that era.
 

Quaama

Sergeant
Joined
Sep 13, 2020
Location
Port Macquarie, Australia
The Confederates in the Shenandoah Valley and later the Army of Northern Virginia were most fortunate to have a master map maker in Jedediah Hotchkiss. Born and raised in New York, Hotchkiss moved to the Shenandoah as a young adult and from then on devoted his considerable skills to Virginia and the Confederacy.
Hotchkiss not only drafted the maps but personally scouted much of the land he mapped gathering information on road conditions and abilities in differing weather conditions from his own observations and from information provided to him by local inhabitants.

While in the Shenandoah, Hotchkiss produced this very large and detailed map. A masterpiece of mapmaking for the time and supplemented by numerous notes and diagrams.

Hotchkiss was also instrumental in discovering the route that Gen Jackson took for his flanking manoeuvre at Chancellorsville.
Here's some discussion on it drawn from Foote's The Civil War (portions without quotes are me paraphrasing):

During the night of 1 May Lee and Jackson met to decide how to get at Hoooker when Jeb Stuart joined them and advised that "according to Fitzhugh Lee … Hooker's right flank was 'in the air' on the Orange Turnpike, wide open to attack. Foote then goes on to describe Lee and Jackson's excitement at this news and Jackson asked about roads to which "Stuart replied that he did not know but he would do what he could to find out". However, without the map, Jackson was guessing he'd find a way that was relatively quick to get behind the Union. Regardless, he was heading off (and orders were issued for his troops to be ready to set off at 0400 the next day).

Early in the morning of 2 May (0400) Lee met with Jackson (following a meeting the previous night when it had been decided that Jackson would march to flank Hooker, even though Jackson did not have an exact route of march). While Lee and Jackson were talking, Hotchkiss "approached the generals and spread his map on another hardtack box between them …[Hotchkiss] had found the route he had been seeking, and as he spoke "he traced it on the map [I think it is probably this map]: first due west to the furnace, then due south, away from the enemy, along a trail that gradually turned back west to enter the Brock Road, which ran northward to the plank road and the turnpike. However, he explained that the column must not turn north at this point, since that would bring it within sight of a Federal signal station at Fairview, but south again for a short distance to another road leading north and paralleling the Brock Road, which it joined a couple of miles above in some heavy woods just short of its junction with the plank road. That way, practically the entire route – some ten miles in length from their present position and firm enough throughout to support wagons and artillery – would be screened from the eyes of enemy lookouts." … Lee spoke … 'General Jackson, what do you propose to do?' Jackson put out his hand and retraced, with a semicircular motion, the route just drawn. 'Go around here,' he said. Lee kept looking at him. 'What do you propose to make this movement with?' he asked, and Jackson promptly replied: 'With my whole corps.'
… Lee absorbed the shock the words had given him. 'What will you leave me?' The question was rhetorical, he already knew the answer. But Jackson answered it anyway, as readily as before. 'The divisions of Anderson and McLaws.'"
The lead regiment of Jackson's corps set out at 8 o'clock. Jackson was in his new uniform, which JEBStuart had been glad to see him wearing the previous night as it had been a gift from him to Jackson.

For an excellent book on Hotchkiss, I recommend 'Mapping for Stonewall: The Civil War Service of Jed Hotchkiss' by William J. Miller. It's an enjoyable read and contains many interesting anecdotes. Probably needless to say but Hotchkiss is a personal favourite of mine.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Do yo have the Official Military Atlas of the Civil War in your library? It was prepared to accompany the Official Record. If anyone does not have one, I encourage you to do so.

I am not familiar with the Army of the Potomac's topological unit. My examples will be taken from the history of the Army of the Cumberland's ground breaking topological unit.


AoT Engineer wagon.jpeg

Army of Tennessee Engineer Camp.
An officer is hand drawing a map & making reproductions via tracing paper.


midtn1863 2.jpg

Detail of General Polk's Map.
This map shows the signal stations between Murfreesboro & Franklin TN.

During the winter & spring of 1863 map makers of the Army of the Cumberland & Army of Tennessee worked to provide their commanders with maps of Middle Tennessee. Both Rosecrans & Bragg were preparing for the spring campaigning season. Vanderbilt University has the original map that General Polk's Corps on the western side of the Shelbville line. The detail above was hand drawn & copied by an Irish civil engineer. Anybody who has ever used tracing paper has made a copy exactly the way the Army of Tennessee's tactical maps were reproduced.

