Coast Survey chart of the James River, rushed into print for the Peninsula Campaign

HYDROGRAPHIC RECONNAISSANCE OF JAMES RIVER VIRGINIA FROM ENTRANCE TO CITY POINT By Com]mande]r W.T. MUSE & Lieuts. R. WAINWRIGHT & J.N. MAFFITT U.S.N. Assts. Coast Survey from 1854 to ’59. [Washington, D.C.:] United States Coast Survey A.D. Bache Sup[erintenden]t, [probably late 1861-early 1862.]
Engraving on heavy chart paper, 29 ½”h x 43”w at sheet edge, uncolored.

Extremely rare proof or first state of this very rare Coast Survey chart of the lower James River, perhaps hurried into print in preparation for McLellan’s disastrous Peninsula Campaign of 1862.

This chart depicts James River from its mouth Hampton Roads and Newport News 71 miles upstream to City Point (now Hopewell). Detailed soundings are indicated throughout, as are some shoals and the all-important shipping channel, which in places becomes quite narrow. Towns, plantations and other landmarks are identified along both shores, but there is little other terrestrial detail. A chart of sailing directions at lower right provides detailed instructions for navigating this channel. The chart is based on surveys conduced by U.S. Navy officers detailed to the Coast Survey during the 1850s, when that agency had undertaken a massive effort to survey the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Most charts issued by the Coast Survey were finely and precisely engraved, whereas this chart of the James River has a crude and unfinished appearance (For example it lacks a neat line, otherwise present on all Coast Survey charts I have seen.) This suggests it was rushed into print in preparation for McLellan’s Peninsula Campaign of 1862 and intended only for use by the military. The campaign began in March of 1862 with the amphibious landing of the Army of the Potomac at Fort Monroe and subsequent advance on the Confederate capital at Richmond. After initial success, the campaign stalled during the “Seven Days” battles of late June and July, due in no small part to McLellan’s habitual timidity and paranoia. Richmond was not threatened again until late 1864.

OCLC 876369099, recording but a single example at the Library of Virginia (July 2018). Stephenson #559.4 describes a later variant, with an added neat line and the imprint “Autographic transfer, July 1862.” That variant is also listed in OCLC #52285714, which locates examples at the Connecticut State Library, Library of Congress, Penn State and University of Virginia only (with another example held by the University of Virginia.) Neither state is described in Phillips, Rumsey or Guthorn’s United States Coastal Charts, and lists no examples of either state offered for sale in the past 30 years.


Some toning and soiling, most noticeable at right edge. Backed with modern linen to support old cracks and tears, with significant image restoration in hand facscimile, most notably at the lower right corner.