Stonewall’s mapmaker: How Jed Hotchkiss mapped out the Gettysburg Campaign

Digital Originals

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Civil War and More Bookstore in Mechanicsburg has books for adults and children, as well as music, souvenirs, some model ironclads, and maps. Many of the maps owner Jim Schmick sells are replicas of charts drawn up during the Civil War.

One of these was created by Jedadiah Hotchkiss, staff cartographer for Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Oddly enough, he wasn’t originally a Southerner.

“He is from the Binghamton, New York area,” Jim Schmick said. “And one of his first jobs was as a school teacher around Lykens, teaching the coal miners’ kids. So as a hobby, he taught himself cartography and drawing of maps. And he mapped out the Cumberland down into the Shenandoah Valley.”

He eventually moved to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, where he continues to teach and draw maps.

When the Civil War broke out, he sided with his adopted state of Virginia. His mapmaking abilities soon attracted the attention of General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, commander of the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.

In a sense, the story of Hotchkiss’s Pennsylvania map starts in Maryland. On September 17th, 1862, Robert E. Lee’s first attempt to carry the war into the North got stopped at the Battle of Antietam.

“This was the bloodiest single day of the Civil War. Overall casualties exceeded 22,000 dead, wounded, and missing, which was just unprecedented. It was definitely a bloodletting on the scale of which the United States had not yet seen,” Dr. Christian B. Keller, Director of the Military History Program at the Army War College said.

Undaunted by their failure, Lee and Stonewall Jackson soon begin planning another invasion for 1863. On February 23, 1863, Jackson ordered Jed Hotchkiss to start work on a map of Pennsylvania.

The map Hotchkiss created now resides at the Handley Library in Winchester, Va. It’s part of the collection of the Stewart Bell Jr. Archives, located in the library’s basement. It received extensive conservation in the 1980s, and now sits in a special conservation frame and matting, with special glass to protect it from ultraviolet light. Usually, it’s also covered with a black cloth, but they brought it out so we could see and photograph it.

“This was meant to be a theater map, which would show Jackson the whole area of potential conflict,” Lorna Loring, an Archive Associate said.

The map displays Hotchkiss’s incredible passion for detail, artistic ability-and a near-photographic memory. “He could ride out on the terrain and look at it once or twice, and he could create an accurate topographical sketch of the landscape,” Loring said.

Not that Hotchkiss relied solely on memory. Confederate spies, or scouts as they were called then, traveled through Pennsylvania, getting maps at township and borough offices.

The information flowed back to Hotchkiss, who incorporated it into his map.

“Towns, roads, and detail as specific as farmsteads and individual houses can be discerned on the Hotchkiss map, it’s remarkably accurate,” Dr. Keller said. “The map is essentially Jackson’s attempt to create a guide for what he and Lee anticipate will be their spring invasion of Pennsylvania. And it was understood that without such a good map is this that the army would be going in blind.”

But Stonewall Jackson never got to use the map he commissioned. On May 2, during the Battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson was reconnoitering the field at dusk. In the darkness, Confederate troops mistook his group for Union Cavalry, and opened fire.

Jackson’s left arm had to be amputated, and eight days later he dies of pneumonia.

The map, however, serves its original purpose.

“The Hotchkiss map will ultimately travel in the saddlebags of many of the leading Confederate officers in the actual Gettysburg or Pennsylvania campaign in the Summer of ’63,” Dr. Keller said.

On June 22, 1863. soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia entered Pennsylvania. They fanned out across the countryside, traveling as far east as Wrightville, and as far north as Camp Hill, just a few miles shy of Harrisburg. Wherever they went, they “requisition” food and supplies.

Thanks to the Hotchkiss map, their foraging successes were not just luck, they knew where find what they’re looking for.

“They got over 70,000 sheep and cattle coming out of the Cumberland Valley,” Jim Schmick said. “Just the herd was thirteen miles long.”

And the Confederates piled up tons of other supplies as well, their baggage trains stretched for miles.

But the booty costs them dearly. After their mauling at Gettysburg, Lee’s army never recovered enough to go on the offensive again.

Two years, a vicious, grinding war of attrition, and a horrifying body count later, the war ended. Hotchkiss returns to civilian life.

“After the Civil War,” Loring said. “He was an engineer, specialized in mining, so he had a lot of geological maps too.”

Then in the 1880s, the U.S. Government published its massive “War of the Rebellion-Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.”

Hotchkiss drew a lot of the maps. His Gettysburg campaign map became part of the record.

As published, it’s about half the size of the original, contains side maps of other parts of the campaign, and removes the names of the occupants of the houses.

Hotchkiss died in 1899, at the age of 71, remembered as one of the greatest mapmakers on either side of the Civil War.

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