Mapping the Country
When war erupted in the United States in 1861, there were only outdated maps of many parts of the country, if any. One of the primary tasks of the Union and Confederate armies was to create a cartographic record. Students can discuss why maps were so important to the war effort.
Students can read the special presentation History of Mapping the Civil War for an excellent overview of the mapping capabilities and techniques of the North and South. Discuss with students how the rush to map the country might have effected the beginning of the war. How would a general prepare for battle if he did not know the lay of the land? How was the cartographic information gathered? What risks were the cartographers exposed to in creating the maps? How could inaccuracies in their maps change the course of the war?
Students can browse the collection's Title Index, looking at various mapping techniques. As seen in the maps below, there are visual clues as to which maps were made in haste and which had the benefit of time. search on sketch and color to find additional maps.