Accurate Maps Were A Decisive Military Advantage

At the outbreak of the Civil War, neither side had reliable maps of the territories in which their forces would clash. Many maps had not been updated since the Revolutionary War. Meanwhile, villages and towns had sprung up; forts had been built; roads had been laid; fences and stonewalls erected; rivers bridged; canals dug; railroads built; harbors dredged; coastlines altered by storms. In some cases, the names of places had changed over time.

Both sides in the conflict quickly moved to rectify the situation, and in a number of battles the availability of accurate maps pointed the way to victory. In his memoirs, Sherman may have expressed how most military leaders felt when he wrote that his saddlebags always contained four essential items: “a change of underclothing, a flask of whiskey, cigars, and my maps.”