Exceptional Alabama and Mississippi map prepared for the Union Army by the U.S. Coast Survey

[Edw. Molitor Lith., SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI AND ALABAMA SHOWING THE APPROACHES TO MOBILE. [Washington, D.C.:] Coast Survey Office, 1863.
Lithograph printed in black and blue, 24”h x 25”w plus title and margins. Fold split at top, nicely mended. Mended tear at top center and just a hint of soiling, very good overall.

Rare map of southern Alabama and Mississippi, drawn by the United States Coast Survey for use of the Union Army during the Civil War.

At the outset of the Civil War, it became apparent to the Union leadership that there was a lack of reliable maps available for much of the South. They soon turned to the Coast Survey, which at the time was the most sophisticated mapping agency in the Federal government. Many of its staff were transferred from their hydrographic duties and tasked with compiling the best available information and creating up-to-date maps of the southeastern United States. By the standards of their time, the resulting maps were superbly detailed, providing war planners and field commanders with essential data about the natural and human geography of the regions in which they were operating.

Offered here is a fine example of their work, being an exceptionally detailed map of southern Mississippi and Alabama. As the finest available map of the region, copies would have been rushed to officers both at headquarters and in the field, possibly in advance for the Vicksburg campaign of Spring-Summer 1863.

The map shows Mississippi and Alabama from Jackson to Montgomery, starting about fifty miles north of these important cities and extending south to the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans (New Orleans had been occupied by Union forces since the Spring of 1862.) Much of the Florida panhandle is also covered. The map meticulously depicts the roads, towns, post offices, rivers and other important features of the region, including a Gold Mine Claim in Chilton County, Alabama, just west of the Coosa River. Of particular import are the carefully-drawn rail lines, essential to the movement of troops and supplies during the War. Notes provide up-to-date information about the construction and removal of lines around Mobile during the war years.

The map does not identify its sources, but we can probably extrapolate from Northern Mississippi and Alabama, a similar map produced by the Lindenkohl brothers for the Coast Survey in 1864. That map bears a list of sources from which it was compiled, including “state maps” (presumably including the La Tourette map of Alabama and the Gwin and Dougharty map of Mississippi, both published in 1838); “Post Office Maps” (i.e., those produced by the U.S. Post Office Department under Walter Lamb Nicholson); “local surveys;” and “additions” from fresh information provided by senior engineers of Union forces.

There are at least two known states of this map: That offered here is printed in blue and black, while another state has landmasses printed in yellow and rail lines highlighted in red. With the exception of the extra color, there is no apparent difference between the two.

Stephenson, Civil War Maps, #260 (another issue, with railroads in red).


Fold split at top, nicely mended. Very minor spotting and creasing, but very good or better overall