As remarked in the previous chapter, there was a turning point in the cartography of New York around 1750. From this time on, the British paid much closer attention to the administration of their North American colonies, and particularly to New York. One reason for the end of this benign neglect, which characterized the British colonial administration in the first part of the eighteenth century, may be the cumulative effect of the growth of the population and economies of the North American colonies. Another reason was the increasing military rivalry with France, caused in part by French efforts to consolidate their hold over the Ohio Valley, which led to the outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1754. After the conclusion of that war, British attention remained focused on their American colonies because of the Stamp Act crisis and the other troubles leading up to the American Revolution. The heightened involvement of the British political establishment and its army in American affairs led, as one would expect, to an increase in the production of maps, since they have such extensive administrative and military uses.
Because of the historical importance of the American Revolution, the mapping of New York between 1750 and 1800 has been intensively studied, and it is remarkably well documented. Particular attention should be drawn to the collection of online maps available from the Library of Congress through its American Memory Project. This collection includes over 2000 maps from this period, including many of New York, and it enables anyone with access to the World Wide Web to follow in considerable detail the mapping of New York during these formative years.
The year 1755 saw the publication of three landmark regional maps, which included all or much of New York: Lewis Evans, A General Map of the Middle British Colonies; John Mitchell, A Map of the British and French Dominions in America; and Thomas Jefferys, A Map of the Most Inhabited Part of New England. Taken together, they provide a good picture to the state of geographic knowledge of New York just prior to the outbreak of the French and Indian War. Both for New York and for eastern North America generally, they constitute a major improvement over Henry Popple’s 1738 map of British North America.
The increasing involvement of the British establishment in the mapping of their North American colonies is reflected in the maps of Lewis Evans. As we saw in Chapter 4, Evans’ important 1749 Map of Pensilvania, New-Jersey, New-York and the Three Delaware Counties was mainly based on his own explorations and on compilation from surveys taken by provincial officials like Colden. It was largely a domestic American product, in the sense that central British authorities like the Board of Trade and the army were not directly involved in its production.
Evans’ 1755 map reflects the tensions leading up to the French and Indian War, and reflects the increasing involvement of the British army in the mapping of the American colonies. This General Map of the Middle British Colonies covers a larger area than his previous map, and concentrates on adding new information about the Ohio Valley and other frontier areas (Figure 6.1). Evans himself explicitly acknowledged the importance of “the present Conjuncture of Affairs in America” in the preface to the important analysis that he wrote to accompany this map. He explained that the map was published, in part, as a response to the construction of the French fortifications between Lake Erie and the Ohio River. Evans’ 1755 map also reflects work he performed in preparation for General Braddock’s catastrophic expedition against Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh), which was the first large-scale battle of the French and Indian War
Evans’ 1755 map adds relatively little information about New York to what can be found in his earlier work. Its scale is even smaller (1:2,270,000) than his map of 1749, and that limited the amount of detail he could include. He managed to correct some errors in the location of several places, most notably Albany, but he introduced others at the same time. Nonetheless, His treatment of the Hudson Valley and of the corridor between Albany and Montreal is quite good for a small-scale map. Evans also included parts of what is now northern and western New York that were not shown on his 1749 map, although much of this was copied from French sources. Western New York is shown as mostly empty, and only two of the Finger Lakes are depicted. In this area, Evans would have done better to have copied more extensively from the French! Evans’ treatment of Long Island is also disappointing. Although the 1755 map includes all of Long Island, it is copied from a much inferior source than the one he used for his earlier map, and it is ultimately derived from Southack’s depiction of the island.
The Analysis accompanying Evans’ 1755 map is an important document for understanding colonial American cartography. It includes a table of latitudes, many of which Evans took himself. These are generally more accurate than those recorded by Colden in 1738, especially those that Evans himself measured. Regarding latitudinal distances, he remarked: “Tho’ there have been many other Observations made in several Places, in the Settlements, I have always chosen to adjust their Situations by the actual Mensurations; because many of the Instruments yet used, are not sufficiently accurate to determine the Latitude of Places with Nicety.” He also calculated longitudinal distances by direct measurement from the longitudes established for Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Evans stated explicitly that he relied for the measurements of distances on surveys made by chain, distinguishing between “mensurations” and “computations”: “We call nothing Surveys but actual Mensurations with a Chain, and the Course taken with a good Surveying Instrument. Courses with a Pocket Compass and computed Distances we call Computations.”
Although Evans died in 1756, his map went through several later editions in various languages. Most were inferior pirated editions, but the 1776 edition published by Thomas Pownall contains significant improvements over Evans’ original. Pownall, who had worked with Evans on the 1755 map and Analysis, accompanied his edition with a revised Topographical Description of the area covered by the map. This description (with unpublished revisions dating from 1785) was edited and published in 1949, and constitutes a valuable compendium of information about British geographic knowledge and mapping activities in the decades prior to the Revolutionary War.
Evans rival, John Mitchell (1711 – 1768), produced a Map of the British and French Dominions in America, which also appeared in 1755 One of the most important maps in American history, it is also the only map published by Mitchell, who was a man of many interests. Mitchell was born in Virginia and apparently educated at the University of Edinburgh. He returned to Virginia in 1731, where he practiced medicine, before emigrating to England in 1746 for reasons of health He was briefly employed in London by the Board of Trade, and had access to the many manuscript and printed maps on file at the Board. As a medical doctor and an enthusiastic botanist, he was inevitably (given these interests) drawn into the circle of Cadwallader Colden, and, like Evans, he corresponded with Colden about the geography of New York. But, unlike Evans, he made extensive use of French sources to fill in gaps in his information. The resulting synthesis of French and British sources was highly influential, and was reprinted numerous times in four languages. It had the imprimatur of the Board of Trade, and thus had a quasi-official status. It was used by officers in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. A later edition was used in determining the boundaries of the United States in the peace negotiations at the close of the Revolution, and it subsequently played a role in boundary negotiations between the United States and Britain
It should be noted that, in spite of its reliance on French sources, the Mitchell map is an unabashed work of propaganda. It vigorously promoted British claims to the Ohio Valley, the area around Lake Champlain, and other parts of North America under dispute with the French. Mitchell’s program for strengthening the British colonies at the expense of the French is spelled out in detail in his posthumously published Contest in America Between Great Britain and France With Its Consequences and Importance
Mitchell’s depiction of New York resembles that of Evans, but differs in several important respects. Mitchell’s treatment of the topography and placement of towns in southern New York does not show the painstaking care evidenced in Evans’ work. On the other hand, Mitchell relied on the maps of Bellin for his treatment of the area south of Lake Ontario, and his map shows considerably more detail in this area than that of Evans. Mitchell also received reasonably accurate distance measurements for the south shore of Lake Ontario and for the east shore of Lake Erie. These he reproduced on the map, and they helped him to present a fairly good picture of the proportions of western New York (a reoccurring problem on many eighteenth-century maps). In some cases, Mitchell did not copy wisely. His outline of Lake Ontario (derived directly from Bellin) is much more distorted than it is on Evans’ map. And his depiction of Long Island is no better than that on Evans 1755 map—Mitchell also appears to have copied his depiction of Long Island from Bellin, who in turn probably copied from a distorted and outdated chart by Cyprian Southack They have put together a deformation grid, which shows the extent of geographical divergence between the Mitchell map and a modern map of eastern North America. As one might expect, the grid shows that much of the Mitchell map is wildly inaccurate by modern standards, which helps explain why there was so much controversy concerning the interpretation of the map in establishing the boundaries between the United States and Canada. Interestingly enough, the portion of the Mitchell map covering New York is among the least distorted parts of it, which reflects rather well on his underlying sources.This map is thought to be actually the work of Jefferys’ assistant, Braddock Mead (alias John Green). Thomas Jefferys (died 1771) was England’s best-known commercial map publisher around the middle of the eighteenth century. He specialized in maps of North America, and published several other important maps, which will be discussed in this and the next chapter. Many of these works were also republished after his death by Robert Sayer (his former partner) in the classic The American Atlas, which was used by leaders on both sides of the American Revolution, and is a fabulously expensive favorite of map collectorss known to reprint maps without crediting their authors, to attribute to well-known map makers maps, that had nothing to do with them, and generally to produce maps of varying quality and dubious origins. To be fair, it should be pointed out that such practices were commonplace in the British map publishing industry prior to 1800, and were probably made inevitable by the under-capitalization of the business. All things considered, Jefferys’ maps were among the best produced in any country in the third quarter of the eighteenth century.
