Civil War Maps from the Army Corps of Engineers Now Digitized

Civil War era and related maps from the Army Corps of Engineers have been digitized and are available to view and download from the National Archives Catalog. The records are part of the Civil Works Map File series from Record Group 77, Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers. The records make up the Z file unit.

The records in the Civil Works Map File comprised the main map collection for the Corps of Engineers during the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. They include manuscript maps forwarded to headquarters by Corps of Topographic Engineers and Army Engineer surveyors and cartographers in the field, and published editions of selected maps. The maps pertain to numerous subjects, including surveys of the Mississippi River, Great Lakes, and other bodies of water; construction or improvement of harbors, canals, roads, railroads and other internal improvements; exploration of the West and surveying of western terrain; location of posts and fortifications, Indian tribes, and settlements in western territories; military roads and routes between Army posts; campaigns and battlefields of the Revolutionary War, the Seminole War in Florida, Indian Wars in the West, the Mexican War, and the Civil War (including both Union Army maps and Confederate Army maps acquired by Union forces); surveys of boundaries between States and Territories; and numerous foreign areas. Architectural and engineering drawings in this series relate to canals, bridges, dams, piers, and jetties as built along the coasts and inland waterways. Also included are plans of dredge boats used in improving rivers and harbors.

The Z file unit consists of manuscript, published, and annotated maps relating to areas in the southern states during the Civil War, including a large number of Confederate maps. The maps mostly cover areas in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. There are a few maps in the file unit that also cover Indian Territory, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC. The majority of the maps were created in the mid-nineteenth century, either during the Civil War, or in the years just before and after the war.

The records in the file unit span various subjects including, but not limited to, cities, counties, battlefields, railroads, and fortifications. Highlighted below are some of the records found in the file unit.

Below is a sketch of the Battle Field of Young’s Branch, or Manassa[s] Plains fought on July 21, 1861 showing Federal and Confederate infantry and artillery positions:

Record Group 77: Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, 1789-1999. NAID: 200167991. Manassas and Bull Run Battlefields, Virginia.

Below is a drawing of the State House at Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

Record Group 77: Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, 1789-1999. NAID: 200061752. State House Baton Rouge Louisiana.

Below is a Plan of City of San Antonio, Texas:

Record Group 77: Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, 1789-1999. NAID: 200061875. Plan of City of San Antonio, Texas.

Some of the most requested records from the Z file unit include parish maps of Louisiana that were captured from the Confederate Army. Below is a map of De Soto Parish:

Record Group 77: Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, 1789-1999. NAID: 171031920. Parish maps of Louisiana captured from the Confederates ca. 1865. De Soto Parish.

It is important to note that the Z file unit is one of over thirty file units that comprise the Civil Works Map File series. The Z file unit is a compilation of maps from several different states. The file unit only touches on a very small amount of maps the series contains for each state. For example, the state of Virginia has its own file unit, Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay (G), which includes nearly 1,500 maps of Virginia alone. Another example, the state of Louisiana has its own file unit as well, Louisiana and the Mississippi River (M), which includes nearly 1,600 maps of Louisiana.

The US file unit, United States, has been digitized and images are available to view and download from the National Archives Catalog. The file unit digitization was the focus of a past blog post.

Please reach out to us at carto@nara.gov if you are interested in a map that has not been digitized or if you are looking for a map of a particular state, area, battlefield, etc. for the mid-nineteenth century that you do not see listed in our catalog. When our research room reopens, we also encourage people to visit us to view the finding aid and records in-person. Visiting information and operating status may be found here.

7 thoughts on “Civil War Maps from the Army Corps of Engineers Now Digitized

    1. The example in your reply is from a different file unit. There’s no telling when that record was digitized or what resolution it was digitized at. For the maps in the “US” and “Z” file units, you should be able to see the detail when you zoom in. Furthermore, the records in our catalog are only scanned at 300 dpi.

  1. Are there other file units in the Civil Works Map File series that have been completely digitized besides “US” and “Z”

    Rick Sayre

    1. No, not at this time. But stay tuned! The “G” file unit for Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay is on its way.

  2. Thank you for publishing this article. The subject is dear to my heart as the 30th Engineer Battalion (Topo) of Ft. Belvoir, under the command of Col. Robert Lane, surveyed and mapped the Civil War Battlefield at Centreville, VA in the mid 1970s. I was part of that mission.

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