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Highly detailed chart of the area around Charleston and Charleston Harbor, published by the U.S. Coast Survey in 1863.

First issued in 1858 and updated during the Civil War, this extremely rare, separately-issued variant is overprinted to show the tactical situation around Charleston after the Union capture of Fort Wagner in September 1863.

The base chart depicts the entrance to the harbor from offshore and locates Kiawah and Folly Island, Light House Inlet, Sullivan's Island, James Island, and Hog Island, with Charleston flanked by the Ashley & Cooper Rivers. A trove of information, the charts include immensely detailed soundings; navigational hazards and aids such as lighthouses and light ships; and sailing directions. Also provided is detailed topographical and cartographical information on the adjacent coastal regions, including a detailed plan of Charleston and its streets, wharves and major landmarks.

This example of the chart is remarkable for being overprinted in color to show the tactical situation in and around Charleston, with particular emphasis on the siege of Fort Wagner in the Summer of 1863 and its capture on September 7th of that year. "National" and "Rebel" batteries, trenches, forts and warships are indicated in blue and red respectively, with "Rebel Batteries in possession [of] national Forces" overprinted in both colors and, in the case of Fort Wagner, proudly displaying the American flag. Distances from the city center are shown by means of concentric red circles at ½-mile intervals.

A note that "The National works constructed since the Capture of Ft. Wagner are not represented" suggests the chart was hurried through production immediately after the battle and rushed to policy makers and field officers for use in the ongoing efforts to take Charleston. This surmise is further supported by the relatively slapdash quality of the overprinting, which is entirely out of character a Coast Survey production.

Stephenson's Civil War Maps #379-382 records several versions of this chart, including variants lacking the added legend, the locations of iron clads and/or the concentric circles indicating distances; as well as another edition covering less area to the west and thereby omitting Kiawah and much of James Island as well as the western approaches of Charleston. Stephenson #379.5 describes a presumably earlier variant depicting "Batteries still held by the Rebels [on] July 17, 1863."

This chart was published during the Civil War and annotated to show concentric circles in 1/2 mile intervals for a total of 6 miles, depicting the distance from the center of Charleston and annotations including:

  • "National" Batteries on Folly Island
  • Rebel Batteries in possession of National Forces as of September 7, 1863
  • Batteries still held by the Rebels as of September 7, 1863
  • Trenches & Batteries of National Army during Siege of Ft. Wagner
  • Positions of attacking fleet during action
  • Usual positions of Rebel Iron Clads

There are at least 5 different charts of similar titles published by the US Coast Survey, with different scales and different annotations. See below for links:

We were not able to locate another example of this version of the map. All of the overprinted versions are of the utmost rarity--we have never seen another example on the market.

United States Coast Survey Biography

The United States Office of the Coast Survey began in 1807, when Thomas Jefferson founded the Survey of the Coast. However, the fledgling office was plagued by the War of 1812 and disagreements over whether it should be civilian or military controlled. The entity was re-founded in 1832 with Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler as its superintendent. Although a civilian agency, many military officers served the office; army officers tended to perform the topographic surveys, while naval officers conducted the hydrographic work.

The Survey’s history was greatly affected by larger events in American history. During the Civil War, while the agency was led by Alexander Dallas Bache (Benjamin Franklin’s grandson), the Survey provided the Union army with charts. Survey personnel accompanied blockading squadrons in the field, making new charts in the process.

After the Civil War, as the country was settled, the Coast Survey sent parties to make new maps, employing scientists and naturalists like John Muir and Louis Agassiz in the process. By 1926, the Survey expanded their purview further to include aeronautical charts. During the Great Depression, the Coast Survey employed over 10,000 people and in the Second World War the office oversaw the production of 100 million maps for the Allies. Since 1970, the Coastal and Geodetic Survey has formed part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and it is still producing navigational products and services today.