Rare map of Virginia added to our Collection

Posted on
MSM 1---1914.jpeg
New Map of Virginia, J. W. Randolph, 1861. MSM1-1914

The Mariners’ Library is pleased to announce the addition of a significant map of Virginia to the cartographic collection. Titled New Map of Virginia compiled from the latest maps 1861, this pocket map was published in mid-1861 by the Richmond, Virginia firm of J. W. Randolph. Other Richmond area firms involved in the printing of the map include Husted & Nenning, credited with drawing and coloring it, and Hoyer and Ludwig, credited as the lithographers. Scholars consider this map a rare Confederate imprint, with fewer than ten known examples in libraries and museums throughout the United States.

The map depicts Virginia on the eve of the Civil War, with the counties that would eventually form West Virginia still shown as part of the Commonwealth. A more precise dating of the map indicates that it
must have been printed after April 1861, as it includes Bland County, which was formed from portions of Giles, Tazewell, and Wythe Counties by an act of the General Assembly on March 30, 1861. In addition, the map includes insets in the upper right corner of the areas around Harpers Ferry and Norfolk Harbor and vicinity.   Read more

Coastal Ironclads Other Than Monitors

Posted on
Inventor John Ericsson, ca. 1862. Photographer unknown.
Courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command # NH 305.

The American Civil War is often considered the first modern industrial war. Both North and South endeavored to mobilize their resources to wage total war. This experience revolutionized naval warfare, and in doing so, forever changed America’s political, social, and economic fabric. 

Proponents of seapower had witnessed significant changes in ordnance, motive power, and ship design during the first half of the 19th century. Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Russell Mallory was the first to recognize that a new class of vessels, hitherto unknown in naval service, was needed. Mallory knew the possession of an armored ship was a matter of first necessity. The question then begged an answer: How could the agrarian South create such a warship? [1]   Read more

River Monitors

Posted on
Map of Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
Courtesy OhioRiverCorridor.com.

At the onset of the Civil War, General Winfield Scott noted that a Union victory could be achieved by controlling the Mississippi River. Scott believed the entire Mississippi Valley could be controlled using only 12 to 20 gunboats and 60,000 soldiers. More resources would eventually be needed; however, the Federals ultimately enabled, as President Abraham Lincoln said, the ‘Father of All Rivers to flow unvexed to the sea.’ 

Because the Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles was preoccupied with establishing a blockade of the Confederate coastline, he placed control of the Western Gunboat Flotilla to the War Department. This action would give a strong unity of command as the Union army and naval forces endeavored to wrestle the river from the Confederacy. Commander John Rodgers was initially placed in command of the flotilla; however, he was soon replaced by Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote.    Read more

Naval Intelligence in Hampton Roads: 1861-1862

Posted on
CSS Virginia.
The Mariners’ Museum.

There was no formal naval intelligence system established during the American Civil War. While a few examples exist of Northern sympathizers, free Blacks, like Mary Louvestre of Portsmouth, sent messages to various Union commanders about the Confederate ironclad construction effort. These links were unofficial and were generally between one Union officer and an individual. The Union nor the Confederacy needed to rely on such clandestine methods since Northern and Southern newspapers provided ample information, usually in a boastful manner. Each antagonist simply needed to obtain a copy of The New York Times or Mobile Register to gather all they needed to know about ironclad development. 

Union intelligence was able to receive valuable knowledge about the construction and impending attack of CSS Virginia. The information appeared to flow back and forth across Hampton Roads. On October 6, 1861, Major General John Ellis Wool, stationed at Fort Monroe as commander of the Union Department of Virginia, wrote to Lieutenant General Winfield Scott:   Read more