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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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The only pitched battle fought in Vermont during the Revolution

The plan is one of a suite of important maps issued by William Faden depicting events of General Burgoyne’s disastrous 1777 campaign from Canada. It depicts the action at Hubbardton, Vermont, a sharp engagement between the rear guard of an American army retreating from Ticonderoga and the pursuing British under Simon Fraser. Though the battle […]

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Debacle at Ticonderoga

A handsome and valuable plan of Fort Ticonderoga and surroundings, detailing the layout of the fortress, its location commanding the river between Lakes George and Champlain, and troop positions during General Abercromby’s catastrophic frontal assault on French fortifications. The French under Montcalm were outnumbered four or five to one, but Ticonderoga’s difficult terrain allowed just one […]

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Archibald Campbell map of the 1778 British campaign against Savannah Georgia

The British capture Savannah Georgia in 1778

The only published map depicting the British capture of Savannah Georgia in 1778, drawn by expedition commander Archibald Campbell. Background By mid-1778 the war in the Middle and Northern Colonies was going poorly for the British. Burgoyne’s army had surrendered at Saratoga, Commander-in-Chief Henry Clinton had felt compelled to evacuate Philadelphia to reinforce New York, and […]

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Rare broadside plan of the Battle of Long Island

A rare separately-issued plan depicting a key battle of the American Revolution. Background Following the British evacuation of Boston and retreat to Halifax in March 1776, the Americans held tenuous control over the East Coast from Maine to Georgia. In truth, British mastery of the sea gave them the option to invade more or less […]

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Compiled by T.S. Hardee, C.E. / Lith. and Pub. by H. Lewis, 22 St. Charles St., BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS FOR FREEDOM September 14, 1874. New Orleans: H. Lewis, 1874.

The 1874 New Orleans White League revolt, with fascinating provenance

A dramatic and extremely rare battle plan of the 1874 White League Revolt in New Orleans, published within weeks of the events depicted. With provenance to the family of an important participant. Background The revolt had its origins in the disputed Louisiana gubernatorial election of 1872, in which Republican Senator William Pitt Kellogg took office […]

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BRM1373 Blodget Lake George_hires

Rare English edition of the first American battle plan

An extraordinary image. Based upon sketches by Samuel Blodget, and originally published in Boston just six weeks earlier, the plan shows Sir William Johnson’s victory over the French and their Indian allies on the south shore of Lake George, September 8th, 1755. Coming on the heels of Braddock’s calamitous defeat on the Monongahela, the battle […]

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A unique composite depicting the 1776 British debacle before Charleston

A unique and appealing composite depicting the failed British attack on Charleston, South Carolina in the Summer of 1776. Background In early 1776 General Howe sent an expedition against the Carolinas, the first objective being the region’s undisputed commercial and cultural hub at Charleston. The expedition, commanded by General Henry Clinton, was to rendezvous with […]

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William Faden plan of the 1775-76 siege of Quebec

Superb William Faden plan of the 1775-76 Siege of Quebec

The finest contemporary plan of Montgomery and Arnold’s siege of Quebec during the opening year of the Revolution, published only four months after the lifting of the siege. In May 1775 a force under Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold captured the British forts at Crown Point and Ticonderoga, from which were taken the cannon that […]

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Rare American battle plan of the first conquest of Louisbourg

A rare plan of the 1745 siege of the fortress of Louisbourg, cut in Boston by James Turner and published in one of the earliest American news magazines. All the more remarkable for having been issued less than a month after the French surrender. The massive French fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island was […]

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PLAN OF CAPE BRETON. [London: Printed by C. Ackers in St. John’s Street, August, 1745].

New Englanders capture Louisbourg in 1745

A scarce plan of the 1745 siege of the fortress of Louisbourg, published in the London Magazine for August of that year. Remarkable for having been issued less just a couple of months after the French surrender. Eighteenth-century North America was the scene of a global struggle for empire between France, Great Britain, Spain, and […]

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