Harvard Displays Civil War Maps
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 (http:hcl.harvard.edu/maps).