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April 1, 1861

Aschbach, Pocket map showing probable theatre of the war, 1861

Aschbach, Pocket map showing probable theatre of the war, 1861

Elliott, Scott's great snake, 1861

Elliott, Scott's great snake, 1861

Blunt, Sketch of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the U.S., [1862?]

Blunt, Sketch of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the U.S., [1862?]

Throughout the American Civil War, commercial publishers in the North and to a lesser extent in the South produced countless maps for an eagerly awaiting public in need of up-to-date geographical information. Few families were without someone in the armed forces serving in a little-known place in the American South. Maps, therefore, were not only important sources of information, but also satisfied the patriotic impulses of the populace. Publishers in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and Boston quickly became aware of this profitable market and began to issue maps in quantities undreamed of before the war.

One of the earliest maps, copyrighted by M. H. Traubel of Philadelphia less than a month after the bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, is entitled Pocket Map of the Probable Theatre of the War. The compiler of the map, civil engineer G. A. Aschbach, accurately anticipated that the principal seat of war in the East would be Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. To assist the map user, Aschbach underlined camps and forts in red and prominent places in blue.

Although propaganda maps are better known from their use during World Wars I and II, an occasional map of this type was published during the Civil War. Such works are designed to have a maximum psychological impact on the user of the map. The commercial publisher J. B. Elliott of Cincinnati published a cartoon map in 1861 entitled Scott's Great Snake which pictorially illustrates Gen. Winfield Scott's plan to crush the South both economically and militarily. His plan called for a strong blockade of the Southern ports and a major offensive down the Mississippi River to divide the South. The press ridiculed this as the "Anaconda Plan," as shown on this map, but this general scheme contributed greatly to the Northern victory.

Another propaganda map more subtle in appearance, but perhaps just as effective, was Edmund and George Blunt's Sketch of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States. The Blunts depicted the "loyal part" of the coast with a heavy (strong) line and the "rebel part" with a thin (weak) line. "This sketch was prepared to show at a glance," explains George Blunt on the map, "the difference in extent of the coasts of the U. States occupied by the loyal men and rebels; its circulation it is believed will have the effect of counteracting the exertions of traitors at home as well as those abroad.”

Map Citations

Aschbach, G. A. Pocket map showing the probable theatre of the war Compiled by G. A. Aschbach. C.E. Allentown, Pa. Philadelphia M. H. Traubel (c)1861. 1 map col. 36 x 32 cm.
Catalog record: http://lccn.loc.gov/99447002

Elliot, J.B. Scott's great snake. Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1861 by J.B. Elliott of Cincinnati. [S.l.] 1861. 1 map col. 35 x 44 cm.
Catalog record: http://lccn.loc.gov/99447020

Blunt, Edmund. Sketch of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States showing the loyal part, and the parts of the coasts of the rebellious states in actual possession of the U. S. troops. Lith of J. Bien. N.Y. New York [1862?] 1 sketch 50 x 54 cm.
Catalog record: http://lccn.loc.gov/99447071

References

Stephenson, Richard. Civil War maps : an annotated list of maps and atlases in the Library of Congress / compiled by Richard W. Stephenson. Washington: Library of Congress, 1989.
Catalog record: http://lccn.loc.gov/88600031