Civil War News
For People With An Active Interest in the Civil War Today

Harvard Displays Civil War Maps
Cambridge, Mass.

For more than half of this century the maps had been filed away, al-most forgotten, the testimony of a not too distant past, the American Civil War era. Now the Har-vard Map Collection of Harvard College Library has put together an exhibition of these rare and detailed maps entitled "A House Divided: Maps from the Civil War" which runs through March 1.

The central focus of the exhibition is 35 Civil War period maps from the Harvard Map collection, including maps presented to the Harvard College Library by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS). The MOLLUS maps, which have been at Harvard for over 70 years, were rediscovered recently by Bonnie Burns, Geographic Information Systems Specialist for Harvard College Library.

Burns has some background in Civil War period maps and immediately realized what treasures were hiding in the collection. "The maps taken as a whole tell the stories, not just of who won which battle, or the strategies of the generals," Burns says, "but of the topographical engineers as well."

Topographical engineers were expected to provide their commanders with crucial information about the location, direction, capacity and passability of roads.

The Civil War map collection at Harvard includes approximately 1,000 maps, in both manuscript and printed form, including an unusual oval map of the Gettysburg Battlefield published less than six months after the July 1863 battle by John Bachelder of Boston. The map, which shows the po-sitions of the troops as well as roads, buildings and topography.

Some of the maps in the collection are amazingly detailed and about half are in fair condition, as David Cobb, Curator of the Harvard Map Collection explains, with only a few minor tears or creases. Others have sustained significant damage over the years and are in need of preservation.

"A House Divided" features many fine examples of the cartographer's art. A manuscript map of the Topsail Sound area in North Carolina is particularly striking, from the beautifully detailed cal-ligraphy of the title to the tiny flag, about a quarter-inch high, adorning the tent that marks division headquarters. This map was drawn in the field by B.L. Blackford of the Confederate Topographi-cal Engineers Office and later captured from Confederate Headquarters after Gen. Joseph Johnston surrendered in 1865.

The exhibit includes a map of Robert E. Lee's retreat, a post-war drawing outlining the move-ments of Lee's troops on a daily basis, and an 1859 map of Charleston Harbor, drawn by the U.S. Coast Survey. While copies of the latter were widely available to Americans at the time, Burns says this particular specimen was turned into an illustrated account of the events by William Appleton, a prominent Boston businessman and U.S. Congressman, who witnessed the bom-bardment of Fort Sumter in the early morning hours of April 12, 1861.

Appleton was aboard a ship in the outer Charleston Harbor and when the attack began he went ashore and was among the first people to telegraph to Boston that the war had begun. Upon his return home, Appleton collected newspaper clips about the bombardment and pasted them onto the map, along with his own, handwritten recollections.

Many of the maps that are part of the MOLLUS collection were the property of Charles Loring, a Harvard graduate and, for most of the war, an aide to Union General Ambrose Burnside. Manu-script maps used during Burnside's command of the IX Corps are included in the exhibit. Some significant moments for the Union army are displayed in these maps, such as the battle of Cold Harbor.

In addition, the exhibition features an 1867 atlas containing maps of many major battlefields south of Gettysburg and an 1892 edition of the Atlas of the Official Records, containing maps of almost every battle that occurred during the war. Also included are period surveying tools loaned by the Harvard Collection of Historic Scientific Instruments.

The exhibit may be seen in the Corridor Gallery of Pusey Library, Harvard Yard. Sample images from the exhibit may be seen on the Harvard Map Collection web page (

Use these links to navigate on CWN's web site

Home/ Calendar/ News/ Opinion/ Book Reviews/ Civil War on the Internet/ Living  History/ News Briefs/ Subscriptions/ Testimonials/ Artillery Safety/ Feedback/ Links

Historical Publications Inc.
234 Monarch Hill Rd.
Tunbridge VT 05077

Our email address is:

Subscriptions: (800) 777-1862
Free Sample: (800) 777-1862
Display Ads: (800) 777-1862
Editorial: (802) 889-3500
Fax: (802) 889-5627