Located on the east bank of the Mississippi, Columbus offered a strategic location, with high bluffs overlooking the river and lying at the northern terminus of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. It was seized on September 4, 1861 by Brig. General Gideon Johnson Pillow, operating under the orders of Maj. General Leonidas Polk. Pillow constructed Fort DuRussey on the bank of the Mississippi just upstream from Columbus, and installed a massive chain running across the river in order to prevent passage of Union vessels (The chain soon broke, but Union forces didn’t learn of this until later.) Though nicknamed the “Gibraltar of the West”, Ulysses S. Grant’s success at Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee forced to abandon Columbus—and the rest of Kentucky—by early 1862.
Generally assigned a date of 1862 (see Stephenson, Civil War Maps, #217) this map depicts the area around Columbus in some detail, including a plan of the city, topographical detail of the bluffs to the north and east, the route of the Mobile and Ohio, and the fortifications constructed by the Confederates. These were designed to provide both control of the bluffs against Union forces expected to advance from the Kentucky interior, and to control Union naval traffic on the river (Note for example the “Capstan used to stretch the chain across the river” on the Missouri bank of the Mississippi.) A legend identifies key elements of the defenses, and just above are cross sections of the different entrenchments.
The imprint of New York lithographer Julius Bien, visible in the lower-left margin of most other examples I have seen, is not present here. The original manuscript for the map is held in the Library of Congress.
The map was based on surveys overseen by Brigadier General George Washington Cullum (1809-92). A native of New York City, Cullum graduated from West Point in 1833 and spent the next quarter century overseeing construction projects up and down the East Coast, while also teaching at the Military Academy. After serving in the Western Theatre under Grant, for the remainder of the War he was involved in inspecting and construction fortifications throughout the North. He served as Superintendent at West Point from 1864-66 and retired form the service in 1874. He returned to New York City, where he was active in civic live, serving among other things as vice-president of the American Geographical Society.