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Civil War Trust

Jedediah Hotchkiss

November 30, 1828 – January 17, 1899

Major Jedediah Hotchkiss

One of the most famous mapmakers of the Civil War was Major Jedediah Hotchkiss, a topographical engineer on Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's staff. Some historians believe that Hotchkiss' accurate maps ensured the success of Jackson's 1862 Valley Campaign.

Born in New York in 1828, Jed Hotchkiss moved to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia in 1847 where he earned his living as a schoolteacher. Hotchkiss also supplemented his income as a mining geologist and - though never formally trained as a cartographer - by making maps. He married a Pennsylvanian named Sara Ann Comfort in 1853 and they had two daughters. In 1859, Jed Hotchkiss and his brother Nelson founded the Loch Willow Academy, a school for boys, in Churchville.

Hotchkiss closed his school in June 1861 and began his military career drawing maps for Confederate General Robert Garnett in western Virginia. In 1862, he secured an appointment on Jackson's staff. "I want you to make me a map of the Valley, from Harpers Ferry to Lexington," Jackson ordered Hotchkiss, "showing all the points of offence and defence in those places." There were very few maps for Hotchkiss to use as a base for his own work, and he usually rode out on horseback to survey the land himself. The Hotchkiss-Jackson combination bred success, for the general's lightning strikes depended heavily on making the most of the terrain. After Jackson's death in 1863, Hotchkiss continued as a topographical engineer with the Confederate forces, traveling with General Richard Ewell to Gettysburg and then, back in Virginia, serving under General Jubal Early. It was one of Hotchkiss' maps that enabled Early to surprise the Federals at Cedar Creek in October 1864.

After the war ended in 1865, Hotchkiss returned to the Shenandoah Valley, opening an engineering firm and teaching school in Staunton, Virginia. In 1867, he wrote a book with a friend, Jackson's former chief of ordnance William Allen, entitled The Battlefields of Virginia: Chancellorsville. Hotchkiss died in January 1899 after a successful post-war career as a geologist and engineer.

Jedediah Hotchkiss' journal was edited in 1973 by Archie P. MacDonald and published under the title Make Me a Map of the Valley: The Civil War Journal of Stonewall Jackson's Cartographer. A more recent biography, Mapping for Stonewall: The Civil War Service of Jed Hotchkiss was written by historian William Miller and published by Elliott and Clark in 1993. Hotchkiss' sketchbooks, diaries, and maps are available at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

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