The Jefferys-Mead map of New England is one of his better productions, but its origins are particularly murky. Unlike most eighteenth century maps, it contains a list of sources. The sources for most of New York are described as follows: “Long Island, New York Harbor, and course of Hudson’s River to Lydius or Nicholson’s Fort, are laid down from very large and particular Surveys with that of Hazzen and others.” This list is not very specific and, on examination, it turns out to be something of a red herring. Richard Hazzen was in fact active in surveying various parts of New England, including the boundary between New Hampshire and Massachusetts. However, it is well established that the bulk of the map was copied without credit from a little-known map of New England published at about the same time by the heirs of William Douglass. However, this is not the end of our story, for the Douglass map does not extend very far into New York, while Jefferys shows New York as far west as the lands controlled by the Iroquois. What is more, his depiction of New York is considerably more detailed than that of Douglass in the areas where the two maps overlap. On the whole, Jefferys’ depiction of New York is quite good. On close examination, it turns out that most of it was copied from Evans’ 1749 map of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. In particular, the depiction of western and central Long Island on the two maps is very close, and the resemblance extends to the Hudson and Mohawk River Valleys. Most of Evans’ careful rendering of the topography of the Hudson Highlands and the Taconic Mountains also finds its way onto Jefferys’ map. In some places, Jefferys diverges for the worse from Evans—apparently as a result of copying errors. Still, there is also some information on Jefferys’ map that cannot be found on Evans. Most notably, Jefferys includes a fairly accurate outline of eastern Long Island, which is missing on Evans’ 1749 map. The origin of Jeffreys’ depiction of Long Island is unknown, but it was copied on many subsequent maps. Jefferys also shows more roads than can be found on either the Evans or Mitchell maps.
One would like to know what additional source(s) Jefferys used. Contemporary writers like Colden and Pownell are silent on this subject, and I have been unable to identify with any certainty the source of this supplementary information. Any information correcting or updating Evans would most likely have come from maps or surveys communicated to London by officials in New York (most likely Cadwallader Colden). As unpaid “Geographer to the King,” Jefferys would have had access to maps at the Board of Trade and other government offices. One possible source is a map in the British Public Record office, which comes from the papers of the Board of Trade, and is dated provisionally ca. 1750. This is a detailed and large-scale survey of the Province of New York, which is unfortunately missing many of its sheets, including the sheet depicting eastern Long Island. It resembles closely both the Jefferys map and several subsequent surveys of New York made by the British military. If the 1750 date is correct, it may be an important source of all of these later maps, but it is puzzling that no contemporary evidence seems to exist for a survey of New York made at this time, and it may be that the map in the Public Record Office was actually made later in the 1750s.
Whatever the origins of the Jefferys map, it was quite influential. It owed much of its success to aesthetics and marketing. The relatively large scale of Jefferys’ map (one inch to seven miles or 1:443,520) made it easier to read than the maps of Evans or Mitchell. In addition, Jefferys, unlike Evans, did not clutter his map with annotations or observations that would have been of little use to most readers. By concentrating on topography, roads and towns, and by presenting his information in a clean and uncluttered style, Jefferys produced a work that would have appealed to his primary user groups of colonial officials and military officers. It could easily be consulted in a meeting of several people examining the location of a tract of land, or planning a military campaign. This helps explain why the Jefferys map was widely copied and used as a base for subsequent maps of New York. Its general framework was adapted and filled in by British military surveyors, who dominated the mapping of New York between the outbreak of the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.
Like the maps of Evans and Mitchell, the Jefferys-Green Map of New England went through several editions and reissues. A version identified by Stevens and Tree as “second edition, 2nd issue” with an imprint date of 1755, but probably published in 1768, is of particular interest because it reflects the competition between New York and New Hampshire over what is now Vermont, and the royal decision of 1764 in favor of New York. The New Hampshire grants are colored in yellow, and a note is added reading: “Connecticut River is fixed by his Majesty in Council to be the bounds between New York and New Hampshire. The Townships coloured Yellow were granted by the Government of New Hampshire.” Essentially the same version of the map, now dated 1774, was published in The American Atlas. Later editions were brought out during the American Revolution by French and German publishers.
Overview of British Military Mapping, 1755-1775
The outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1754 marks the beginning of a new phase in the mapping of New York—one in which the most important surveying and map making activities were conducted by British military engineers. Prior to the French and Indian War, the British army was hardly involved in producing maps of New York. After the early maps by Colonel Römer (discussed above in Chapter 4), the British military made practically no maps of any part of New York, not even during King George’s War (1743-48). After 1755, on the other hand, the British military was heavily involved in mapping the province. New York continued to be the recipient of the cartographic skills of the British army until its withdrawal in 1783.
The cartographic activities of the British military establishment centered in the Corps of Engineers of the Royal Army, although many individual maps were made by other officers in the army and the navy. Ironically, many of the maps made for the British army were produced by officers who were born and trained on the continent. As was noted above in the discussion of Colonel Römer, the officers who dominated the British army regarded map making and the other activities of the Engineers’ Corps as unworthy of their aristocratic selves. Thus, many of the military surveyors who played important roles in our story were either born on the continent, or came from émigré families. The continental origins of many of the surveyors working in New York are revealed by their names: Samuel Holland, Claude Joseph Sauthier, John Montresor, Bernard Romans, Bernard Ratzer, Francis Pfister, and Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres.
