During the Congressional debates on the annexation of Texas, one of the central questions was the location of its boundaries with neighboring states and with Mexico. Colonel J.J. Abert, Chief of the Corps of Topographical Engineers, charged Lieutenant William H. Emory with the preparation of this map (Emory may have given the nod because of his recent extensive experience on the survey of the United States-Canada border.) Emory’s map was submitted to Congress along with an explanatory memoir on April 29, 1844. A Senate resolution of June 11 “called for the publication of 1000 copies of the map “provided it can be done for the sum of $400””, and another 5000 were ordered in December. Despite the large print run, it is today scarce on the market.
Emory’s map was the first scientific attempt by the United States to accurately define the Republic of Texas and the first official map to recognize the territory claimed by the Texas Congress at independence in 1836. Not himself having been to Texas, Emory compiled it from a variety of sources that were available to him at the Corps of Topographical Engineers office in Washington. He relied most heavily on John Arrowsmith’s 1841 map of Texas, along with nearly 20 other sources, which he lists at the lower left, beginning with Humboldt and ending with Samuel Augustus Mitchell’s and William Kennedy’s maps of 1843.
Emory’s compilation reflects the Republic of Texas’ aggressive views of its own boundaries, as described by Wheat:
“The boundaries of Texas, as here shown, follow the “Rio Bravo del Norte or Rio Grande” to its source (including Santa Fe, Taos and the New Mexican settlements east of that stream), thence north to 42° North Latitude, thence east to a point north of the source of the Arkansas, thence south to that source and southeasterly and easterly along that stream to 100° Longitude, thence south to the Red River, and thereafter as defined by treaty.” (Trans-Mississippi West)
As so defined, Texas encompassed to much of modern-day New Mexico, while its panhandle stretched boldly north to 42° latitude almost to the North Fork of the Platte River, taking in a sizeable piece of what is now Colorado. By contrast, the southern boundary at the Rio Grande, the eastern boundary at the Sabine and Red Rivers, and the segment of the northern boundary following the Arkansas all reflect the state’s present-day limits. The Rio Grande boundary was particularly controversial, as Mexico claimed its border with Texas lay along the Nueces River to the north (In 1846 the dispute over this boundary touched off the Mexican-American War, which settled the matter in favor of the United States.)
Emory’s map also provides a detailed treatment of Texas waterways; indicates elevations more sketchily by hachuring; and delineates major roads, trails and the routes of numerous exploring expeditions such as those of Pike, Long, Gregg and Fremont. Tiny symbols indicate “political or commercial capital[s]”, forts, and the limits of navigation on a few rivers. A statistical table at left breaks down the free and slave populations of Texas and the populations of its towns.
Two other versions of the map are known. One, on the same scale, lacks only the imprint of engraver William Stone. The other is equally detailed but less than half the size. Streeter notes that it is not possible to establish priority between the two larger versions, but that “it is probable” that they preceded the reduced edition. (Bibliography of Texas)
The Topographical Engineers and William H. Emory
The U.S. Army’s Topographical Engineers existed as an entity, under a variety of names, from 1813 to 1863, when it was abolished by Congress and subsumed into the larger Corps of Engineers. Although ostensibly a military formation, the early work of the Engineers focused largely on civil engineering activities connected with canal, harbor and road surveying and preparation (To this day the Corps of Engineers remains responsible for all federally-funded civil engineering projects.) As the country expanded westward, the Engineers were heavily involved in mapping the new countries being explored, publishing important maps of the Mississippi, Texas, New Mexico, and so on. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the Topographical Engineers were refocused on providing the mapping necessary for the armies in the field.
Among the great names employed in the Bureau in the exploration and mapping of the West were John James Abert, James William Abert, William Hemsley Emory, John Charles Fremont, James Duncan Graham and Gouverneur Kemble Warren. Emory, the compiler of this map of Texas, was born in 1811 to a wealthy Maryland family, graduated from West Point in 1831, but resigned in 1836 to pursue a career in civil engineering. He returned to the Army in 1838, with a lieutenant’s commission in the Corps of Engineers. Emory then spent some years conducting hydrographic surveys in the East, and from 1844-46 worked under James Duncan Graham on the survey of the United States-Canada boundary. He must have made a strong impression, for in 1844 he was given the important assignment to produce this Map of Texas to inform deliberations about annexation.
During the war with Mexico Emory served in the Southwest under Stephen Kearny, which service was the basis for his Notes of a Military Reconnaissance from Fort Leavenworth to San Diego (1848). After the war he spent several years on the survey of the new boundary with Mexico, a commission extended after the Gadsden Purchase in 1853 added much of what is now Arizona and New Mexico to the national territory. He served the Union throughout the Civil War, eventually rising to command the 19th Corps in the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign. After the war he held several important posts, including as commander of the Department of the Gulf during Reconstruction. He retired in 1876 with the rank of Major General and a reputation as one of the country’s finest military leaders and most accomplished surveyors of the American West.
Martin & Martin, Maps of Texas & the Southwest, #33. Phillips, Maps of America, p. 844. Rumsey, #0262. Streeter, Bibliography of Texas, #1543 (Part III Vol.. II, pp. 499-501). Streeter, Trans-Mississippi West, #478 (Vol. II, pp. 190 and 262).