A rare and spectacular map of the theatre of the Civil War in the Mid-Atlantic region, with much information on the many engagements fought by the Army of the Potomac.
The Army of the Potomac was created in July 1861, soon after the shocking Union defeat at First Bull Run. Its dual missions were to protect Washington, D.C. and defeat Robert E. Lee’s Army smaller, poorly-resourced Army of Virginia. It ultimately succeeded, but only after surviving badly-flawed commanders (think McClellan and Burnside), shocking defeats (Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville), and losses so horrific as to bring the entire Union war effort into question.
This map by Gustavus Bechler was published soon after April 9, 1865, no doubt to capitalize on Northern patriotic enthusiasm after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. The map depicts roughly the eastern half of Virginia, the Maryland panhandle, and part of southern Pennsylvania. Counties are delineated in still-vibrant wash and outline color; roads, rail lines and waterways are shown; and the Blue Ridge Mountains and other elevations are depicted in the archaic “molehill” style. The geography is likely adopted from Ludwig Bucholtz’ 1859 update of Herman Boye’s 1821 state map of Virginia, which at the time would have been the best-available source.
To the base map Bechler has added the locations and dates of many dozens of battles fought by the Army of the Potomac between late 1861 and Lee’s surrender. The sheer density of the violence is shocking: Over the better part of four years hundreds of thousands of men marched, camped, ate, fought and died in hundreds of encounters, from small skirmishes to vast battles at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and elsewhere, leaving much of the region a denuded waste.
The map was previously issued in 1864 under a slightly-different title, with authorship explicitly attributed to Bechler in the title block, and a paste-on publisher’s slip for Frederick Leypoldt in Philadelphia (see Stephenson #486).
A native of Saxony, Bechler (1830-ca. 1892) emigrated to the United States around 1850 and gained U.S. citizenship in 1855. It is not clear where he trained, but during his career he worked as a lithographer, mapmaker, and eventually surveyor. His first recorded position in this country is as a lithographer with the Philadelphia map publishing firm of Robert P. Smith. While there he worked on wall maps of three Michigan counties, a state map of New York, and no doubt other Smith publications.
During the Civil War he compiled this large map of Virginia, as well as a companion work, Atlas Showing Battles, Engagements, and Important Localities Connected with the Campaigns in Virginia, Completing the Campaign Map, which he published under his own imprint. Given the subsequent course of Bechler’s career, I surmise that he must have chafed at the demands and confines of commercial work.
Following the Civil War Bechler joined the U.S. Geological Survey. It is not known where he obtained his training as a surveyor and cartographer, but it must have been to a very high level indeed: He was the lead surveyor and mapmaker on Hayden’s 1872 Yellowstone Expedition and a number of subsequent Western explorations. Many of the Yellowstone Expedition’s maps bear his name, as does the Bechler River within the National Park.
H. H. Lloyd
Henry Huggins Lloyd was born at Blandford, Massachusetts, on July 30, 1828. He was the brother of James Huggins Lloyd and Myron Marshall Lloyd (1841-1884), with whom he worked as H. H. Lloyd & Co., mapmakers and map-publishers in New York City, from about 1856 until his death in 1868.
Lloyd’s firm had an extensive output, a sample including the map offered here as well as H. H. Lloyd & Co’s. campaign military charts showing the principal strategic places of interest (1861), focused on principal coastal cities and harbors; Lloyd’s new military map of the border & southern states (1861), with frequent reprints to 1865; Lloyd’s new war map of Virginia (1862); Lloyd’s new county map of the United States and Canadas (1863); Lloyd’s new map of the Mississippi River from Cairo to its mouth (1863); S. G. Elliott, Map of the battlefield of Gettysburg (1864); Forty miles around New York (1867); and Matthew Fontaine Maury’s The Washington map of the United States (1868).
H. H. Lloyd should not be confused with his fierce rival, New York map dealer J. T. (James Telford) Lloyd (1828-1891). The principal cause of the rivalry was their very similar business names – each cautioning potential customers to ensure they visited the right shop – and an extensive range of very similar publications with both firms publishing maps of the campaigns and battles of the Civil War, targeted at both the military and civilian markets, as well as associated patriotic pieces, which they produced for sale to both sides in the war.
In all, an informative, attractive and scarce map of the Mississippi River, by one of the more colorful map publishers of the Civil War era.
Stephenson, Civil War Maps, #502. For this edition, OCLC 70103722 (Library of Congress, Univ. of Virginia) and 556551493 (British Library). Not in Wooldridge, Mapping Virginia. Some background on Bechler from Philadelphia on Stone.