Discussion Map makers and topographic engineers.

EGamer

Cadet
Joined
Jun 4, 2021
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.
Issac H Bonsall, serving in middle Tenn was handed the task of making photographs of maps in the field and then send the plates to his partner in Cinncinati where they massed produced them.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Rhea, What are the best books on AoC map making?
I am not aware of one. It is awfully wonky. I would suggest an online search. Fair warning, I might be one of the sources you find. One of the problems you will encounter is that the sun prints were not durable. The book with the largest collection of A of the C maps is the Official Atlas.

Look at the detail maps that were prepared in the spring of 1863 for the opening phase of the Tullahoma Campaign. I have posted a number of times CWT on this topic.
 
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DixieRifles

Captain
Member of the Year
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
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Location
Collierville, TN
Lt. James H. Wilson was a topographical engineer for General Grant in 1862. He created—I assume he had a team with him— maps of the towns along the Memphis & Charleston RR in Tennessee: Collierville, LaFayette Station(now Rossville) & Moscow.
His map included the RR mile markers which are still present today. He included an unfinished RR spur in Moscow that today is a street. In Collierville he labels homes with owner’s name and business like a cotton press.
These maps have been useful for studying cavalry battles along this RR. I have used Google Earth and projected the 1862 map over the current RR to see how accurate the scale was on his map of Collierville. Right now, I cant think of any obvious error.

James H. Wilson rose thru the ranks and became a cavalry corps commander in 1865 who forced General Forrest to surrender.

Lt. Wilson's map of Collierville with some hand-written annotation added later.
Note the small flags along the MCRR that are numbered to indicate railroad mileage markers.
Map Wilsons.JPG


This is a screen shot of overlaying the Wilson map of Collierville on top of Google Earth view. The M&CRR has not changed much in 160 years this far from Memphis. Also the town has a N. Rowlett St and a S. Rowlett St. that border each side of the tracks for more than 1 mile. This overlay aligns up pretty close. W. Poplar Ave has changed over the years. However, one old road that hasn't changed is the North-South street name Mount Pleasant Road with matches up with Wilson's map.
Wilson's Map details are in BLACK. The white background of his map fades out the details of Google Earth. Also you can't really see the RR on Google Earth.
Map Wilsons 2.JPG
 
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Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Lt. James H. Wilson was a topographical engineer for General Grant in 1862. He created—I assume he had a team with him— maps of the towns along the Memphis & Charleston RR in Tennessee: Collierville, LaFayette Station(now Rossville) & Moscow.
His map included the RR mile markers which are still present today. He included an unfinished RR spur in Moscow that today is a street. In Collierville he labels homes with owner’s name and business like a cotton press.
These maps have been useful for studying cavalry battles along this RR. I have used Google Earth and projected the 1862 map over the current RR to see how accurate the scale was on his map of Collierville. Right now, I cant think of any obvious error.

James H. Wilson rose thru the ranks and became a cavalry corps commander in 1865 who forced General Forrest to surrender.

Lt. Wilson's map of Collierville with some hand-written annotation added later.
Note the small flags along the MCRR that are numbered to indicate railroad mileage markers.
View attachment 403536
This is an excellent example of the maps that West Point grads were trained to create. The revolutionary A of the C topography unit pioneered the reproduction & dissemination of maps. They cranked out over 20,000 maps with a sun powered photo copier they could make multicolored prints.
 

limberbox

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2020
Lt. James H. Wilson was a topographical engineer for General Grant in 1862. He created—I assume he had a team with him— maps of the towns along the Memphis & Charleston RR in Tennessee: Collierville, LaFayette Station(now Rossville) & Moscow.
His map included the RR mile markers which are still present today. He included an unfinished RR spur in Moscow that today is a street. In Collierville he labels homes with owner’s name and business like a cotton press.
These maps have been useful for studying cavalry battles along this RR. I have used Google Earth and projected the 1862 map over the current RR to see how accurate the scale was on his map of Collierville. Right now, I cant think of any obvious error.

James H. Wilson rose thru the ranks and became a cavalry corps commander in 1865 who forced General Forrest to surrender.

Lt. Wilson's map of Collierville with some hand-written annotation added later.
Note the small flags along the MCRR that are numbered to indicate railroad mileage markers.
View attachment 403536
Thank you Rhea and DixieRifles. Dixie, what is the source for the excellent Wilson RR maps -- LOC?
 

DixieRifles

Captain
Member of the Year
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Joined
Mar 22, 2009
Location
Collierville, TN
Dixie, what is the source for the excellent Wilson RR maps -- LOC?
Most likely. We found another hand-drawn sketch of our town that depicts a brigade encampment in the LOC.
Lt Wilson’s maps were reproduced in a history of Collierville. I would like to find a better scan of the original map.

FOLD3 has an early map of the M&C RR.
 

EGamer

Cadet
Joined
Jun 4, 2021
Issac H Bonsall, serving in middle Tenn was handed the task of making photographs of maps in the field and then send the plates to his partner in Cinncinati where they massed produced them.
In my search for Bonsall photographs l came across some early photographs taken by Bonsall of Murfreesboro, the abroplates are here in Arkansas City.
 

DixieRifles

Captain
Member of the Year
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Joined
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Location
Collierville, TN
This is an excellent example of the maps that West Point grads were trained to create. The revolutionary A of the C topography unit pioneered the reproduction & dissemination of maps. They cranked out over 20,000 maps with a sun powered photo copier they could make multicolored prints.
That sure sounds like describing the modern Army.

