Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s chief cartographer during the Civil War, Jedediah Hotchkiss, would often work on horseback in the field, observing and drawing the lay of the land. Armed with a sketchbook, colored pencils and a compass—and using the pacing of his horse to determine feet and miles—Hotchkiss produced remarkably accurate, detailed and visually beautiful maps.
A selection of these maps, used by Confederate officers to plan military operations and strategy, is displayed at the Library in the exhibition “Jed Hotchkiss, Shenandoah Valley Mapmaker” from now until July 31, 2010.
Free and open to the public, the exhibition is located in the corridor outside of the Geography and Map Division Reading Room on the basement level of the James Madison Building.
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Va., created the exhibition in the fall of 2008, and the Library is the first stop on the exhibition’s tour. Of the 50 maps and sketches on display, 48 come from the renowned Hotchkiss Map Collection in the Geography and Map Division (G&M) at the Library. One of the two curators of the exhibition, Richard W. Stephenson, was a former staff member in G&M. The exhibition features facsimiles of the original documents.
Included in the exhibition is the “Great Map of the Shenandoah Valley 1862-65.” Hotchkiss created this map, considered a masterpiece, after Gen. Stonewall Jackson summoned him to “prepare a map showing all points of offense and defense in the Shenandoah Valley from the Potomac to Lexington.” The map measures 7.5 feet by 3 feet and can be viewed on a tabletop in the foyer area off the G&M Reading Room. Juxtaposed on the wall is “Satellite Image of the Shenandoah Valley (ca. 2000),” which covers the same area as the Hotchkiss map, offering an interesting 21st-century comparison.
Also on display is the Hotchkiss field sketchbook. The cover bears this annotation above his signature: "This volume is my field sketch book that I used during the Civil War. Most of the sketches were made on horseback just as they now appear. The colored pencils used were kept in the places fixed for them on the outside of the cover. These topographical sketches were often used in conferences with Generals Jackson, Ewell and Early … "
Hotchkiss was born in Windsor, N.Y., on Nov. 30, 1828. In 1846, at the age of 18, Hotchkiss began teaching school near Harrisburg, Pa., supplementing his income by working as a mining geologist. He enjoyed exploring nearby areas and started his hobby of mapmaking. Fond of Virginia, Hotchkiss moved to Mossy Creek, Va., and served as principal of the Mossy Creek Academy for 10 years. In 1858, he started the Loch Willow School for Boys in Churchville, Va., and the school flourished until the Civil War.
In 1861, Hotchkiss started to run supplies for the Confederates and offered his services as a mapmaker to Brig. Gen. Richard B. Garnett. By March 1862, Hotchkiss was serving as a captain and chief topographical engineer of the Valley District in Virginia, reporting to Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson. Hotchkiss attained the rank of major and on numerous occasions was directed to choose lines of defense, to select troop positions for important engagements and to perform other arduous and dangerous duties.
Over four years of war service, ending with Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865, Hotchkiss created some 600 maps and numerous drawings, which he was allowed to retain following the cessation of hostilities. The Library eventually purchased the maps from Hotchkiss’s granddaughter in 1948.
After the war, Hotchkiss became a successful businessman. He ran a school for two years in Staunton, Va., and then opened an office as a topographical and mining engineer, which he continued until his death in 1899.
For information on the Hotchkiss Map Collection at the Library of Congress, visit http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/maps/hotchkiss/essay.html.