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U.S. CIVIL WAR: Stanford’s Map of the Seat of War in America. Zoom

U.S. CIVIL WAR: Stanford’s Map of the Seat of War in America.


Rare – a stellar example of one of the finest general maps showcasing the grand theatre of the U.S. Civil War; very large, exquisitely designed and originally hand coloured; with several key battle sites contemporarily underlined in manuscript; produced by the firm of Edward Stanford, then the rising star in global cartographic publishing.

Author: Edward STANFORD (1827 - 1904).
Place and Year: London, 1861.
Code: 65873

Lithograph with original hand colour and railway lines heightened in manuscript, with supplementary manuscript additions of military events added circa 1863, dissected into 48 sections and mounted upon original linen, folding into original dark green cloth slipcase bearing printed title label (Very Good, map clean and bright with resplendent original colours; slipcase with light shelfwear and restoration to upper left corner), 126 x 105 cm (49.5 x 41.5 inches).


This very large and beautifully rendered map was published in the opening months of the U.S. Civil War (1861-5), and showcases the grand theatre of the conflict, being one of the finest works of its kind.  The present example is stellar, due not only to its lovely condition, but also the heightening of all railways in red ink (being vital corridors of military movement) and its contemporary manuscript underlining of key battle sites.

The map embraces much of the Eastern United States, from New York City westwards to a point beyond the Mississippi River; and from Montreal, in the north, all the way down south past Tampa, Florida; thus taking in the vast majority of the theatre of the war.  Each state is bathed in its own beautiful wash colour, while the coasts are outlines in a bright aquamarine hue.  The map is immensely detailed, labelling virtually every city, town and fort of significance; as well as delineating all major potential corridors of military movement, including roads, canals and railways (which on the present example are all contemporarily heightened in neat, red ink).

While the map does not feature any printed details of wartime battle action, manuscript additions, in neat red and blue pen, underline the locations of major battle sites, highlights of which include the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia (December 1862); the Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi (May-July 1863); and the turning point of the entire war, the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (July, 1863).  There does not seem to be any details definitively dating from after the summer of 1863, suggesting that the underlining was added in the late summer/autumn of that year. 

While the present map, complete in four sheets, was debuted on October 1st, 1861, less than 6 months into the war, the publisher Edward Stanford would have continued selling the map throughout the conflict.  The manuscript additions underlining key battle sites were likely added by Stanford’s workshop in an effort to update the map to reflect news of events as they arrived from across the Atlantic.  Some of the other known examples of the map (such as the example at the Library of Congress and another which sold at auction in 2005) feature manuscript additions of a similar style (although not identical content).  The careful heightening of the railway lines in neat red ink also seems to have been executed at the Stanford shop, as this aspect appears, but only partially rendered, on the other cited examples of the map.

The composition also features two cartographic insets, in the lower right corner.  The  ‘Southern Part of Florida’, details the southern extremity of the Floridian Peninsula, which is omitted from the main map. 

Below, the ‘General Map of the United States’ captures the entire nation, from coast to coast.  The Union States are coloured in dark brown; the Slave states are coloured in blue; while the territories, beyond the Mississippi, are coloured in light brown.  Importantly, a red manuscript line, ‘Inland boundary of Seceded States’, cuts through the blue slave states, dividing those that joined the Confederacy (to the south of the line), from those states that remained (willingly or otherwise) part of the Union.

The present map is actually composed of four distinct sheets (quarter sections), which are here conjoined and then dissected.  The map was both sold in its present form (with all four sheets) and as individual single sheets.  The complete composition is very rare, while examples of the individual quarter sections, while still scarce, appear occasionally on the market.


Political Context: Great Britain and the U.S. Civil War

Although examples of the present map surely found their way to the United States, the work was made primarily made to inform British subjects as to the geographical scope and details with respect to the unfolding conflict in America.  While Britain never had any formal involvement in the war, it both influenced and was deeply affected by the course of the war.

