Depicting a Fractured Society: Civil War Maps

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"The New Naval And Military Map Of The United States." Courtesy the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

In the mid-nineteenth century, America’s division over slavery quickly escalated into the American Civil War, and with the war came a new appreciation for maps. These maps of wartime and national conflict served many purposes for the people of the United States, and were published by national journals such as Harpers, local presses, federal and state governments, and independent mapmakers. Many maps were purely utilitarian. But even those could be beautiful. Whatever their visual quality, maps served to describe and define new confederacies or lost ground, locate population groups such as slaves or enemy combatants, and even memorialize military strategies, battles, and heroes. In a country being torn apart, maps became representative of the grim realities of war and the division between North and South.