The early mapping of New York State includes maps produced by three of the leading colonial powers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Both the similarities and the differences between the Dutch, French, and British maps of the area are remarkable. During this period, the three nations were in the forefront of European mapping. They participated in a common European mapping culture—i.e. their maps were based on shared conventions, such as uniform scale, the use of mathematical projections, and the use of latitude and longitude to specify place locations. By and large, they also used the same conventions for map symbolization. However, there are appreciable differences in the ways the map makers of these countries went about depicting the region that was to become New York. These differences directly reflect the culture, political systems, and priorities of each nation. Studying the maps they produced tells us much about the nature of their colonial enterprises.
Less attention has been paid to the French mapping of New York than to that of the Dutch and the British. There are a number of reasons for the neglect of the French contribution. Linguistic barriers and the fact that the French never established a permanent colony in New York help explain why their maps have often been overlooked. Nonetheless, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the French maps of northern and western New York generally excelled those of both the Dutch and the British. And, as was seen in the first chapter of this book, even in the early phase of exploration, French explorers, such as Verrazano and Champlain, played important roles in charting out the new landscape. The French continued to make pioneering and important contributions to the cartography of New York through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
In the first chapter, we left off the story of French mapping of the area that was to become New York with Champlain’s map of 1632. In spite of thirty years of struggle, New France was scarcely viable as late as that date. In 1629 the English had actually seized Quebec, and it looked as though the short career of New France was over, but it was returned to France a few months later under the treaty of St.-Germain-en-Laye. After the fall of Quebec, Champlain returned to France where, among other things, he prepared the 1632 version of his map of New France, which was discussed in the first chapter of this book. In 1633 Champlain returned with three ships and again took charge of a colony now consisting of slightly more than 100 people.
This feeble colony had two things working in its favor. The first was the geographical advantage that came from its position on the corridor leading down the Saint Lawrence River to the Great Lakes. This allowed the French to control much of the valuable fur trade, and eventually enabled them to build a tenuous empire over a large part of inland North America. The exploits of the French on the Great Lakes and in the Mississippi Valley fall largely outside of the framework of this study, although they are reflected in several landmark maps of eastern North America, which will be discussed below.
The other major support of New France in the middle of the seventeenth century was its missionary activities, which were largely carried out by the Company of Jesus. The determined and partially successful attempts of the Jesuits and other religious orders to convert the Indians had no real parallel among the Dutch or the English. The first Jesuits arrived in 1625, and in the following decades they were quite active in attempting to introduce the natives to Christianity. Although most of the efforts of the Jesuits focused on areas that are now in Canada, they also established missions among the Iroquois south of Lake Ontario. In the process, they made important contributions to the exploration and mapping of northern and western New York.
Maps by Missionaries
The Jesuit fathers were among the most educated men in Europe, and their skills sometimes included surveying and cartography. At the very least, they knew how to read a map and use a compass, how to measure distances by pacing, and how to put their observations down in writing and in crude maps. Some of them possessed more specialized skills, such as the knowledge of how to measure latitudes using the sextant or cross staff. A few even made estimates of longitude using spherical trigonometry or lunar eclipses. Probably their basic literacy and familiarity with the use of maps is more important than any specialized knowledge individual Jesuits may have had. It is easy to overlook the importance of the ability to read and write for explorers, especially in the context of the seventeenth century. The Jesuits were sometimes preceded in their discoveries by illiterate or semi-literate explorers and fur traders, such as Champlain’s assistant Etienne Brûlé and later the fur trader Pierre Radisson, but such people were unable to make maps or even provide useful geographical descriptions of their discoveries. Thus, the Jesuits were largely responsible for the earliest detailed maps of northern and western New York. Many of their maps were sent to an institution in Paris usually referred to as the Dépôt de la Marin, which served as the central repository for French colonial maps. Some of the most detailed and interesting of these maps exist only in manuscript, and are little known. Others were used later together with other sources to produce superb manuscript and printed maps of New France.
