The United States Sanitary Commission at work in Fairfax County, Virginia

Surveyed by L.H. Russell, Civil Eng. / P.S. Duval & Son, lith., Map of the NEW CONVALESCENT CAMP. FAIRFAX CO. VA. Four miles S.W. from Washington, D.C. Philadelphia: E. J. Maddox, 1863.
Lithograph printed in three colors, 26 ¼”h x 20 ¼”w at neat line plus margins.

A lovely lithograph of a grim subject, a plan for a “convalescent camp” in Fairfax County, Virginia likely produced to support the fundraising efforts of the United States Sanitary Commission.   

When the Civil War began in April 1861 the Federal Government was utterly unprepared to wage total war, much less manage the carnage it produced.  One response was the creation by legislation of the Sanitary Commission, a private agency dedicated to the care of sick and wounded Union soldiers (During the War far more soldiers were felled by illness than by wounds incurred in battle.) The Commission raised millions of dollars, enlisted thousands of volunteers and established and supplied hospitals, rest homes and other facilities for the care of legions of sick and wounded.

Offered here is a lovely lithographic plan of a “convalescent camp” for soldiers no longer needing hospital care but not ready to return to service or awaiting a disability discharge. Located between Washington, D.C. and Alexandria, Virginia, the camp was laid out by L.H. Russell, a civil engineer enlisted in the 13thMassachusetts Volunteers. However the park-like layout—blending military efficiency with organic, winding paths through nearby woodlands, integrated with rather than simply imposed on the landscape—suggests the influence of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Executive Secretary of the Sanitary Commission. The impression is further augmented by the three pictorial vignettes of camp buildings tucked away in the trees, including the office of the Sanitary Commission.

“This 1863 map of a convalescent camp located four miles from Washington, DC, in Fairfax County, Virginia, reflects many of these objectives. Buildings are placed in an orderly manner with efficient use of space and easy access for key personnel. In general, the Sanitary Commission attempted to shape the hygiene of camps, train nurses, create hospital boats, form ambulance corps and partner with other volunteer organizations such as the Christian Commission, also pictured on the map. This site plan reflects the vision of the Sanitary Commission’s Executive Secretary, Frederick Law Olmsted, who would become one of the great designers of public space in the post-bellum period.” (Grim, p. 114)

The plan was likely produced as a promotional piece to support Sanitary Commission fundraising efforts, though it is not clear whether it depicts the camp as it was envisioned or as actually constructed.  In any event it is quite rare.  I find institutional holdings only at the Arlington (VA) Public Library, British Library, Harvard, the Leventhal Map Center and University of Texas-Arlington. Per RareBookHub, the last to appear on the market was offered by Eberstadt in 1938.

Grim et al., Torn in Two, p. 114-115 (illus). OCLC locates five impressions (June 2018).


Minor soiling, expertly-mended tear 2 ½” into lower image, minor marginal repairs. Lined.