I was surprised to get an announcement about a new collection of Civil War maps, charts and documents from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), but it actually makes perfect sense:
Under the auspices of the NOAA is the Office of the Coast Survey, which president Thomas Jefferson established in 1807 to produce nautical charts that would provide for maritime safety, defense and the establishment of national boundaries. By the start of the Civil War, the Coast Survey was a leading scientific agency, charting coastlines and determining land elevations. It still surveys coasts and produces nautical charts today.
In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in 2011, NOAA has gathered materials the Coast Survey prepared during the war years into a free, online collection called Charting a More Perfect Union.
The collection, which will help you visualize terrain, ports, and coasts as they were from 1861 to 1865, includes:
- 394 maps and nautical charts used for naval campaigns, and troop movements and battles. You can search the maps by keyword(s), state or region, year or chart number. If you click Search without entering terms, you’ll get a list of all the documents in the collection (not in alphabetical or chronological order).
- the Coast Survey publication Notes on the Coast, which aided Union forces in planning naval blockades. Browse Notes on the Coast here.
- annual report summaries by war-era Coast Survey Superintendent Alexander Bache. Download them by year using the links on the Charting a More Perfect Union home page.
In your map search results, click to preview the map, such as this map of Atlanta, in the site’s image viewer:
Links in your list of search results let you open a high-resolution version of the map as a JPG or a MrSID (a kind of graphic file). A Cincinnati-area map I found opened very slowly as a jpg, but it enlarged to incredible detail. You can right click (on a PC) or control-click (on a Mac) and choose Save As to save the map to your computer.