Shelbyville & Vicinity.jpg

Detail of tactical map Army of the Cumberland
Rosecrans' cavalry concentrated at Rover before advancing on Shelbyville June 23rd 1863.
None of the detailed information shown above is on General Polk's map.

Plate XXXIV of the Official Atlas is a double page spread of five of the Army of the Cumberland's tactical maps drawn under the supervision of Capt. W.E. Merrill. Like so many of the ingenious, entrepreneurial officers in the A of the C, Merill supervised what became the best topographical operation of the CW.

The detail above was what is called a "quick map." It was reproduced by the lithographic printing process. These highly detailed maps were issued with orders for officers to mark corrections & notes on the quick map & return it to Merrill's office. At Stones River NB, there is a map folded to fit the map pocket of an officer's coat tail with notations. Based on these mark one eye ball observations, corrected maps would be consulted at headquarters & orders issued based on the best information available. Needless to say, this detail of the map freshly updated on June 10th 1863 date of the map is of the same terrain as General Polk's map was invaluable on June 23rd 1863 when the Tullahoma Campaign began.

IMG_0244.jpg

General Roscrans' map of the opening positions June 23rd 1863. Map Official Atlas
This map is roughly 50 X 60 miles. It shows the opening phase of the Tullahoma Campaign. Rosecrans officers would have had copies of this map in their coat tail map pockets. My post it note arrows indicate the 55 mile wide front of the opening day's operations. Needless to say, having such detailed, fresh topographical data gave Rosecrans & Thomas the situational awareness that allowed them to exploit the unexpected break through at Beech Grove (Hoover's Gap).


Chattanooga_RareMaps_Merrillblackmap_0.jpg

A very rare surviving example of an Army of the Cumberland Sun Map LOC
On the portentous 4th of July 1863, the Tullahoma Campaign came to its successful end. The Army of Tennessee had been able to escape destruction because of a 500 year weather event. Torrential rain poured down on Middle Tennessee for weeks on end. The Army of the Cumberland paused at the top of Monteagle Mountain. The next weeks would be filled with preparations for crossing the Tennessee River & the advance on Chattanooga. As anyone who has so much as driven between Murfreesboro & Chattanooga TN on I-24 will testify, the route involves some very dramatic ups, downs & winding turns. Needless to say, apart from the single track N&CRR. & its 2,200 foot tunnel through Monteagle, the 1863 roads were barely more than trails. Current, accurate maps were absolutely vital.

The strange looking map above is one of the few surviving examples of a sun map. It was reproduced vial a mechanism invented by the man who created blue prints. What you are looking at is a map made by a copy machine. Something in the neighborhood of 20,000 sun maps were cranked out by A of the C. Many of them were multi colored. The maps were issued with a vial of white ink & a crow quill pen for making notes & corrections. Fresh information could be added to an existing map & accompany orders within 24 hours. At the same time as these revolutionary maps were being cranked out, A of TN officers were still using tracing paper just like my little granddaughters do.


Sherman's Personal Map N. Georgia.jpg

Map prepared exclusively for Sherman & senior commanders. LOC

One of the most eye popping quotes I have ever read was in a message that Capt Merrill sent to General Sherman. The Atlanta Campaign would have to be put off for five days to allow Sgt. Finegan & his motley crew to finish their work before Merrill could begin printing Sherman's map. General Sherman is on record saying that he would never have attempted the Atlanta Campaign without the map above. It is a lithograph. The map was cut into the rectangular fold lines & mounted on linen. If memory serves, only about a dozen of these maps were created. The cavalry version has a different fold. Who knew that the map pocket of a cavalryman was a different dimension?

If you start looking for it, Sgt. Finegan's name is in the legend box of many of the maps produced during Sherman's operations. If you think about it, an NCO getting top billing is unusual. Fortunately, he is the only one 'n' Finegan in the Union Army. It was Finegan who collected a motley crew of informants who provided Merrill with fine details of the topography of North Georgia. He interviewed peddlers, deserters, drovers, land surveyors, literally anybody that might have intimate knowledge of territory that Sherman would traverse during the Atlanta Campaign. It was Finegan's motley crew that provided Sherman with the route he took to outflank the Rocky Face Ridge position. That track was not even on Joe Johnston's map, let alone the fact that it could support a military movement.

Sun Printed map of.jpg

This sun map is a detail take from Sherman's map of North Georgia
Sherman was able to issue orders to his subordinate commanders accompanied by sun map detail copies of his command level map. If you ever wondered how Sherman's subordinates were able to interpret his orders & act on them with such alacrity, here is the key. Sherman could order a unit to concentrate at the Trickum P.O. with the knowledge that the road was rough & it would take time for the movement to take place. The officer tasked with the movement would have received his orders & this map in hand move accordingly. Trickum P.O. is to the left of center fold in the middle of the map. Needless to say, this gave both Sherman & his subordinate commanders extraordinary situational awareness.