The cartographic activities of the British armed forces can be divided into three periods. The first is the French and Indian War and its immediate aftermath (1755-63). Following this is the period peace from 1764-1775, in which military surveyors were sometimes “borrowed” to work on civilian projects, including several major regional surveys. Finally, during the American Revolution, these wide-ranging surveys were abandoned, and the military cartographers were restricted mainly to producing such things as route maps and battle plans. Because of the widespread interest in the period of the American Revolution, the maps of this era are relatively well documented, and only an overview Military Mapping, 1755-1763
In New York State, the military activity of the French and Indian War focused on the border area between Albany and Canada. Most of the fighting (and the mapping) took place along the waterways of the region. Particularly important was the route from Albany to Montreal via Lake George and Lake Champlain. Also significant was the route from Albany to Oswego via the Mohawk River and Lake Oneida, as well as the route that followed the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario to Niagara Falls and the interior of the North American continent. Following the classification suggested by J.B. Harley, we can divide up the military maps of this area into three broad groups: fortification cartography, battle maps, and cartography of military movement Maps and plans of fortifications were favorite subjects of both French and British military cartographers. The army engineers were in charge of building these fortifications, as well as of making plans of them, and maps of the areas around them. These were used by both besiegers and defenders of fortified places, and they also served as souvenirs for the participants in sieges, as well as items of interest to armchair strategists and others who followed military affairs. Best documented were the British and French fortresses strung along the line between Albany and Montreal—particularly Forts William Henry (later Fort George), Ticonderoga, and Crown Point, which occupied especially strategic positions. Forts William Henry and Ticonderoga were the scenes of major battles. The British fortification at Oswego and the French Fort Niagara, both of which were captured in the course of fighting, are also particularly well documented. But maps can be found of almost any place that was fortified, such as the British Fort Bull on the Mohawk River, and the small French fortification of La Presentation on the St. Lawrence River in northern New York Because of their specialized nature, most of these fortification maps are of interest primarily to military historians and to military history buffs. However, some are of broader interest. This is particularly the case with maps of fortified cities, such as Albany and Schenectady, which often include streets and buildings, and consequently are of interest to urban historians. In fact, almost all of the maps of Albany made during the colonial period were produced by military cartographers. Some fortification maps also present considerable information about the region surrounding a fort. They may include such things as nearby topography, roads, dwellings, farms, and other matters of interest to students of local history and genealogy. Thus, the earliest maps that provide detailed information about the topography of the vicinity of Oswego or of Lake George Village are fortification maps. William Eyre’s map of the vicinity of Fort William Henry is an excellent example of this type of map
Maps that can be characterized as “battle plans,” often overlap the category of fortification maps. Most battles fought during the French and Indian War were of one of two types: formal sieges of fortifications, or small raids conducted primarily by Indians and irregular troops against civilian targets (which might now be termed terrorist attacks). In a few cases, armies were ambushed while on the march to besiege fortifications (as was the case with Braddock in Pennsylvania, and the French general Dieskau in New York). These hit-and-run operations and ambushes, which did not involve the precision maneuvering of regiments and units of troops, did not lend themselves to mapping as well as the more formal sieges. Thus, most of the “battle maps” of the French and Indian War also depict fortifications. The characteristic feature of battle maps is that they also show the positions and movements of troops on opposing sides. A good example of this type of map, published by Thomas Jefferys, depicts General Abercrombie’s effort to take Fort Ticonderoga A more unusual map of this kind is Samuel Blodget’s depiction of a battle fought near lake George, in which the English and Indians under Sir William Johnson “captivated” General Dieskau. This engaging birds-eye view, which can be viewed on the Web site of the Massachusetts Historical Society, combines elements of military cartography with naive art. The category of “maps of military movement” is something of a catch-all, which includes all maps that were designed to aid the positioning and transportation of military forces. Maps fitting into this category include reconnaissance sketches, route maps, regional topographic maps, and even maps of the entire province showing rivers, roads, and fortifications.
A number of manuscript reconnaissance maps have come down to us from the French and Indian War. Sometimes these are crude sketches drawn by officers on foot or horseback without the aid of surveying or drafting instruments. Such maps are often of particular interest because of their immediacy: they often convey a strong sense of how the war actually unfolded before the eyes of its participants. Even the breathless title of a map by Robert Rogers (of Rogers Rangers) speaks volumes: “S[i]r: This is minuts of the fort at Crown Point and of the redouts built round it; which I took on the mountain to the west of Crown Point abt. a miles distance.” Another type of reconnaissance map is exemplified by a survey drawn around 1760 by Francis Pfister (ca. 1740-1777), a talented but little-known mapmaker. Born in Germany as Franz Joseph Pfister, he was a military engineer in the Sixtieth Royal American Regiment, which housed many of the foreign-born cartographers that served in New York. After the conclusion of the war, he maintained his army connections, and grew wealthy by obtaining the carrying rights around Niagara Falls. After the outbreak of the Revolution, he helped organize a battalion of loyalists, and died at the Battle of Bennington.
The map under consideration here is a field survey “taken by the order of His Excelency General Amherst” of “Cannada Creek.” This Canada Creek is a tributary that flows into Wood Creek between Fort Stanwix and Lake Oneida, not the better-known Canada Creek, which flows into the Mohawk River further east. Pfister was unusually explicit about how he surveyed this carefully drawn map: “All the turns are taken with an Instrument [probably a surveyor’s compass] & the Distances by Paces.” Drawn at a scale of 350 “large paces” to an inch, it provides considerable information about the topography along the twisting creek, including such details as swamps, hills, meadows, beaver dams, and an “old Indian hot [i.e. hut].” Pfister’s map appears to be the earliest detailed depiction of this particular piece of land. Where they exist, such maps can provide valuable historical information about landscapes that may look very different today.
Some reconnaissance maps are so carefully done that they almost fall into the category of topographical surveys. A good example is a drawing by Capt. James Montresor (the father of the better-known John Montresor), which shows the region between Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Edward. This map, which is available online from the Library of Congress, provides a vivid picture of the roads, streams, fortifications, and troop positions at the time of Montcalm’s successful attack on Fort William Henry in 1757 Regional topographic maps cover broader areas, and therefore are generally of wider interest. Almost all of them from the French and Indian War cover the area north of Albany, where most of the fighting took place. An informative map of this type has been given the descriptive title “Map of the Northern Parts of New York” by the Library of Congress, which has made it available online as part of its American Memory Project. This anonymous map covers both the Mohawk River Valley and the Hudson Valley as far north as Glens Falls. Like most military maps, it is at a standardized scale (2 miles to an inch or 1:126,720), and depicts such things as rivers, fortifications, and roads, as well as such practical information as the location of rapids and portages. Like some other detailed military maps, it also shows the location of individual houses, along with the names of some homeowners, and other descriptive information (including the number of inhabitants in individual villages).
Many of these maps focused on one or both of the strategic routes from Albany to Oswego, or from Albany to Montreal. A good overview of the Albany-Oswego corridor is provided by a carefully finished, colored manuscript map, which is also available online from the Library of Congress. The polished appearance of this map is somewhat deceptive—as is frequently the case with military maps of this period—since it is not particularly well surveyed or rich in information. It was primarily intended to serve as a route guide, as is indicated by an accompanying table of distances. An impressive number of maps of this corridor were produced during the French and Indian War. The most detailed and carefully drawn of these appears to be an anonymous manuscript map housed at the Clements Library. Others are listed (and some reproduced) in a valuable online project produced by the New York State Museum. A detailed map of this area from the period of the French and Indian War was later engraved by Thomas Kitchin and published in 1772 Even more numerous are maps covering the Albany-Montreal corridor. Since the French dominated the area north of Fort Ticonderoga at the base of Lake Champlain, the maps of this corridor in the first part of the French and Indian War often have something of the character of “spy maps.” Another important manuscript map comes from Thomas Pownall (1772 – 1805), whom we have already encountered as a reviser of Evans and a commentator on Mitchell. Pownall plays an important role in the history of colonial America, both as a map maker and a politician. He was at various times secretary to the governor of New York, Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey, and Governor of Massachusetts. He is another example of a colonial official who was also a many-faceted man of letters with interests that included geography and maps. After returning to England in 1760, Pownall acted as an advocate of conciliation between Britain and the American colonies throughout the period of the Revolutionary War.
