The most desirable printed battle plan of the American Revolution.
The Battle of Yorktown was decisive in sealing American independence and made a fitting subject for this map, the first large-scale battle plan published in the United States. It was drawn by Major Sebastian Bauman, a prominent American artillery commander who surveyed the battlefield just days after Cornwallis’ surrender.
The plan is a profoundly competent and informative depiction, executed by a highly-trained Continental engineer in the American service. But it is also a tour de force of graphic design. “Bauman’s is a brilliant and exuberant design; his plan of the battlefield is a celebration of George Washington, of the French alliance, of the glorious victory, and of the birth of the United States of America.” (Wooldridge, p. 182)
Description of the plan
Bauman’s plan is remarkably detailed, more so in fact than any other Revolutionary-era plan of my acquaintance. This may be seen in the depiction of the local topography, which differentiates open meadows, tilled fields, woodlands and wetlands, streams and ravines, &c. It is also evident in the depiction of the British fortifications and Franco-American siege works; the positions of the front-line units; the headquarters of the principal commanders including Washington, Rochambeau, Knox and Lafayette; and support functions such as hospitals, magazines and even a mysterious “laboratory” near General Knox’s headquarters. Bauman even locates “Moore’s House,” the only residence shown on the plan and the site where the British surrender was negotiated.
A tromp l’oeil scroll at upper left bears a numeric key identifying artillery batteries and British vessels in the York River. The most salient decorative feature is the large rococo cartouche at the base, which bears a long description of the progress of the siege with an alphanumeric key identifying locations on the plan. The cartouche is surrounded by implements of war and several banners, including what seems to be the earliest appearance in print of the United States flag. This elaborate ornamentation is atypical for British or American battle plans of the period and reveals Bauman’s Continental training. Pritchard and Taliaferro offer an interesting interpretation:
“The shape of the scrollwork cartouche surrounding the explanation, with flags and banners that thrust upward from both sides, force the eye to the very center of the image. Here, in an open space, is the very heart of the map, The Field where the British laid down their Arms.” (Pritchard and Taliaferro, p. 292)
Not surprisingly, British plans of the battle fail to highlight the site of the surrender ceremony.
Bauman and Scot
Sebastian Bauman (1739-1803) was born in Frankfurt, trained as a military engineer and served for a time in the Austrian Army. He emigrated to British America in time to serve in the New York militia during the French and Indian War. His first service in the Revolution was also with the militia, but in early 1777 he was promoted to major and assigned to the Col. John Lamb’s 2nd Continental Artillery. From 1779 he was at West Point, during which time his plans of the fortress were stolen by Benedict Arnold and later found on the person of Major Andre. He was with the 2nd Continental Artillery at Yorktown, where the unit served with distinction.
A note on the plan suggests that Bauman himself surveyed the field of battle “between the 22nd & 28th of October, 1781,” i.e., almost immediately after the British surrender on October 19. His drafts seem to have met with great approval, for by early 1782 announcements such as the following began appearing in American newspapers:
“Major BAUMAN of the New York or Second Regiment of Artillery Has drawn a MAP Of the Investment of York and Gloucester, in Virginia.
“Showing how those points were besieged in form by the allied army of America and France; the British linesof defense, and the American and French lines of approach; with part of the York River, and the British ships, as they then sunk in it before York-Town; and the whole encampment in its vicinity.
“This MAP, by desire of many gentlemen, will shortly be published in Philadelphia, in order that the public may form an idea of that memorable siege. Those gentlemen who wish to become subscribers, will apply to Captain Arnold, in Morristown, and to the printer hereof; where the conditions will be shown, and subscription money be received.” (New-Jersey Journal, January 30, 1782)
Yet there must have been delays, as Guthorn notes a June 26, 1782 letter from Bauman to von Steuben indicating that the map was being printed. (Guthorn, p.8) An announcement in the Pennsylvania Packet for July 18 confirms this and also informs us that the price to subscribers was $2. Whatever the exact date of its release, Bauman’s plan would have been most Americans’ first graphical interpretation of the events of the battle.
For its significance, detail, accuracy and visual impact Bauman’s plan is justly considered the greatest map of the Revolutionary era.
Fite and Freeman, A Book of Old Maps, pp. 286-288. Guthorn, American Maps and Map Makers of the Revolution, pp. 8-9. Nebenzahl, Atlas of the American Revolution, pp. 182-184 (illus. 48). Nebenzahl, Bibliography of Printed Battle Plans of the American Revolution, #189. Phillips, List of Maps of America, p. 1133. Pritchard and Taliaferro, Degrees of Latitude, #68 (illus. pl. 220). Sellers and Van Ee, Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies 1750-1789, #1471. Stauffer, American Engravers, #2870. Stokes and Haskell, American Historical Prints, #1781-B112. Verner, “Maps of the Yorktown Campaign 1780-1781,” #XXVI.7 (in Map Collector’s Circle, no. 18 (1865) and reprinted as chapter 7 in R.V. Tooley, ed., The Mapping of America). Verner, The Printed Maps of Virginia 1590-1800 (unpublished typescript), #790. Wheat and Brun, Maps and Charts Published in America before 1800, #541. Wooldridge, Mapping Virginia, pp. 181-182 (illus. pl. 165).
Wheat and Brun record impressions of the map at the John Carter Brown Library, Library of Congress (Rochambeau Collection), the Library Company of Philadelphia, Massachusetts Historical Society, New Hampshire Historical Society, New York Public Library (Stokes Collection), the University of Michigan-Clements (2), Yale University, and the French War Office. Verner’s unpublished typescript on Virginia maps adds the New England Historical Society and Virginia Historical Society. Fite and Freeman add another at the New York Historical Society. OCLC adds examples at the Library of Virginia and U.S. Military Academy, another is held by Colonial Williamsburg, and a few are held in private collections. Antique Map Price Record lists only a single example having appeared on the market since the 1980s, sold by Waverly Auctions for just under $123,000 in 2009. That example was trimmed nearly to the image and almost completely separated along a centerfold.
Rather extensive biographical information on Bauman, emphasizing his activities during the Revolution, may be found in Alexander Vietor, “The Bauman Map of the Siege of Yorktown” (in Yale University Library, Gazette, vol. 21 no. 2 (Oct. 1946), pp. 15-17). Additional background may be found in “Bauman’s Map of the Siege of Yorktown” (in The Magazine of American History, vol. 6 (1881) pp. 52-56).
Our impression was recently deaccessioned by a New England institution for the benefit of its acquisitions fund.
Overall in very good condition. Occasional minor stain. Some paper losses along left and right and edges, all outside of plate mark. Two small punctures in the upper corners, likely from being pinned to a wall at an early date.