I gave a talk to a Military Collectors Club about my collection of WW2 maps and how to read them and the intel info printed on some.
An Afghan War vet said my maps are a history. Whereas their maps of targets, etc., appeared on an computer screen and then after the day (or battle) was over, it was erased. New maps were created.
 

John Winn

Major
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Location
State of Jefferson
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.
Way cool. I am a retired forester and I took mapping, photogrammetry, and surveying courses as part of my undergrad degree. I, too, had to make a topo map in the field but we got to use a few ancient surveying tools. At the tail end of my career (with a large federal land management agency) I ended up as a GIS specialist (got in pretty much at the beginning) and did that for ten years. So I appreciate map making and definitely admire those who made those beautiful maps back in the day. That took some real skills.
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
This is an excellent example of the maps that West Point grads were trained to create. The revolutionary A of the C topography unit pioneered the reproduction & dissemination of maps. They cranked out over 20,000 maps with a sun powered photo copier they could make multicolored prints.
I did not know about sun powered reproduction of maps.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
The topography office of the Army of the Cumberland was unmatched anywhere in the world.​

polk's map.jpeg

General Polk's Map of the Murfreesboro/Franklin/Shelbyville triangle was drawn by hand. Vanderbilt University
An Irish civil engineer was the topographer for the Army of Tennessee.
The folds in the map match the size of the map pocket built into the tail of officer's coats.

AoT Engineer wagon.jpeg

The A of TN maps were reproduced one at a time by hand.
CSA Engineer's Camp Kennesaw Mountain

Shelbyville 1863, LOC.jpg

Merrill's sketch that provided the basis for the maps issued for the opening phase of the Tullahoma Campaign.
The difference between a trained cartographer & a civil engineer's version of the same territory speaks volumes.
The superiority of the A of the C's topographical unit over the Irish engineer is thought provoking.

Shelbyville & Vicinity.jpg

Printed map based on the sketch above. Official Atlas of the Civil War
Compare Polk's map with the one Capt. W.E. Merrill "printed in the field" using Capt. William Margedant's photo copy process.
When General Stanley's cavalry advanced toward Shelbyville on the morning of June 23rd he had
up to date intelligence & an accurate map that all his officers carried in their map pockets.
Every officer received a vial of a white ink & quill pen to make notations on the reverse image solar maps.
The maps with corrections & notations were returned to Merrill's office.
The notes were incorporated into the next version of the map.


1864 Map of Chattanooga LOC.jpg

This is an example of the detail of the lithographed maps issued to Rosecrans' officers. L.O.C.
Lithographs are very precise images printed from etched stones.
The A of the C had a fully equipped print shop & could turn out maps very quickly.


Chattanooga_RareMaps_Merrillblackmap_0 copy.jpg

Extremely rare surviving example of over 20,000 photo copied sun maps. L.O.C.
Anybody who has ever looked at a blueprint will recognize it.
The mechanism used to produce the maps is the multi-great grandaddy of the Xerox machine.

Salt Paper Map Dechard TN  July 18, 1864 LOC.jpg

This is a salt paper reproduction map of Dechard TN. TN Library & Archive
Decherd is between Murfreesboro & the vital tunnel through Monteagle.
Salt paper maps were contact prints. Photo sensitive salts were soaked into the paper.
It is a very slow, one at a time process.
I know photographers who make salt prints with the sun as a light source today.

Sherman's Personal Map N. Georgia.jpg

Sherman's Personal Map of North Georgia. L.O.C.
The map was cut into rectangles & mounted on linen to fit into Sherman's map pocket.
Only 20 or so of these maps were printed & issued to army & corps commanders.
Sherman said that he would never have attempted the Atlanta Campaign without this map.
The entire operation was held up for five days to allow Sergeant Nathan Finegan & his "motley crew" to complete their work.
Sherman held off without a complaint because he knew that the information that Finegan & crew gleaned from
scouts, peddlers, refugees, prisoners & deserters was invaluable.
Finegan was an architect, painter & enterprising character from Ohio.
You will often find his name in the credit box.


20disunion1-tmagArticle.jpg

Detail of map Sherman used to plan the March to the Sea


20disunion4-blog480-v2.jpg

1860 census data was printed on each county.


20disunion3-blog480.jpg

The detailed information included on this map was revolutionary.
Sherman knew exactly what the agricultural output was & where to inflict the most damage.

It is impossible to exaggerate the advantages that the ability to reproduce accurate maps gave the A of the C.
The situational awareness of commanders in the field & facilitating planners at HQ's far exceeded that of the A of TN.
This is how wars are won.


I did not know about sun powered reproduction of maps.
You have now....
 

19thGeorgia

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
The difference between a trained cartographer & a civil engineer's version of the same territory speaks volumes.
The superiority of the A of the C's topographical unit over the Irish engineer is thought provoking.

A "neat" looking map doesn't make it more accurate.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
A "neat" looking map doesn't make it more accurate.
Gotta hand it to you, creating a gratuitous put down for Merrill's maps is quite an accomplishment. Union cavalry was ordered to concentrate at Rover. Try finding Rover on Gen. Polk's map. That is what these examples are about, not how neat they were... which they are in both the original & modern meaning of the word.
 

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