During the early years of the French and Indian War, Pownall was involved in developing plans for cooperation among the colonies for military operations against the French. The map that concerns us here is a fruit of those activities, and bears the title “A Map of the Grand Pass from New York to Montreal Done from Actual Survey (Except where Otherwise Express’d) by Thos Pownall.” Drawn in 1756, it was intended to provide a strategic overview of the heavily contested area between Albany and the St. Lawrence River. This map would have been classified “top secret” today, as evidenced by a note on the copy originally owned by the crown at the British Library: “N.B. This is in no other hands except one copy at y Board of Trade.” In comparison with anything that preceded it from the British side, Pownall’s map provides a remarkably detailed overview of the area. It shows rivers, towns, forts, and portages, as one would expect from a well-done military map. In addition, it carries extensive annotations on such subjects as the quality of the soil.
Also produced in 1756 were several noteworthy manuscript maps of the Hudson River and of Lake George, which have been attributed to Captain Joshua Loring (1716-81). Loring himself is quite an interesting figure. Born in Boston, he established himself as a privateer in the 1740s. He was in British service in New York by 1756, but only in 1757 was he commissioned as a captain in the British navy. In 1759 he commanded the British naval forces on Lakes George and Champlain, and was popularly known as “Commodore Loring.” A loyalist, he later played a controversial role as superintendent of prisoners during the Revolutionary War, and died as an exile in London.
Loring’s surviving maps are finished and detailed charts, which are beautifully colored in a distinctive style (Figure 6.8). Some include soundings, and they depict shoals, rocks, ferries, and riverside towns in considerable detail. Remarkably, Loring’s chart of the Hudson River below Albany seems to be the first detailed map of the river made since the Dutch period. As the Hudson was heavily traveled even in the first half of the eighteenth century, it is surprising that the British did not chart it at an earlier date. Loring’s chart of the river is also one of the few military maps from the French and Indian War that cover in detail the area south of Albany. However, it is an exception that proves the rule, since the Hudson River was the vital corridor for transporting troops and supplies to the scene of action in northern New York. Although notes on these maps state that they were made by Loring, and they are clearly dated 1756, one has to wonder about the extent of Loring’s role in their creation. They would have required extensive surveying, and they are so polished and professional that they were probably drawn by a military cartographer working under Loring, rather than by Loring himself. A number of characteristics of these maps, such as the use of uniform scales of one mile to an inch and two miles to an inch, stamp them as almost certainly the work of a professionally trained military engineer.
The British had to wait until they chased the French out of the area around Lake Champlain before undertaking a detailed survey of that body of water. This was supplied in 1762 by another military engineer, William Brasier, who drew a landmark map of the lake, which eventually was revised for publication during the American Revolution (Figure 6.9). Several manuscript copies of this map exist, which is not unusual for military maps of this kind. In the eighteenth century, it was so expensive to engrave and publish maps that the military found it more economical to copy maps by hand than to print multiple copies. Only when the Revolution created widespread interest and demand, did commercial publishers find it worthwhile to publish many of these maps.The final area that was extensively mapped during and immediately after the French and Indian War was the region around Niagara Falls, including the Niagara River and Fort Niagara. This area was critical for communication between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, and had previously been mapped by the French. It did not fall into British hands until the end of the war, but in the years immediately following the war, the region was carefully mapped by British military cartographers, including George Demler, Bernard Ratzer, and Francis Pfister..
In addition to maps of regions within New York, the British military also produced maps showing the entire province at different scales. It may be recalled from the previous chapters that Lord Loudoun, the British commander-in-chief who succeeded Braddock, had requested from Cadwallader Colden a map of the Province of New York, which Colden was unable to supply, complaining that he received “not a farthing” of support from the British government for creating a map of the province. We also have a record of Loudoun’s response, which is described in a letter from Alexander Colden to Cadwallader Colden. Loudoun thanked Colden for the maps he had sent, and reportedly said “he thought Since they would allow you no Sallary for yr Services you was right not to take any further trouble about what you had proposed.” Loudoun also showed Alexander Colden a map of Lake George “from a Survey he had order’d,” which may have been one of the maps by Joshua Loring discussed above. Finally, Loudoun“also observed on what you mentioned of the loss he has & would be at for want of a good Map of this Province & Said that he was indeavouring to have one made that it would be of little Service to him but would be of use to those who should come after him.”
One fruit of Loudoun’s commands was undoubtedly the lost map of New York made by Samuel Holland in 1757. This map, which was briefly mentioned in the previous chapter, was expressly “compiled pursuant to the order of the Earl of Loudon.”. Although no copy of this map appears to have survived, the nature of Holland’s activities can be deduced from a list of maps of British North America, which were in Loudoun’s possession in 1757. This list shows, among other things, that Holland and an assistant named Charles Rivez were engaged in copying maps of British North America. This list also includes several original maps of fortifications and communication routes made by James Montresor and other British engineers during the early years of the war.
Several manuscript maps, which appear to have been in the possession of Loudoun, are now in the Kashnor Collection at the Huntington Library in San Marino California. The most notable work in this important collection is “A Map of the Province of New-York & Part of New Jersey” (1757), which was signed by Charles Rivez, but probably reflects the joint work of Holland and Rivez, and very likely resembles or is a copy of the missing Holland map of 1757. This important manuscript map is more than a synthesis older maps, and it seems to reflect some new surveying by the British Army. It includes extensive information about roads, portages, and fortifications. Beautiful and carefully drawn, it is detailed enough to show some individual houses. It is the first of a series of large-scale maps of New York made by the British in the years immediately prior to the American Revolution. It anticipates, and was probably a source for, the maps published after 1768 by Holland, Montresor, and Sauthier.
After 1757, Holland worked in areas other than New York, and in the same year Loudoun was replaced as Commander-in-Chief of the British forces. Under Loudoun’s successors, the British army continued to engage in surveying and mapping in New York. Several maps of New York and surrounding areas were drawn by Francis Pfister, whose survey of Canada Creek was mentioned above (and who also drew plans of fortifications, and later made a highly detailed map of the Niagara River). Pfister’s maps of New York were made at several scales, including sixteen miles to an inch (1:1,013,760) and eight miles to an inch (1:506,880). A copy of a version at sixteen miles to an inch is shown here as Figure 6.10. According to information provided on the maps, they were “composed from actual surveys by Major Christie.” This Major Christie is probably Gabriel Christie (1722-1799), who was in charge of logistics for the British Army, but nothing is known about any surveys he may have made or (more likely) commanded to be made. Pfister’s maps were carefully drawn, and show such expected information as towns, roads, and fortifications. Although none of them were published, they are notable as illustrations of the extent to which military mapping was becoming standardized and beginning to resemble modern topographic mapping—with maps being issued at a variety of standardized scales for different purposes, and with symbols and other conventions that were intelligible to most army officers and to civilian map readers.The culmination of British mapping of New York during the French and Indian War was John Montresor’s Map of the Province of New York, which will be discussed in the following section. Although this map was not published until 1775, its manuscript version was completed in 1764, and Montresor clearly stated that it was compiled from surveys made by the British military.
Military and Civilian Surveys, 1764-1775
The years between the end of the French and Indian War and the outbreak of the American Revolution saw the most extensive output of British maps of New York during the colonial period. After the conclusion of the war, British surveyors had time to devote to larger projects, which often had both military and civilian benefits. Although the fighting against the French in North America ended in 1760, it was not until the conclusion of peace in 1763 and the end of Pontiac’s Rebellion that military surveyors were able to turn to broader tasks. Frequently, military surveyors were hired by civilian authorities, such as the Board of Trade or individual colonial governments, to carry out specific projects. The results of their efforts included a number of detailed maps of regions within New York, as well as several classic maps depicting the province as a whole.
