Revolution-era map of the Lake Champlain-Hudson River corridor

Claude Joseph Sauthier (surveyor and compiler) / William Faden (publisher), A Topographical Map of Hudsons River, with the Channels, Depth of Water, Rocks, Shoals, etc…. London, October 1, 1776 [but probably early 1777.]
Engraving, ca. 31.5"h x 21.25"w plus margins, traces of original wash color.

The first large-scale map of the region, and likely used to plan the disastrous 1777 campaign that culminated in the surrender of Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga.

This lovely map depicts the Hudson River-Lake George-Lake Champlain corridor, during the Colonial era a key invasion route between Canada and the Northern Colonies. The major waterways and their tributaries are shown in detail, including some depth soundings as far upriver as Albany and navigational hazards on Lake Champlain. Hachuring indicates elevations along the river.

Reflecting Sauthier’s military training and the unsettled times, the human geography focuses primarily on major roads and the region’s many fortifications. A tiny note mentions the British landing at Brooklyn in August 1776, and other notes refer to military actions on Lake Champlain later that year including the Battle of Valcour Island. In all, though the level of detail doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its title,

“it is still by far the most detailed and accurate map of the Hudson River and Lake Champlain actually published in the eighteenth century. It gives a generally reliable picture of the towns, roads, and major topographic features along the entire corridor between New York City and the Richelieu River.” (Allen, “Mapping of New York State,” ch. 6B)

This is the third state of the map, with the altered Faden imprint and the addition of two lettered references “X” and “A” referring to the sinking of a French fleet in 1759 and the 1776 Battle of Valcour Island.

This map first appeared early in the Revolution, when the British were pursuing a “divide and conquer” strategy of isolating New England-seen as harboring the most intractable rebels-from the Middle and Southern Colonies. The British viewed command of the Hudson River Valley as key to this strategy.

In the Fall of 1776 a large British force under Guy Carleton attempted a first invasion via Lake Champlain. Though a number of successful engagements on the Lake enabled the British to claim a tactical victory, a scratch-built American fleet under Benedict Arnold forced Carleton to turn back following the Battle of Valcour’s Island. Sauthier’s map includes annotations locating key engagements in this campaign.

In 1777 as the British planned once again to attempt to split the Colonies. They designed a three-prong offensive, with the main efforts being a pincer attack up the Hudson from New York City and an invasion from Quebec, aided by a diversion via Lake Ontario. After much lobbying, on Feb. 20, 1777 General John Burgoyne was selected to lead the invasion from the North. The entire strategy ended in catastrophe for the British, as the diversion failed, the northward advance from New York City never materialized, and the unsupported Burgoyne eventually surrendered his army at Saratoga. As the best-available map of the Champlain-Hudson corridor, it seems almost certain that this map or related manuscripts by Sauthier were used by Burgoyne in planning his campaign

Claude Joseph Sauthier and the British mapping of New York
A native of France, Sauthier came to the Colonies in 1767 and was employed by Governor Tryon of North Carolina. When in 1771 Tryon assumed the governorship of New York, Sauthier accompanied him and soon went to work on a survey of the eastern part of the province, which at the time included all of present-day Vermont. He was also involved in running the boundary line between New York and Quebec at the 45th parallel, which boundary is shown on the present map. During the Revolution he served on the staff of Lord Percy in the battles in and around New York City. William Faden also published several other maps based on his New York surveys, including battle plans and the monumental Chorographical Map of the Province of New York.

Several other British military surveyors were active in the Hudson River-Lake George-Lake Champlain region, including William Brassier (under Lord Amherst), Samuel Holland (under the Board of Trade and Plantations), John Montresor (under General Gage), and Bernard Ratzer. Each produced maps that were ultimately published by the houses of Dury, Faden, Kitchin and/or Sayer. These maps often borrow from one another-for example, it appears that the present map by Sauthier borrows quite heavily-directly or indirectly-from William Brassier’s 1762 survey of Lakes Champlain and George.

Familiar as we are with the inefficiencies of government, perhaps we should not be surprised at these often redundant efforts, each produced by experts working for different parts of the British civil and military administration.

David Y. Allen, “Mapping of New York State,” ch. 6 (at Sellers & Van Ee, Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, #1069. Stevens and Tree, “Comparative Cartography” in Tooley, The Mapping of America, #23c. Cumming’s British Maps of Colonial America provides a brief biography of Sauthier on pp. 72-74.


Cleaned, with some marginal mends and restoration to upper left of image. Original wash color faded.