[CIVIL WAR] - W. E. MERRILL
Map of Northern Georgia, made under the Direction of Capt. W. E. Merrill
Chattanooga: 2 May 1864. Lithographed folding map, sectioned and linen-backed as issued. Original card covers, printed paper label. In a modern folding morocco-backed box. Sheet size: 39 x 35 ¼ inches.
A remarkable Union Army field map, printed for Sherman's operations in Georgia.
A highly detailed map of the northern part of Georgia, made under the direction of Capt. W. E. Merrill, Chief Topographical Engineer of the Army of the Cumberland. The map shows all the major roads and rail lines, in addition to natural topographical features, in northern Georgia. The map extends as far north as Chattanooga near the Georgia/Tennessee state line, and far enough south and east to include the northwest sixth of the state.
The capture of Chattanooga in November 1863 gave the Union the foothold they needed to cut off supply lines and advance into the deep South. In the spring of 1864 the forces under Gen. William T. Sherman were poised to strike. As soon as Chattanooga was taken, Sherman's chief topographical engineer, Capt. William E. Merrill, "the most innovative and conscientious exponent of mapping during the Civil War", began to compile a map of northwest Georgia.
Merrill had his own complete establishment for map production -- a printing press, lithographic presses, and draughtsmen. Equally importantly, Merrill's assistant Sgt. N. Finnegan developed an extraordinary body of intelligence, drawing on spies, prisoners, refugees, peddlars, itinerant preachers and scouts, what Merrill called "his motley crew". All of this information was digested by Merrill day by day, until he was notified that the campaign would begin within the week. At this point the topographers finished their work, and two hundred copies were produced, mounted on linen for field use, and distributed to field commanders down to the brigade level. In five months Merrill and his men had produced a remarkably accurate map of country that lay mostly behind enemy lines.
The Merrill map was a critical aid to Sherman's campaigns in Georgia. Five days after the map was completed, on May 7, Sherman's army left Chattanooga and began its hard-fought push to the southeast, slowly driving the Confederates back to the railroad hub of Atlanta (which is in the lower right quadrant of this map). In a campaign of continual attempts by both armies to outflank each other, the understanding of the ground it would have brought the Union commanders was invaluable. Sherman took possession of Atlanta in September, and used it as a base of operations for the next two and a half months while he raided in every direction, all within the boundaries of this map. On November 15 the Federal forces burned the city, cut loose from their rail communications with Chattanooga, and began the famous March to the Sea, heading east toward Savannah, burning and pillaging everything in their path. About a week later they moved off the east edge of this map.
An examination shows why this map would have been an invaluable aid to the Union commanders in the Georgia campaign. It details topography, rivers, existing roads and railroads, towns and other features on a very small scale of four miles to the inch. Conveying the latest in Union military intelligence and combining new and existing information, it would have guided Sherman and his officers through eight months of the hardest-fought campaigning of the entire Civil War. A triumph of coordinated intelligence and map-making, it is one of the most remarkable cartographic productions of the Civil War. Indeed, it might be called the "Holster Atlas" of the Georgia campaign.
Stephenson, Civil War Maps in the Library of Congress , S28-29; Miller, Great Maps of the Civil War, p.39.