Britain was simultaneously (and awkwardly) both the greatest international opponent of slavery, as well as the greatest foreign beneficiary of slavery in the United States.  Britain had spearheaded the abolition of the global slave trade earlier in the 19th Century, and Canada, a British possession, was the final destination of the Underground Railroad, providing safe haven to thousands of African Americans escaping bondage in the U.S. South.

On the other side, a large percentage of the cotton, the main product of the South’s slave economy, was shipped to British textile mills.  Beyond this massive trade, Britain was also a major investor in Southern businesses and property development schemes.

Overshadowing Britain’s relationship with the South, Washington and London were strategic rivals.  America had long coveted Canada, and the Lincoln Administration included several prominent advocates of ‘Manifest Destiny’, the long-held notion that the U.S. was preordained to possess all of the North American continent.  Moreover, America’s industrial economy, while still much smaller than that that of the British Empire, was growing rapidly, and threatened to one day overtake it.

The outbreak of the U.S. Civil War, in April 1861, and the Union blockade of the Confederate coasts, decimated British-Southern trade, resulting in immense financial loss to Britain.  Britain responded cautiously, and did not always follow a clear policy; however, Whitehall ideally desired that the Confederacy should fare well, if not win the war and secure its independence.  A Confederate victory would renew the lucrative cotton trade.  Moreover, Britain feared a strong Union, and if the South could not ultimately win, they hoped that at least she could maul the North, thus lessening the American threat to Britain’s global dominance and Canada’s security.  All this being said, Britain had to be careful not to openly oppose the North, lest Washington feel sufficiently threatened to suspend trade with Britain, or, more drastically, to invade Canada or the British West Indies.

Whitehall settled on granting soft support to the Confederacy sub rosa, delivered by private entities, so providing an element of plausible deniability, should Washington complain.  British arms manufacturers provided weapons to the Confederates (via intermediaries), while British shipyards built vessels that were used by Southern blockade-runners and privateers.  In particular the CSS Alabama, built on the Merseyside in 1862, inflicted spectacular damage upon the Union Navy.  Moreover, Canada served as a place of refuge for Confederates, and was even used as a base for mounting raids upon Union territory.  These activities did no go unnoticed by the Lincoln Administration, although they were not of sufficient severity to motivate Washington to assume the serious risk of taking hostile action against Britain. 

As evidenced by the manuscript additions to the present example of Stanford’s map, the events of the U.S. Civil war were followed with avid interest in Britain.

In the end, British support for the Confederacy, while symbolically important, did not have a meaningful impact upon the progress and outcome of the war.  It did, however, sour relations between London and Washington to the point where their mutual discourse became openly acrimonious.  In 1866, Washington turned a blind eye to the ‘Fenian Raids’, low-grade attacks by Irish Catholic militias upon Canada, mounted from U.S. territory.  American politicians also upped their Manifest Destiny rhetoric, made all the more serious by the U.S. purchase of Alaska (1867), which ‘boxed-in’ the British possessions in the Pacific Northwest.  However, the success of Canadian Confederation augured the death knell of Manifest Destiny, while Britain’s offer to pay the U.S. monetary compensation for aiding the Confederacy, allowed the nations to ameliorate their relationship in early 1870s.


Edward Stanford’s Influential ‘Library Maps’

The present map is one of an extensive series of ‘Library Maps’ (large, elegant maps laid on linen that folded into covers or a slipcase and that could be shelved like a book) made by Edward Stanford Ltd.  Founded in 1853 by Edward Stanford (1827 – 1904), for three generations the enterprise was the leading mapmaker in the British Empire, if not the world.  Stanford and his associates had stellar high-level connections with all aspects of the British government, both in London and in the colonies.  They were able to obtain the latest and best information, always aware of precisely which kinds of maps were in demand by both Crown officials and the public at large. 


A Note on Rarity

Stanford’s map of the theatre of the U.S. Civil War, complete in all 4 sections, as present here, is very rare.  We cannot trace another example as appearing on the market since 2005.


References: Library of Congress: G3700 1861 .S8; Richard W. Stephenson, Civil War Maps: An Annotated List of Maps and Atlases in the Library of Congress (2nd ed., Washington, 1989), no. 17.55.