Geography of War

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"Complete map of Richmond and its fortification," 1863. Courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth.

Terrain influenced strategies and often determined outcome. Knowledge of the landscape meant victory or defeat. Except for coastal areas, there were few large-scale topographic maps of the theaters of war available to military strategists prior to engagement. These factors gave military leadership in the South an initial advantage.

The North created broad geographical strategies that would capitalize on its economic strengths, particularly the disruption of trade which included a naval blockade of southern ports, control of the Mississippi River, and destruction of supply routes. Both sides were determined to capture each other’s capital. Although Washington, DC, was threatened several times, the Confederate capital of Richmond remained an elusive goal until the war's end.