The surveys and maps of this period mark the advent of what is often called “scientific mapping” in New York. It is hard to define scientific mapping precisely. Since the Renaissance, European cartography had been dominated by a set of conventions that constitute the core of what is generally considered to be scientific mapping. These include the use of uniform scales, the use of mathematical projections to represent the earth’s curved surface on a flat sheet of paper, the use of uniform symbols to designate topographic features, and the use of longitude and latitude to pinpoint locations. To accomplish these tasks, various surveying techniques were used, some more accurate than others.
After 1750 or thereabouts, the “gold standard” for scientific mapping was the technique known as trigonometric triangulation. The principles underlying triangulation had been known since the Renaissance. They involve the determination of the longitude and latitude of key positions by astronomical observation, the laying out of carefully measured baselines, and the construction of a network of triangles from the baselines using horizontal sighting instruments, such as theodolites and plane tables. Using the principles of trigonometry, it was possible to locate with relative precision specific places caught within this network of triangles. Carrying out surveys in this manner required considerable knowledge of mathematics, as well as large amounts of time and labor. Because of the expense involved in conducting such surveys over large areas, they almost always had to be government funded. As is well known, the first trigonometric survey of an entire country was the survey of France, which was begun by Jean Dominique Cassini (1625-1712) at the end of the seventeenth century. The British did not start to carry out such surveys until the middle of the eighteenth century, and in general Britain lagged behind France and other continental countries in the training of surveyors and the conduct of surveys.
Thus, the surveyors involved in the mapping of New York at this time were representative of a period of transition between two versions of “scientific” mapping: the critical compilation and evaluation of sources (as practiced by De L’Isle, Colden, and Evans), and trigonometric triangulation. Several, but by no means all, of the North American surveys conducted in this period made at least some use of triangulation. However, no systematic trigonometric surveys of large areas of New York were conducted by the British at this time. Maps showing the province as a whole were compilations from other maps that were based on partial surveys made by various means, including chain and compass surveys, and route surveys made by measuring distances along roads and rivers. As we will see, the maps made after 1755 generally were based on more extensive and detailed surveys than their predecessors, but they were not fundamentally different in kind. Many of the maps drawn at this time have a polished and finished look, which can be quite misleading: they are often carefully lettered and beautifully colored, but they are not always as accurate as less elegant productions.
There does not appear to have been much systematic planning guiding the British surveyors in the years following the conclusion of the French and Indian War. As mentioned above, the British army was instructed to coordinate its surveying activities with the Board of Trade and with the individual colonial governments. But, although there was a good deal of cooperation on specific projects, no massive effort was made to survey New York, and there is remarkably little documentation of the activities that lay behind the most important maps produced during these years. Only on rare occasions have bits of information come down to us that illuminate the interactions between the players on this cartographic field. Thus, we learn that in 1766, Cadwallader Colden asked John Montresor to take with him to England a publication Colden had written “to vindicate my character from the Calumnies so publicly and industriously propagated” against him at the time of the Stamp Act.
Most of the professional surveyors regarded each other as rivals, and rarely had good things to say about each other. The prickly John Montresor was the most outspoken. On one occasion he put together a “memorandum of British folly,” which was a list of men “not having any good subjects of their own.” The list consisted of eight of his fellow engineers, including: “Mynheer Samuel Jan Van Hollandt Surveyor General at 2000 per annum Sterling”; “A.B.C.D.E.F—Wallet des Barres Surveyor General Nova Scotia—21 Shillings per diem Sterling”; “Van de Brahm Surveyor General to the Southward”; and “Francis Van Phister 700 per annum the Niagara carrying Place.” “Quelles folies,” he concluded. If nothing else, Montresor’s list provides some hint as to why these gentlemen rarely communicated with each other.The person who came closest to playing a coordinating role in these activities was Samuel Holland (1728-1801). As Montresor implied, he was born in the Netherlands and served in the Dutch army before deciding to pursue his career with the British. We have already seen that Holland was involved in military surveys of New York during the French and Indian War. Later, he conducted surveys in Quebec and other parts of Canada. After 1764, he was created Surveyor General of the Northern District, which included all of Canada as well as the other American colonies north of Virginia, and thus he had some vague supervisory role in coordinating British mapping activities in this area. (John Gerard William De Brahm, who was also mentioned by Montresor in the above quotation, was Holland’s counterpart for the southern states.) After his appointment by the Board of Trade to this new position, Holland seems to have regarded himself as responsible to civil authority. As J.B. Harley has pointed out: “Holland’s civilian bias is suggested by his wish that a uniform for his surveyors in 1766 should have embossed ‘in the front of the Caps … the Emblem & Motto of Trade & Plantations.'” Holland wanted to conduct a systematic survey at a uniform scale of all eastern North America, and the Board agreed with his proposal, but circumstances forced him to take a piecemeal approach, and the project was abandoned with the coming of the Revolution. Holland’s most ambitious and systematic venture was a survey of the coasts, which he undertook in conjunction with Des Barres (who was in charge of the hydrography), and which eventually led to the production of The Atlantic Neptune, which will be described below. Unfortunately for students of New York history, the coastal survey moved southwards from Nova Scotia and the St. Lawrence, and had only just reached New York at the time of the outbreak of the Revolution. This survey had to be abandoned, and covered only the parts of New York that were under British control after 1776. The maps published in the Neptune after 1776 will be described in the following chapter.
It is important to distinguish between what Holland and other British surveyors in North America were capable of doing (or what they proposed to do), and what they actually did in New York. Holland and his peers were clearly capable of making extensive surveys using triangulation, and of mapping the results using spherical trigonometry. Holland also made measurements of latitude and longitude, which were considerably more accurate than those of Colden and his contemporaries. His estimates of longitude were made using Colden’s method of timing the eclipses of the moons of Jupiter, but his results were better because he had more accurate telescopes and clocks at his disposal. It should be noted that, although the chronometer had already been invented, it was not used for making estimates of longitude in North America prior to the Revolution. (The relatively sophisticated timepieces, which Holland and surveyors like Mason and Dixon used, were for measuring local time, which was also critical for making precise astronomical observations for the measurement of latitude.)
It is not at all certain to what extent these relatively sophisticated cartographic techniques were actually used in New York. The measurements of longitude and latitude that Holland published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society were, with one exception, all for places in Canada and northern New England. The exception, however, is an interesting one, for it reflects the relative sophistication of Holland as a surveyor:
“It gave me great satisfaction, to have an opportunity of examining BIRD’s astronomical quadrant, last year, in New-York province, in determining the latitude of 41, for settling the boundary line, between that colony and New Jersey, with the same instrument Mess. Mason and Dixon used for determining the boundary line between Pensylvania and Maryland: on this occasion, Mr. RITTENHOUSE, an esteemed astronomer and ingenious mechanic of Pensylvania, made use of it, and I, of BIRD’s; when we never found them to differ more than 17′, which surprised that gentleman much, to find an instrument of such small dimensions, executed with that accuracy, as to equal so nearly his large zenith instrument, which also is of BIRD’s workmanship.”
I have been unable to locate any field notes or diagrams that show for certain that any surveying took place in New York at this time using trigonometric triangulation. There is astonishingly little published documentation of any kind concerning how the British engineers actually went about their business in New York between 1755 and 1775. It seems clear, however, that they lacked the time, the resources, and the people to do a significant amount of triangulation. Carrying out a trigonometric survey of New York would have been extremely difficult under the best of circumstances, if only because the extensive forests would have made sighting through theodolites impossible without clearing vast numbers of trees.
