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 […]
A 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.