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Highlights Archives

Civil War Maps Come Online

Topographical sketch of the battlefield with Stone River near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, March 30, 1863

The Society's online collection about Wisconsin in the Civil War recently added more than 350 Civil War maps. They join 20,000 pages of letters, diaries, memoirs and photographs already available. The site also contains dozens of compelling stories, short biographies of Wisconsin leaders, a concise history of each regiment and accounts of Wisconsin's role in the most famous battles. The maps have been digitized in a way that allows users to zoom in simply by clicking anywhere on the image. Even the smallest details on the 150-year-old maps become visible instantly.

Rare Contemporary Maps

About 50 of the maps published while the fighting was underway informed citizens on the homefront about the war's progress. For example, a War Telegram Marking Map published in Boston in 1862 shows rivers, roads and railroads in Virginia and Maryland during the Peninsula and Maryland campaigns of that year.

The rarest map in the collection is a Confederate map issued in Augusta, Georgia, in 1861. This Map of the Seat of the War used an unusual photograph-based method and shows portraits of seven Confederate leaders in its margins. Only a handful of copies survived the war.

Unique Manuscript Maps

Also included online are several pen-and-ink maps that Wisconsin soldiers drew by hand. One is a meticulous pencil sketch of Camp Randall, the main training post for new Wisconsin recruits. It was made by Capt. Napoleon Bonaparte Van Slyke, assistant quartermaster of Camp Randall. It contains precise plans of barracks, hospitals, the stockade for Confederate prisoners and other facilities. Included on the verso are hand-written notes by Van Slyke, dated Jan. 1, 1865, describing Camp Randall in detail.

Another is a pen-and-ink drawing of the first Battle of Bull Run made by Charles Dean, adjutant with the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry. The 2nd Wisconsin lost 19 men, with 114 wounded, at Bull Run. Thirty-eight others, including Dean, were taken prisoner.

Battle Maps

Most of the maps in the collection were produced after the war to illustrate specific battles. Users who are reading diaries or letters can use them to follow troop movements and locate opposing forces. The most important battles, such as Antietam or Gettysburg, are represented by multiple maps showing troop positions at several times through the engagement. Most originally appeared in Matthew Forney Steele's American Campaigns (Washington, D.C.: War Dept., 1909), a textbok used in U.S. military academies.

:: Posted December 9, 2011

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