So how did the British actually go about making their maps during this period? Although little is known about the surveying techniques used by the military engineers in America, we do know from equipment lists that they had at their disposal such instruments as plane tables, sextants, and theodolites. There are indications that triangulation was used in a few specific situations, where it was relatively easy to carry out. These would have been along the coasts, and along large rivers and lakes, where forests would not have encumbered sighting, and where the measurement of distances using chains would have been difficult. Particularly likely candidates for the use of this technique are Holland’s surveys of the Hudson River Valley around the Hudson Highlands, and Montresor’s maps of New York Harbor. Probably these and similar surveys of specific regions involved the measurement of baselines (probably using chains), and the measurement of angles using plane tables and possibly sometimes optical instruments, such as theodolites. Triangulation using plane tables was probably also used by surveyors making route surveys to fix the locations of nearby landmarks. These practices might be described as “triangulation lite.” No evidence has been uncovered showing that maps of large areas of New York were based on networks of interlocking triangles, as would be the case in classical trigonometric triangulation.
What seems to have been done in practice was mostly a more sophisticated form of compilation. The framework of these maps was slightly improved by the more accurate determination of the latitudes of specific places. As near as I can determine, the only longitude actually measured for anywhere in New York prior to the Revolution was for New York City, and this was gradually improved from the reasonably good measurement made by Colden in 1722. The only table of latitudes that I have been able to locate for New York made between 1755 and 1775 was prepared by Governor Tryon in 1774. Individual latitudes can also be taken by measurement from the maps. The few specific latitudes and longitudes that I have so far been able to find were somewhat more accurate by 1775 than they were on maps made around 1755. This framework was still fleshed out with materials taken from a variety of sources. The extensive military route surveys made during and after the French and Indian War were an important source of information. Distances on these surveys would have been measured (at best) by the use of chains, but plane tables were probably sometimes used to ascertain the locations of features visible from the roads. This information would have been supplemented by estate surveys, boundary surveys, and some specials surveys of limited areas made using plane tables and some triangulation. The strengths and weaknesses of this approach to mapping will become clear as we examine specific examples.
Regional Maps of Areas within New York
It is convenient to divide the British maps produced during these years into two general groups—those that deal with broad regions within New York, and maps showing the province as a whole.
Much of the regional mapping of New York done between 1764 and 1775 was considered in the previous chapter under the headings of property maps and boundary maps.
The largest project undertaken by the British during the interwar years was a systematic survey of North American coasts and harbors. Samuel Holland was in charge of surveying on land, and his colleague J.F.W. Des Barres was responsible for taking soundings and carrying out other operations on shipboard. Des Barres also undertook the publication of these charts during the years just preceding and during the Revolutionary War. This collection of charts is known as The Atlantic Neptune, and it is considered to be one of the masterpieces of eighteenth-century cartography.
The makers of The Atlantic Neptune started with Canada and worked their way south. The maps in this series include detailed charts of the Saint Lawrence River, Nova Scotia, Maine, and Massachusetts. As noted above, Holland and Des Barres were just getting to New York when the project had to be abandoned because of the Revolution. Fortunately, at least for the cartographic history of New York, the British occupation of downstate New York allowed some limited coastal surveying to take place during the Revolution. Since these maps were made after 1776, they will be considered in the following chapter.
The British never charted the Hudson River in nearly as much detail as, for example, the charts of the Delaware and the Saint Lawrence rivers that appeared in The Atlantic Neptune. However, the need for a detailed map of the Hudson River was filled in part through the efforts of Claude Joseph Sauthier. Sauthier was a prolific mapmaker whose career was described in the previous chapter. His map of the Hudson River does not quite live up to its title: A Topographical Map of Hudsons River, with the Channels, Depth of Water, Rocks, Shoals, etc. and the Country Adjacent from Sandy Hook, New York to Fort Edward, Also the Communication with Canada by Lake George and Lake Champlain, as High as Fort Chambly on Sorel River (Figure 6.12). Although it includes some soundings, its scale is too small for it to show shoals and other obstacles in sufficient detail to be of much use to navigators. In this respect, it is inferior to Loring’s manuscript map of the Hudson, as can be seen by comparing the two images of the area near Kingston presented here. Nonetheless, it is still by far the most detailed and accurate map of the Hudson River and Lake Champlain actually published in the eighteenth century. It gives a generally reliable picture of the towns, roads, and major topographic features along the entire corridor between New York City and the Richelieu River. Sauthier’s map was published in London in 1776—just in time to help the British plan their ill-fated Saratoga campaign.This same period saw the publication of several classic maps of New York City and its surroundings. The first of these is by John Montresor (1736-1799), the opinionated British army engineer quoted above. Montresor was of Huguenot extraction, and should not be confused with his father, James Montresor, who was also a British army officer. Montresor was one of the most prolific and capable of the British military engineers in America. Active in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, he rose to the rank of Chief Engineer in America. Montresor was the most articulate of the British military cartographers, and his published Journals are an important source of information about the activities of the engineers in the years before and during the Revolution, as well as an being unvarnished eye-witness account of those years from the point of view of an fierce royalist, who was equally critical of the Rebel Mob, and of most of his superiors and colleagues in the British Army. In addition to making maps, his activities (like those of other army engineers) included building and repairing fortifications, among them Castle William in Boston, and Fort George in New York City.
As has been seen, Montresor drew a number of manuscript maps and sketches of fortifications in and around New York City. His most comprehensive map of the city was published in 1766 as A Plan of the City of New-York & its Environs.[ 70] This map was made under unusual circumstances—at the height of the Stamp Act crisis, when it was unsafe for any royalist to show his face in New York City. Montresor was not one to mince words—he liked to bandy around phrases like “Sons or Spawn of Liberty” in his journals, and at least one attempt was made to kill him in the streets. Under the circumstances, his surveying had to be done surreptitiously and in disguise. The quality of his map suffered from these circumstances, and he even had to leave out the names of most streets.
In spite of its limitations, Montresor’s map shows considerable detail in the parts of lower Manhattan immediately outside of the city itself, where he was presumably better able to escape the attentions of the rabble mob. It shows in exquisite detail fields, orchards, roads, streams, and topography in the largely undeveloped area between lower Manhattan and what is now Greenwich Village.
Another mapmaker active in and around New York City during these years was Bernard Ratzer, who was a Lieutenant in the Sixtieth Royal American Regiment, where most of the British Engineers were concentrated. Ratzer did most of his surveying in 1767, by which time the Stamp Act Crisis was over, and the violence had died down. Thus, Ratzer was able to carry out his survey more systematically, and could include the names of streets. In areas outside of lower Manhattan the detail is comparable to Montresor’s, but Ratzer’s map covers a much wider area. A version of Ratzer’s survey, published by Jefferys and Faden in 1776, included the lower half of Manhattan, much of what is now Brooklyn, and part of New Jersey, as well as a magnificent view of the city and its harbor. It has been described as “perhaps the finest map of an American city and its environs produced in the eighteenth century.”
Under the heading of maps of specific regions, special notice should go to Guy Johnson’s maps of the Iroquois territories of western New York. Guy Johnson (1740-1788) was the nephew and protégé of the redoubtable Sir William Johnson (1715-1774), Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the British Crown, soldier, power broker, and owner of huge estates near the Mohawk River. Except for Sir William himself, Guy Johnson had had the most extensive knowledge of the Iroquois and their lands of any person in British North America, and he succeeded Sir William as Superintendent of Indian Affairs after 1774. The Johnsons had first-hand knowledge of much of this area, as well as access to all of the relevant maps and documents available to colonial administrators.
