Mapping through South Carolina: What maps did Sherman use? And were they good maps?

Several readers have asked about the base map used for the daily maps for the Savannah Campaign and now the South Carolina Campaign.  As a convention, I chose to use the area maps from the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.  At one time, one could pick up the oversize re-printing of this work in exchange for three pictures of Ulysses S. Grant on rectangular paper.  Today, you can view high-definition scans of the original maps on the Library of Congress’ website.  For the phases of the march worked thus far, I’ve used the map from Plate CXLIV.  In the near future, I’ll move to the next plate, covering the upper half of South Carolina and into North Carolina… or switch to another version of the map that has  different tone background (sometimes the dark blue annotations blends in with the coastal swamps).

Aside from standardizing my map-sets, I chose these maps as they are a composite of those used during the marches.  And that opens a discussion of what maps were used during the march across South Carolina.  Before leaving Savannah, Major-General William T. Sherman tasked Colonel Orlando Poe to provide a set of maps for use in the forthcoming campaign.  Poe could not, of course, ride out an survey South Carolina.  For the most part, Poe had to rely upon a collection of previously published maps to create the desired product.  These maps varied in date of publication and reliability. As such, the lack of accurate, authoritative maps handicapped Federal movements.

A good example of this handicap is the placename I mentioned several times thus far while chronicling the march – Angley’s Post Office.  The label “Angley’s” appears on the Federal maps of the period, located near Jackson’s Branch (tributary to the Salkehatchie River), at a crossroads with forks leading to Buford’s Bridge and Rivers’ Bridge:

AngleysPOWarDept

With roads leading to those two vital crossing points, one can see why Angley’s would be an important place for the Federals in February 1865.  Trouble is, while that crossroad existed, Angley’s Post-Office did not.  Turning to a map of the Barnwell District from 1825, there was a property owned by John Rose at the crossroads:

AngleysPODistMap

The roads had changed a little since 1825.  So the map from that date was still useful. But was this one of the maps collected by Poe and used by Sherman?  I think so.  To the right side of the map is the legend:

AngleysPODistMap2

You see this map came from a 1818 survey, updated in 1825.  But the inked annotation is what we need to focus on here – “Approved, Chas. R. Suter, 1st Lt., U.S. Engrs., Chf. Engr., D.S.”  I’ve mentioned  Charles Suter before, but as a Captain and Chief Engineer of the Department of the South (thus the “D.S.”). Suter received his brevet to Captain in the summer of 1863 and full promotion in the spring of 1864.  So Suter was at Hilton Head when Poe was looking for maps to use.  But while this seems to fix the date Suter came in possession of the map at sometime prior to July 1863, it does not directly link the map to Sherman.  Those of you examining the details of the map likely noticed in the lower right corner is another annotation – “Sherman #130.”  Other South Carolina “District” (before they were county) maps in the Library of Congress Collection carry similar annotations from Suter and with a “Sherman” number.  While the catalog entry does not state so, I believe these maps are from Sherman’s papers.

So, if the placename “Angley’s Post-Office” didn’t come from the 1825 map, approved by Suter, where did it come from?  Well there is this postal map from 1839, with “Angley’s Branch” at that point:

AngleysPOPostalMap

Rivers’ Bridge is not on this map. But, that is likely because this map depicted “Post offices, postal roads, railroads, and canals.”  Rivers’ Bridge must not have gotten much mail at that time.  So at least one reference map indicated something named “Angley’s” at that location.  And in February 1865, many orders sent troops to Angley’s Post-Office.  Among those were orders to Brigadier-General Manning Force, Third Division, Seventeenth Corps.  On February 2, 1865, Force moved his division to secure Angley’s and the bridge over Jackson Branch to assist the Fifteenth Corps movements.  But he had trouble finding Angley’s.  He had reached the location where the map said Angley’s was, but there was no Angley’s!

As it was now night, and no one in the country had heard of Angley’s Post-Office, though the maps showed it to be near, and as I knew the Fifteenth Corps were to cross this bridge, and the rebel cavalry were in my rear on one road as well as in front, I went into camp, placing one brigade on each side of the stream. An officer of General Howard’s staff arriving in the night told me this was correct, the object of the detour being to secure the bridge for the Fifteenth Corps. Marching to this place to-day, in obedience to orders received in the night, I left one regiment to hold  the bridge until the arrival of the Fifteenth Corps. An old negro told me this morning that Angley’s Post-Office was discontinued thirty or forty years ago and the name had been forgotten.

Force, having secured the place, accomplished his mission.

Another example to mention is the place labeled “Store” on the maps.  It lay on the road south out of Angley’s (and you can see it on the first map above, near Cossawhatchie Swamp). Sherman issued orders sending the Fifteenth Corps to “the place marked ‘Store’ near Duck Branch Post-Office,” on February 2nd.   Later, on February 4, Major-General John Foster reported all the way up to Lieutenant-General Ulysses S. Grant that Sherman’s headquarters was at “a place called ‘The Store,’ at the cross-roads near Duck Bridge, over Coosawhatchie River, thirty-one miles and a half from Pocotaligo Station”   While I’m certain we could narrow down who this “store” belonged to and thus give it a proper name, what I find amusing is the generic title went on correspondence right to the top of the military chain of command.  If Sherman had really become lost that winter, the entire Federal army would have been looking for “stores” across South Carolina!

Just a couple of examples where the map problem came into play.  As a military historian, I feel knowledge of the maps used by the participants is vital to understanding the written primary source materials.  The officers issuing orders or making reports referenced geographic names.  The proper context of those names is only understood when located and identified on the maps the officers used.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, pages 405-6; Part II, Serial 99, page 300.)

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