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On Geography Lessons and Civil War Cartography

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Map of VA and WVA

Hotchkiss Map Snapshot - Library of Congress

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twogreatrebelarmies

Two Great Rebel Armies

The highlight of the first five chapters of Two Great Rebel Armies by Richard M. McMurray was hands down the lesson on geography. This is, I fear, an area that receives too little emphasis in our study of the war. Particularly interesting was the reference to the Shenandoah Valley (Valley of Virginia) and the advantages and disadvantages it presented to those who chose to maneuver in it. It helps me to actually “see” a map of the area and I found a collection that you might find helpful if you’ve not already discovered it. It is the Hotchkiss Collection on the Library of Congress site here. The collection consists of 341 sketchbooks, manuscripts, and annotated printed maps, the originals of which reside in the Library of Congress’ Geography and Map Division. It also provides two essays including a biographical essay about Hotchkiss. Not to be missed is the Map of the Shenandoah Valley which was considered a masterpiece.

Hotchkiss Map Collection

Sketch of the battle of Bristoe, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 1863 / by Jed. Hotchkiss, Capt. & Top. Engr., 2nd Corps, A.N.Va. (Library of Congress)

Sketch of the Battle of Bristoe, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 1863 / by Jed. Hotchkiss, Capt. & Top. Engr., 2nd Corps, A.N.Va. (Library of Congress)

Major Jedediah Hotchkiss (1828-1899) was considered the cartographer of the Army of Northern Virginia. He was a topographic engineer in the Confederate Army. Most of the works in the collection are of the Shenandoah Valley and certainly some would have been used by Lee and his commanders.

Jedediah_Hotchkiss

Jedediah Hotchkiss

The letters of Jedediah Hotchkiss are available on the University of Virginia’s excellent The Valley of the Shadow digital history project here. This exceptional collection is well worth the read and covers the major’s war experiences from 1861 – 1864 as conveyed to his family.

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