20disunion1-tmagArticle.jpg

Detail of Sherman's Map, March to the Sea
No discussion of Sherman's maps is complete without the map detailed above. This is the map Sherman used to plan the March to the Sea. Sherman's orders were very precise. He was tasked with starving out the Army of the Potomac. He also had to plan a route that would supply his army. This detail is interesting because as he approached the coast, agricultural activity petered out. The land of milk & honey was left behind & his army had to live out of their wagons until they made contact with the fleet.

20disunion3-blog480.jpg

Legend of Sherman's March to the Sea Map
Printed on every county in Georgia, Sherman had the data collected by the 1860 Census. He knew exactly where to send his columns in order to inflict both the maximum damage & collect supplies sufficient to support his army.

20disunion4-blog480-v2.jpg

Detail showing data on each county.

To my knowledge, there were no tactical copies of this map made. Very few copies of this map were lithographed. It was a ground breaking amalgam of census data & cartography. Nothing like this map had ever been made before. It only takes a moments reflection to realize both how essential it was for Sherman's planning & execution of the March to the Sea.

Aerial Recon & salt print 1861.jpg

Salt copy of original map drawn from a balloon.
Photographers still make salt prints from negatives. It was an early method for making photographic prints on paper. Unlike the sun prints cranked out by the A of C's topographers, it is a one at a time process exactly like printing a photo with negative & chemicals today. It beat the heck out of laboriously tracing maps by hand, but it was very slow. The blotchy shadows on this example are, as far as I know, typical of salt prints. As noted, I have attended gallery shows of modern salt print photographs.

Hopefully, this short essay gives you a quick overview of how maps were reproduced during the Civil War. Every sentence could be a paragraph or an entire chapter of a book on the subject. The Army of the Potomac had very competent topographic unit. Perhaps someone will educate us on how that army's map reproduction system worked.

Late in the war CSA cartographers began reproducing quick maps as well. I am not familiar enough with what they did to comment on it. Like so many innovations, apparently CSA quick map reproductions were adopted too late to make any difference in the outcome of the war.

It would be remiss of me if I did not credit General Thomas for his nurturing of the A of the C's topological capabilities. His use of maps was innovative. Thomas' use of maps is a subject worthy of its own thread.




Thomas' topogrphical wagon quote.jpeg
 
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NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
Didn't Rosecrans pioneer or legitimize this in Middle TN between Murfreesboro and the Tullahoma Campaign in 1863? I have a vague recollection to that effect.
In mid 1863 Rosecrans appointed an engineer named William Merrill to lead his mapping effort and Merrill pioneered portable photographic reproduction so it could be done it in the field. Other commands had a photography studio back at HQ, which lengthened the time of distribution to front line commanders
 

gjpratt

Corporal
Joined
Apr 14, 2019
In mid 1863 Rosecrans appointed an engineer named William Merrill to lead his mapping effort and Merrill pioneered portable photographic reproduction so it could be done it in the field. Other commands had a photography studio back at HQ, which lengthened the time of distribution to front line commanders
Thank you @NedBaldwin
 

lupaglupa

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
@Rhea Cole that was an awesome explanation. I agree that having a copy of the The Official Military Atlas is a must if you are interested in maps and/or the CW. And I do appreciate you putting up an example that has my family in it :wink:
 

Nanabozo

Cadet
Joined
Nov 2, 2017
Location
Huntsville, Ontario
For a commander to be successful having good maps for planning could make the difference between being successful and not being successful. The problem was there were not always good maps of the area of operations. Sending out scouts were helpful but the scouts could make mistakes and miss important details. Even experienced topographic engineers made errors.

This made me wonder how maps were reproduced during the Civil War. I would take it that there were some navigational charts of coat lines, bays, and rivers. There must have been battles where lack of proper maps had a great impact on the outcome of the battle.
I wonder if you know of Robert K. Sneden's illustrated memoir, "Eye of the Storm"? He was a cartographer for the Army of the Potomac, 1862-63. published by TheFree Press, N.Y., 2000.
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
I wonder if you know of Robert K. Sneden's illustrated memoir, "Eye of the Storm"? He was a cartographer for the Army of the Potomac, 1862-63. published by TheFree Press, N.Y., 2000.
Yes I am aware of it. I might even have a copy of it. I don't think I ever read it. I will look for it when I get home.
 

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