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John Hills Position of British Forces around Elizabeth Town PointA battle plan is any map depicting military events in a defined locale over a short period of time, including for example skirmishes, pitched battles and sieges.  What makes them particularly interesting is not simply the inherent, horrifying drama of war, but the challenge of conveying not only geographic phenomena but events as they take place over time: The designer of a battle plan must condense four-dimensional events into the two dimensions of a sheet of paper.

One finds an enormous variety of formats and styles of battle plan, governed by the skills and sources of the draughtsman; the conventions of the time, place and culture within which he worked; and his motivations.  Some are quite limited in their ambitions, such as this 1745 plan of the Siege of Louisbourg.  Others are complex, attempting to compress a complex sequence of events on a single sheet, such as this 1755 plan of the Battle of Lake George. They range from the unadorned, such as this woodcut plan of the Siege of Boston in a 1775 almanac, to ornate examples of the genre such as this 1781 plan of the Battle of Yorktown.

Another way battle plans vary is in the degree to which they highlight the maker’s own sympathies.  For example the battle plans issued by William Faden during the Revolutionary War tend to be straightforward and technical, such as this plan of the 1775-76 American Siege of Quebec. By contrast, this plan of the 1874 “White League Revolt” in New Orleans explicitly celebrates the attack on the Reconstruction government of the state.

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Rare American plan of the Battle of White Plains

This rare engraving from Charles Smith’s Monthly Military Repository is the first detailed battle plan of White Plains to be printed in the United States. The battle was violent but inconclusive. Following his decisive victories in Brooklyn and Manhattan, the British commander William Howe somehow allowed Washington to get the remnants of his army away […]

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An American debacle at Charleston

A fine example of Banastre Tarleton’s plan of the Siege of Charlestown, one of the greatest American setbacks of the Revolution. Offered here on excellent, heavy paper with very wide margins. The siege This map depicts in great detail the siege of Charleston, conducted by the British forces in early 1780 at the beginning of […]

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John Hills Position of British Forces around Elizabeth Town Point

John Hills map of the failed 1780 British invasion of New Jersey

A very nice example of this rare and finely engraved plan depicting the action around Elizabeth Town, New Jersey in June 1780, after a manuscript by the great military cartographer John Hills. The engagement around Elizabeth Town consisted of two phases fought on June 8 and 23, 1780, during the last major British campaign in […]

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Lieut. Richard Williams (surveyor) / Andrew Dury (publisher) / Jonathan Lodge (engraver), A PLAN OF BOSTON, and its ENVIRONS. shewing the true SITUATION of HIS MAJESTY’S ARMY. AND ALSO THOSE OF THE REBELS. Drawn by an Engineer at Boston. Octr. 1775.  London, 12th March, 1776.

Richard Williams’ fine plan of the siege of Boston

One of the finest contemporary plan of the 1775-76 siege of Boston, the opening campaign of the American Revolution, drawn by Richard Williams, a British officer on the spot, and published in London by Andrew Dury. The map is featured on the cover of Krieger and Cobb’s Mapping Boston, while Nebenzahl’s Atlas of the American […]

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Lieutenant [George Walker Dyall] Jones, Sketch of the Skirmish between ye Rear of the British Army under the Command of his Excellency Genl Sir H. Clinton and the Advanced Corps of ye Rebel Army June 28th. 1778. [New Jersey, ca. 1778.]

A unique contemporary manuscript plan of the 1778 Battle of Monmouth, which secured Washington’s role as “Father of the Nation”

Finely-executed contemporary manuscript plan of the Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey, the last major engagement of the Northern Theater of the American Revolution, drawn by a participant. The Battle of Monmouth occurred on June 28th, 1778, as British forces were relocating en masse from Philadelphia to their new headquarters at New York. This was […]

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Magnificent bird’s-eye view of the Battle of Gettysburg

A spectacular and remarkably informative depiction of the Battle of Gettysburg, which marked the turning point of the Civil War.   The view was published in late 1863, within months of the events depicted, and marked the beginning of John Bachelder’s three-decade career documenting and depicting the battle in prose, maps and prints. Here he depicts […]

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