Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Civil War Coast Survey Maps Online

Confederate Defenses, Craney Island, Norfolk, 1861

During the Civil War, both the U.S. Navy and Army benefited greatly from topographical engineers of the United States Coast Survey.  In a time where everything was hand drawn, these engineers were among the finest mapmakers in the world.  The maps themselves are not only to be greatly admired for their accuracy, but also as stand alone art.  The modern day Coast Survey (now under the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) has placed all of their office's Civil War maps online in a searchable database.  The maps are ready to be inspected and downloaded.  Be prepared to spend several hours admiring the engineers' work.

Founded in 1807, the Coast Survey is one of the Federal government's oldest scientific organizations.  Their main responsibility was the tedious task of proving accurate charts of American harbors, rivers, and coastline for both civilian and military ships.  Other parts of the Government called upon the office to work other projects such as slave population density and defining national borders.  Despite its name, several Coast Survey engineers accompanied U.S. Army ground forces during major campaigns such as Sherman's march on Atlanta. 

Approaches to Charleston Harbor, 1863

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