Guy Johnson’s first map of this area (1768) bears the self-explanatory title Map of the Frontiers of the Northern Colonies with the Boundary Line Established between Them and the Indians at the Treaty Held by S. Will Johnson at Ft Stanwix in Novr 1768, Corrected and Improved from the Evans Map, by Guy Johnson Dep. Agt of Ind Affairs. This map has already been mentioned in the previous chapter as part of the discussion of the role of maps in establishing New York’s boundaries. Its dependence on the Evans’ map is evident at a glance, and includes Evans’ characteristic depiction of just two of the Finger Lakes. The 1768 boundary line alluded to in the title of the map is of great historical importance. Through this line the British attempted to preserve peace with the Indians by setting limits to white settlements west of the Alleghenies. Although this line may have been drawn with the best of intentions toward the Indians, it antagonized would-be settlers and powerful land speculators, such as George Washington—thereby becoming one of the major causes of the American Revolution.
Johnson’s map of the Indian Country, drawn in 1771, is a more original and important effort (Figure 6.13). Even as he had copied from it a few years earlier, Johnson must have been aware of the deficiencies of the Evans’ map in depicting western New York. In this later effort, Johnson tried to draw a map incorporating his own much more extensive knowledge. He was largely successful, and he produced a map of the area that was much more accurate and detailed than any previous British map, or than the published French maps by de L’Isle and Bellin. It is worth noting, however, that in certain areas it is still not as detailed as some of the maps produced by French missionaries in the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century the Indians had rightly become wary about allowing explorers and surveyors to tramp around their lands for the purpose of making maps.Guy Johnson’s map includes the revealing inscription: “The Country West and North of the Boundary Line [between the British colonies and the Indians] having never been surveyed or even thorghly [sic] Explored is chiefly laid down from my Journals and the Sketches of intelligent Indians and other persens.” The map provides names and locations of many Iroquois villages, and shows the paths connecting them. It also includes a fairly accurate delineation of the courses of streams and rivers, especially of those flowing into Lake Ontario. It depicts three of the Finger Lakes (one more than Evans), and includes the comment: “There are more lakes hereabouts but they cannot be laid down with certainty.”
Maps Showing New York as a Whole
The most useful and widely admired maps produced during these years show the entire Province of New York. All of them have pedigrees that can be traced back to the period between1750-55. To a greater or lesser extent, they all show the influence of the regional maps of Evans, Mitchell, and Jeffreys—as well as the military maps made during the French and Indian War by Pfister and others. However, the maps published after 1763 benefited from additional information and contained numerous corrections derived in part from the regional surveys discussed above.
The first of these to actually achieve publication was Samuel Holland’s well-known map of New York and New Jersey. Holland had been, as has been seen, involved since at least 1756 in compiling maps of New York and its neighboring states, and as early as 1757 had produced some kind of map of New York. Several years later, in July 1766, the Board of Trade wrote to Governor Moore that “we are already possessed of a very accurate and useful survey of the Province of New York by Captain Holland and others, in which the most material patents are marked and their boundaries described.” In 1767 or 1768 Holland apparently created a new or updated version of this map for the commission that surveyed the boundary between New York and New Jersey. The first printed version of a map of New York and New Jersey attributed to Holland was published by Jefferys, possibly as early as 1768 (Figure 6.14). A detail of this map showing New York-New Jersey boundary appears in chapter 5 of this publication Although attributed to Holland, the pedigree of this map has been questioned. Thomas Pownall gave it a scathing review:
“A Map of New York and New Jersey, published by T. Jefferys, to which Publication the Name of Capt. Holland is put, without his Knowledge or Consent, is little more than a Copy of those Parts contained in Evans’s Map, or if not a Copy, a Compilation from the same Materials on a larger Scale, without any essential Amendment, without scarce a Difference, except in the County of Albany, corrected from a Map of that County which Capt. Holland copied for me in 1756, from Draughts of Mr. Bleecker, Deputy Surveyor in that County. The only Parts contained in the Map, thus published by Jefferys, which were surveyed by Capt. Holland are, “the Passage of the Hudson’s [Hudson] River through the Highlands,” and the Parts on the Banks from Viskill to Croton’s [Croton] River,” a Distance of about 20 Miles; and even in these Parts the Compiler has omitted to notice that remarkable Pass Martlaer’s Rock [opposite West Point]. The Boundary Lines of the great Patents and Manors; of some of the Counties; and some of the new Townships are drawn over this Map in their Squares: But I am not able to collect any Improvement in it either as to Topography or Geography Pownall’s comments are at least partially correct, but they are also one-sidedly negative. Pownall was a champion of Evans’ maps, and he had a bias against Jeffreys (as also seen in his comments on Jefferys’ map of New England presented above). This map is clearly a compilation from a number of sources, but the extent to which the compiling was done by Holland himself is uncertain, since his predecessor manuscript maps do not survive. Internal evidence makes it clear that the map was derived in part from Evans, but even Pownall admits that some supplementary surveying was done by Holland. Similarities between this map and Montresor’s map of New York (discussed below) also show that this map drew on military surveys made during the French and Indian War. In addition, we know that Holland had a copy of Colden’s map of New York, which had also been used by Evans. All of this material could well have been brought together by Holland, but it is also quite possible that it was supplemented by Jefferys. Many of the maps of New York and elsewhere produced at this time have equally dubious pedigrees.
In any case, Holland’s map of New York and New Jersey is much more than a redrafting of Evans’ map. A comparison of the two that I have made (using a computer program that generates displacement vectors) shows that Holland’s map is geodetically more accurate than is Evans’ map throughout the Hudson and lower Mohawk River valleys. In addition, it is not insignificant that the larger scale of the Holland map allowed for the presentation of much more detail. The Holland map also benefited from the skillful design and engraving of Jefferys, which greatly improved its readability. All in all, it constitutes a major improvement over any previously published map of New York.
The Holland map also had a peculiar career after its initial publication. In June, 1775, it was reissued under Jefferys’ name—presumably by Robert Sayer, who acquired most of Jefferys’ plates. Although based on the same plate, this new edition involved extensive revisions, including the addition of symbols for individual houses and mills in many areas. The source of this new information is unknown. A few months later, yet another revision appeared bearing the imprint of Sayer and Bennett. Astonishingly, this version bears the information that it was “Drawn by Major Holland, Surveyor General, of the Northern District in America. Corrected and improved, from the original materials, by Governr. Pownall, Member of Parliament, 1776.” Thus, a few years after attempting to discredit the map, Pownall himself turned around and published a “corrected and improved” edition, and did so without hesitating to attribute the original version to Samuel Holland. The Pownall edition used the same plate as the two previous versions, but also included a substantial number of additions and corrections. Several later editions also appeared of this influential map, including a rather crudely engraved German version.
