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Collection Civil War Maps

Postwar Mapping

At the conclusion of the Civil War, the U.S. War Department published numerous detailed battlefield maps and atlases to document significant military engagements such as those at Antietam, Manassas, Gettysburg, and Atlanta, to name a few. The premier cartographic work of the postwar years, however, is the U.S. War Department's Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (LC Civil War Maps no. 99). Initially issued in 37 parts between 1891 and 1895, it includes 178 plates and constitutes the most detailed atlas yet published on the Civil War. The maps present an especially well-balanced cartographic record of the war because both Union and Confederate sources were used in their compilation. Confederate topographic engineer Jedediah Hotchkiss, for example, supplied the editors with 123 maps for this atlas. Although the original edition of the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records is no longer available for sale from the U.S. Government Printing Office, complete facsimile editions were published in 1958 by Thomas Yoseloff of New York City and in 1978 by Arno Press and Crown Publishers, Inc., New York. The Yoseloff edition was published under the title The Official Atlas of the Civil War and includes an introduction by the noted historian Henry Steele Commager (LC Civil War Maps no. 101). The Arno Press/Crown Publishers edition is entitled The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War, with an introduction by archivist-historian Richard Sommers (LC Civil War Maps no. 101.2).

Clearly, the war created an urgent need for maps that cartographers on both sides worked tirelessly for four years to satisfy. Field survey methods were improved; the gathering of intelligence became more sophisticated; faster, more adaptable printing techniques were developed; and photoreproduction processes became an important means of duplicating maps. The result was that thousands of manuscript, printed, and photoreproduced maps of unprecedented quality were prepared of areas where fighting erupted or was likely to occur. Rarely could an officer have cause to be ignorant of his surroundings, as if he "had been suddenly transferred to the banks of the Lualaba."[1] After peace came in the spring of 1865, another fourteen years were to pass before Congress established the beginnings of a national topographic mapping program with the creation of the U.S. Geological Survey. It was many years, therefore, before modern topographic maps became available to replace those created by war's necessity. The maps of the Civil War are splendid testimony to the skill and resourcefulness of Union and Confederate mapmakers and commercial publishers in fulfilling their responsibilities.

Richard W. Stephenson, Civil War Maps


  1. Taylor, Destruction and Reconstruction, p. 99.
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