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Where Is That Place?

Mapping Battlefields


Earlier in August, we posted some historic maps of the Central Virginia Battlefields on CVBT's social media and wanted to share some extra history about the images with you today...


Why Look at Historic Maps?

When we're looking at historical records to figure out what happened on land that we're researching for preservation, written records are helpful, but sometimes the soldiers and officers wrote about particular locations that aren't always readily obvious on modern maps or battlefield maps. Several times this year, we've been able to figure out locations thanks to the "old maps" from the Civil War era.

Research is a vital part of making sure we're ready to save places where history happened and getting ready to share details about the new properties we've been working and negotiating to preserve.


Robert Knox Sneden

Born in Nova Scotia in 1832, Robert Knox Sneden grew up in Canada and moved to New York City when he was 19 years old to study architecture. He enlisted in the 40th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1861, serving as a quartermaster at first.

In January 1862, Sneden joined Samuel P. Heintzelman's staff with the III Corps, putting his skills as an draughtsman to use and later gaining experience as topographical engineer. He participated in the Peninsula Campaign and the Second Battle of Bull Run and then spent some time in the Defenses of Washington.

By the autumn of 1863, he served in David B. Birney's division and then later joined William H. Frenchs staff for the Mine Run Campaign. Confederate raider John Mosby captured Sneden on November 27, 1863, beginning his thirteen month imprisonment in Richmond and Andersonville. Even in the terrible prison conditions in Andersonville, he continue to sketch and draw, creating images of the scenes he witnessed first-hand. Other prison locations that Sneden saw and sketched included Savannah, Millen, Florence, and Charleston; he was exchanged in December 1864.

After the Civil War's end, Sneden recreated his wartime illustrations with watercolors, crafting nearly 1000 pages of images and maps. Some were published during his lifetime in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, and after his death in 1918, the visuals disappeared from public view. Rediscovered and moved to the Virginia Historical Society, Sneden's illustrations, maps, and diaries have become a valuable resource.

Sometimes his maps are not quite accurate, but they are insightful to see how a Civil War veteran saw or remembered the situation and sometimes there are valuable clues about lesser known locations or battlefield positions.

Click on the maps to view larger version

All four battlefields





Jedidiah Hotchkiss

Though most associated with Civil War history in the Shenandoah Valley for his mapmaking for Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson's famed campaign in 1862, Jedidiah Hotchkiss measured and sketched in Central Virginia also. Born in 1828 in New York, he moved to the Shenandoah Valley when he was nineteen to teach school. Interested in geology and topography, he started a hobby of sketching land around his home county, learning a skill that would be useful during the Civil War.

In June 1861, Hotchkiss started hauling supplies as a Confederate teamster and volunteered to make maps for Richard Garnett's brigade in western Virginia. Some of his first military maps were for Robert E. Lee's unsuccessful campaign at Rich Mountain. After a period of illness, he returned to the scenes of action and became the chief topographical engineer of the Valley District and "Stonewall" Jackson ordered him to "make me a map of the Valley." Hotchkiss completed the project, creating a map that was 7 feet long and 3 feet wide, showing the important details of the land and giving Jackson an important military advantage.

Hotchkiss maps other areas, particular where Jackson and the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia fought. He sketched eight maps of the land west of Fredericksburg and these documents became key to the Confederate successes in the Chancellorsville Campaign. After Jackson's wounding and death resulting from the Battle of Chancellorsville, Hotchkiss stayed on staff with the Second Corps, serving with Richard Ewell and Jubal Early. He mapped for most major campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia and the 1864 Shenandoah Valley campaign. After surrendering at Appomattox Court House in April 1865, Hotchkiss received his captured maps from Ulysses S. Grant, and Grant later paid to use some of Hotchkiss's maps in his reports.

Returning to civilian life, Hotchkiss went back to teaching and also worked as a mining consultant. At one point, a detective tried to confiscate his maps for examination, but Hotchkiss took the large papers to the U.S. Army Engineers and made arrangements to have ownership of his war-era work. After his death in 1899, his maps were preserved and eventually stored at the Library of Congress.


Click on the maps to view larger!

Map of Spotsylvania County

Roads in Spotsylvania and Orange County

Map of Chancellorsville, Sunday, May 3, 1863

Map of Chancellorsville


Parting Shot

Central Virginia Battlefields Trust's mission is to preserve, protect, and educate about Civil War hallowed ground at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House.

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