Cover image for Maps and mapmakers of the Civil War
Maps and mapmakers of the Civil War
McElfresh, Earl B.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Harry N. Abrams, Publishers in association with History Book Club, 1999.
Physical Description:
272 pages : illustrations (some color), maps (some color) ; 31 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E468.9 .M135 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize

On Order



During the American Civil War a good map could spell the difference between and defeat. This book brings together some of the most interesting and beautiful maps of the period, from detailed renderings to rough pencil sketches drawn on horseback.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

According to historian Stephen Sears in the introduction, this map collection is the most comprehensive one published since the 1890s. If so, it's a vital acquisition for the Civil War collection. That the originals of the 180 maps reproduced are in the hands of institutions and private collections enhances its impression of being a once-in-a-century resource. In addition to captioning the 180 images, McElfresh explains in a textual section the techniques of making military maps in the era and delivers summaries of the cartographic careers of their makers. Of course, there's Jed Hotchkiss, famous as Stonewall Jackson's topographer, but the acid aphorist Ambrose Bierce also appears in a surprise drafter's role. The maps themselves require close examination to appreciate their detail, perhaps enabling the viewer to imagine the commander debating the military value of a ford, a road, a wood, or a hill. Some are roughly drawn field maps; others are sharper prints put together in calmer post-battle circumstances. In either case, immediacy is the effect, a quality cherished by the buffs. --Gilbert Taylor

Library Journal Review

McElfresh, a cartographer, a map historian, and president of the McElfresh Map Company, has assembled a remarkable corpus of Civil War-period maps and essays about them. Preliminary chapters explore the significance of mapmaking in the struggle between North and South, who actually made the maps, and how they were reproduced in sufficient quantities to be effective in the field. A final section features biographical sketches of 16 Civil War mapmakers--including George Armstrong Custer and Washington Roebling. Of the 180 illustrations contained here, 150 are in full color. This unusual resource is highly recommended for all libraries with emphases on cartography, the Civil War, or American history; libraries needing a Civil War atlas with battle summaries can still obtain American Heritage Battle Maps of the Civil War (Council Oak, 1997. reprint), which includes both period and recently produced maps.--Edward K. Werner, St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Sys., Ft. Pierce, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

McElfresh provides a wonderful collection of Civil War maps and explanatory text, which together illustrate several points about this great conflict that are often overlooked or taken for granted. Given the transportation technologies available to Federal and Confederate armies in the 1860s, the organizational and materiel requirements to conduct war were exceptionally complex. How does one maneuver, as General William T. Sherman did in 1864, with 100,000 troops, 60,000 horses and mules, 5,180 wagons, and 860 ambulances, across unfamiliar terrain? Whether armies numbered in the hundreds or tens of thousands they often maneuvered and fought on unmapped land. Mapmakers were frequently topographic engineers whose skills made them among the most valued of all service personnel. Accurate maps were the highest form of military intelligence, allowing thorough planning for movement, resupply, and strategic army emplacement relative to topographic access or superior vantage points. Maps were updated frequently, sometimes daily, and large armies traveled with a mapmaking detachment. This collection of 150 color maps is an important contribution to Civil War geography and history, as well as an authoritative contribution to the history of cartography. All levels. K. B. Raitz; University of Kentucky