John Montresor’s important Map of the Province of New York (1775) also has a questionable pedigree (Figure 6.15). This map was printed on two sheets at a scale of 1:320,000, making it—along with Sauthier’s “Chorographical” map (discussed in the previous chapter and below)—one of the two most detailed pre-revolutionary maps showing the province as a whole. Montresor apparently made the manuscript version of this map in 1765 at the request of General Gage, but it was not published until 1775. This is probably the map of the Province of New York that Montresor mentioned taking to London for engraving in 1766. The delay of almost ten years before actual publication was not unusual at the time, since the outbreak of the Revolution did wonders to stimulate demand for maps of the American colonies, and sent publishers rushing to look for suitable materials to print.The actual origins of Montresor’s map are obscure. Montresor’s journals make it clear that he was not directly involved in conducting most of the surveys that underlie the map, and I have so far been unable to locate any discussion of the map by Pownall, Gage, or other contemporary figures in the British military or bureaucratic establishments. In all probability, like Samuel Holland’s map of New York and New Jersey, it is primarily a work of compilation, which made use of a variety of published maps and unpublished military surveys. Montresor’s depiction of Long Island is clearly derived either from the Jefferys map of New England, or from some common source used by both. There are also many similarities between Montresor’s map and the maps of Holland and Evans. In addition, Montresor seems to have made extensive use of unknown military surveys—possibly including those of the mysterious Major Christie, and almost certainly those conducted by (or under the supervision of) Holland. We know that at the same time that he prepared his map of New York, he was engaged in compiling a map of “a great part of N. America done by the Engineers at New York.” Much of the topography, of the configuration of rivers, and many details of Montresor’s map are different from those of other contemporary maps, and are almost certainly derived from these unknown military surveys.
The most notable feature of Montresor’s map is its careful depiction of topography through the use of hachures and shading. Because contour lines were not yet in widespread use, Montresor’s depiction of hills and valleys was necessarily crude by modern standards, but it was unusually precise by the standards of his own time. Montresor’s topographic shading gives his map an unusual appearance. With some exceptions, almost all of his topography shows elevations as seen from river valleys. Away from the rivers, little topography is shown, and this gives his map the appearance of an elevation model on which most of the higher elevations have been shaved away with a knife or a plane. This tells us something important about the sources Montresor used to compile his map. Evidently he was working with military route surveys that carefully depicted streams, houses, and roads in the more highly developed river valleys, which also would have been particularly important for military communications. The surveyors appear to have made sketches of elevations as seen from below, probably mostly by visual observation, but possibly also supplemented by the use of plane tables. No attempts appear to have been made to measure altitudes systematically.
My analysis of the overall geodetic framework of Montresor’s map shows that it is not quite as accurate as those of Holland and Sauthier. On the other hand, it includes many details not found on the maps of his rivals. It is necessary to use some caution in interpreting the detailed information on the Montresor map. It appears to reflect the situation at the time the manuscript of the map was compiled, around 1765. There are a number of dates on the map, the most recent of which is 1759. It does not show the modern boundary between New York and New Jersey, which was established in 1768. And the details on the map—such as roads, houses, and mills—are less numerous than on the 1775 edition of Holland’s map, or on Sauthier’s large-scale map. Thus, most of the information on Montresor’s map appears to reflect an earlier situation than the maps his rivals published after 1775. However, given the vagaries of British map publishing, it remains possible that the manuscript might have been updated in some respects when it was published. A comparison of Montresor’s map with, say, Sauthier’s Chorographical map may help reveal the changes that took place in a particular area between 1765 and 1775, but I would not use such comparisons to draw firm conclusions without confirmation from non-cartographic sources.
Montresor’s map was widely admired and distributed. It was included in Faden’s North American Atlas. An updated edition appeared in 1777, and a French edition appeared in the same year. George Washington owned a copy, and it was widely consulted by both sides during the Revolutionary War. Because Montresor’s map of New York did a relatively good job of depicting roads, steams, and topography, it was particularly valuable for military purposes.
Just before the Revolution, Claude Joseph Sauthier produced two important maps showing colonial New York as a whole. We have already seen that Sauthier was involved in surveying, among other things, the Hudson River and the boundary between New York and Quebec. Unlike Holland and Montresor, Sauthier was not primarily a military surveyor. Later, in 1776-77, he was to serve briefly as a military cartographer for the British, but prior to the Revolution he was employed by Governor Tryon. His career always depended directly on the favors of aristocratic patrons like Tryon and (later) Earl Hugh Percy. Sauthier’s dependence helps explain why in an age when fulsome dedications for maps were common, Sauthier outdid all rivals in cringing servility. His most important map bears the remarkable dedication: “To His Excellency Major General William Tryon, Governor of the Province of New York and the Islands thereunto belonging, Colonel of His Majesty’s 70th Regt. of Foot, this map undertaken by his order is with his permission most humbly inscribed by His Excellencys most obliged, devoted and obedient servant, Claude Joseph Sauthier.”
Both of Sauthier’s maps of New York were based on the same manuscript. Since at this time Sauthier was working for civilian rather than military authorities, they reflect different sources and preoccupations than those of Montresor. Sauthier’s smaller-scale map was published first (1776), and the title quite explicitly states that it was a contraction of the larger—still unpublished—map (with the addition of New Jersey based on Ratzer’s “topographical observations”). Its short title reads A Map of the Province of New-York, Reduc’d from the Large Drawing of that Province, Compiled from Actual Surveys by Order of His Excellency William Tryon…. This map—which has a scale of about 1:1,000,000—has been much reproduced because it enables one to see at a glance New York as it appeared at the time of the Revolution. Like the larger-scale map from which it is derived, its overall geodetic framework is somewhat more accurate than that of any other map of New York made during the colonial period. In addition to the expected towns, rivers, and major landforms, it shows large landholdings, along with the crucial links between New York and Canada via both Lake Champlain and the Mohawk River. It bears a superficial resemblance to Holland’s map of New York and New Jersey, and parts of it seem to have been copied from Holland, but it differs in many details. It was widely used as a reference map during the Revolution, and was pirated by two different German publishers.
The larger map—the one with the fulsome dedication quoted above—is at a scale of 1:322,000 (ten miles to an inch). Its origins were discussed in the previous chapter in the context of property mapping, but it is also notable as one of the two most detailed maps of colonial New York. It rivals Montresor’s map in detail and exceeds it in accuracy, but it is considerably different in purpose. As has been seen, it constituted the culmination of efforts by colonial officials, dating back at least to the beginning of Cadwallader Colden’s term as Surveyor General, to produce an accurate map of New York that also would provide detailed information about landholdings. Its purpose is revealed by its complete title: A Chorographical Map of the Province of New-York in North America, Divided into Counties, Manors, Patents and Townships; exhibiting likewise all the private grants of land made and located in that Province; Compiled from Actual Surveys Deposited in the Patent Office at New York, by Order of His Excellency Major General William Tryon (Figures 5.5 and 5.6). Thus, its most distinctive feature, reflecting its administrative purpose, is its careful depiction of the boundaries of manors and land grants. But Sauthier’s map also shows towns, roads, rivers, and lakes, along with many individual houses, and also mills, which are marked by the asterisk-like symbol that was used for that purpose at the time. Sauthier’s treatment of topography is also fairly extensive. Although somewhat impressionistic, it goes well beyond the river valleys shown by Montresor. Although Sauthier’s chorographical map was not published until 1779, it appears to have been completed in 1775, and shows land holdings as of that date or a little earlier.
The maps of Holland, Montresor and Sauthier are the culmination of more than a century of British mapping of colonial New York. They provide the best cartographic picture available of New York as a whole immediately prior to the American Revolution. They were made for purposes that were mostly made obsolete by the Revolution, but their relative accuracy and detail make them of great interest to historians. These same qualities also assured that they would have considerable influence on American mapping in the first decades of the Republic.