Civil War maps are always popular at the National Archives, and the Cartographic Branch is pleased to announce the digitization of over 100 Confederate maps from Record Group (RG) 109. All are now available to view or download through our online catalog.
Maps played a very important role during the Civil War. They were instrumental to leaders and generals for planning battles, campaigns, and marches. As a result, thousands of maps relating to the Civil War were created, many of which are held by the Cartographic Branch in a variety of record groups. These maps can include rough sketches created quickly before or during a battle, but can also include maps that were drawn to accompany official reports or even post-war publications. Many are highly detailed and colorized. Civil War maps frequently show topography, ground cover, roads, railroads, homes, the names of residents, towns, and waterways. They can be very helpful to better understand what the land looked like and how it was used during the Civil War era. Maps showing the names of residents can also be helpful to genealogists.
The Civil War maps we are featuring today are all Confederate maps. These maps were captured by or surrendered to the United States at the conclusion of the Civil War, or were later donated by former Confederate leaders. The records were held by the War Department before coming to the National Archives. The maps cover areas in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma (Indian Territory), South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. There is also a grouping of miscellaneous maps that show more than one state, which are filed as “US.” Most of the maps are manuscripts, although some are printed maps or even copies of maps. Many of the printed maps are annotated to show troop movements, battles lines, or other important features.
Many of the maps show well known battlefields and locations, such as Shiloh, Antietam, Murfreesboro (Stones River), Richmond, Petersburg, Atlanta, Knoxville, Manassas (Bull Run) and others. A number of maps show the battlefield at Shiloh, which was fought April 2-3, 1862 in southern Tennessee.
Many maps also cover lesser known but also very important locations, such as Corinth, Mississippi, the location of a strategic railroad junction and site of a siege and battle. Other lesser known battles with maps in the series include Cross Keys, VA, Prairie Grove, AR, and scores of others.
The series also includes maps and plans of fortifications, including those that protected Charleston, South Carolina, Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Beaufort, South Carolina. Some fort plans are even included, such as a plan for Fort Waul in Texas and Fort Beauregard in South Carolina (SC-3A), although most of the Cartographic Branch’s fort plans and drawings can be found within RG 77 in the Fortifications File and Miscellaneous Forts File.
Occasionally within the series are printed maps that are based on manuscript maps also located with the series. The first map is an original manuscript map showing a portion of the battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The back of this map notes that it was to appear in an 1874 atlas. The more finished and printed version of the map is also found within RG 109. It is interesting to compare the two maps.
During the digitization process, close attention was paid to information written or stamped on the backs of the maps. All maps within the series that contained unique information on their reverse were digitized both front and back. Both sides are available to view in our online catalog.
Many Confederate generals later donated maps to the National Archives to become part of a Confederate archives. Often, the names of the donors or original owners are written or stamped on the reverse of the maps. Names such as General Samuel Gibbs French, General Trimble, General Thomas L. Snead, General Polk, General Thomas Hindman can be found on the backs of many maps. One notable map of the Malvern Hill battlefield includes a notation on the back indicating that it was owned by General Lafayette McLaws, a commander with the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War. Although the general could not remember who drew the map or when it was created, he believed that it came into his possession during the Civil War.
The map of the Murfreesboro battlefield below includes a notation on the reverse that it was “Found at Macon, GA” by a clerk on July 20, 1865, showing yet another way that the National Archives came to hold some of these maps and items and yet again illustrating the unique information that can be found on the backs of many of these maps.
All of the maps may be viewed at the following link: Confederate Maps. Take some time to browse through these maps, enjoying both the fronts and the backs!
If you wish to view maps from a specific state, see the following link: RG 109 maps by state and click on the state you wish to view. Next, click on the blue link that says “item(s) described in the catalog” that is located near middle of the catalog entry.