For those Jesuits who wished for martyrdom—and some of them did so fervently—Iroquoia was truly a land of opportunity. As was seen in the brief discussion of Champlain earlier in this book, the French and the Iroquois got off on a bad footing from the start. Some conflict was probably inevitable because it was underlain by the economics of the fur trade. To obtain furs, the French needed to cultivate good relations with Indians to their west, most notably the Hurons and the Ottawas. These nations were traditional enemies of the Iroquois, and they looked to the French for arms and other support. In addition, the interests of the Iroquois were challenged by the French efforts to control the fur trade, by the cultural challenge posed by French missionary activities, and by the efforts of the French and their Indian allies to control lands claimed by the Iroquois. The Iroquois were closely allied with the Dutch, and exchanged furs with them for trade goods (including arms) at Fort Orange. The introduction of firearms made warfare between groups of Indians much more deadly, and enabled the Iroquois to fight effectively against the French. The formidable Iroquois were spectacularly successful against other Indians (they nearly annihilated the Hurons as a tribe), and they brought New France to the brink of disaster.
Several Jesuits became acquainted with the Iroquois through being taken captive and tortured. Those who survived sometimes returned to found missions. The French missionary effort to the Iroquois was an intermittent affair, which depended on the politics of the moment, but it helped give the Jesuits a good geographical knowledge of the Iroquois lands. One of the first Jesuits to visit New York was Father Isaac Jogues, who was captured in Canada by the Mohawks in 1643. He was brought down to the Mohawk villages via the Lake Champlain route. Upon arrival he was horribly tortured, and then held captive. Eventually Father Jogues escaped from his captors, and with the help of the Dutch at Fort Orange returned to France. He almost immediately returned to Canada, and, in 1646 (after a brief peace had been made between the French and the Iroquois) he returned to the scene of his torments and began the mission to the Mohawks. On his second trip from Canada to the Mohawk River, Father Jogues once again traveled by way of Lake Champlain, accompanied by a surveyor named Jean Bourdon. He may have been the first European to see Lake George, which he named Lac Saint Sacrement (Lake of the Holy Sacrament). This name appears on many British as well as French maps of the colonial era. Only in the middle of the eighteenth-century did the British honor their reigning monarch (George II) by giving the lake the prosaic name it bears today. Jogues’ career as a missionary ended later in the same year when was killed by the Indians, who suspected him of witchcraft.
In 1653, the French and the Iroquois signed another peace treaty, and Jesuit missionaries were allowed to establish themselves in the villages of the Five Nations. In 1658, war broke out again, and the Jesuit mission at Onondaga was abandoned. In 1667, the missions were reopened after the Iroquois decided to conclude peace again following French raids against the Mohawk (described below). The period of intensive Jesuit missionary activity lasted only until around 1680. The Jesuits made a practice of encouraging their converts to move to Canada where they could be better controlled and be less tempted to relapse by pagan Indians. This emigration particularly affected the Mohawk, almost half of whom moved to Canada. This practice did not endear the Jesuits to the remaining Indians, who were concerned about the loss population. An alliance between the English and the traditional Indians gradually forced the Jesuits to withdraw their missions. In 1679 the last Jesuits and their converts left the Mohawk country for Canada. Some Jesuits remained among the Seneca and Onondaga until about 1710, and they continued to have considerable influence among the western Iroquois until the fall of New France.
The French produced a number of manuscript maps of central and western New York between 1640 and 1690. Many of them were drawn by Jesuit missionaries, or used information derived from Jesuit sources. Most remained in manuscript form, although they often influenced later printed maps. These maps are not often reproduced, but photographs or copies of most of them can often be found in large research libraries. Many of these maps were used by nineteenth-century historians, such as Francis Parkman and Justin Winsor, but have since been largely neglected. Some of them are anonymous and undated, and there is a good deal of uncertainty concerning their dating, and how they and relate to each other. One of the purposes of this chapter is to make them more readily available, and to relate them to each other and to the context in which they were made.
One of the earliest of these manuscript maps is an anonymous work that bears the title Chemin des Iroquois (Path of the Iroquois). It is fairly certain that this map, which is shown in 3.1, was drawn in 1646 by Jean Bourdon, a surveyor who accompanied Father Jogues on his trip to the Mohawks in that year. It shows the entire region from Montreal to Manhattan. Parts of it are inaccurate, and its scale is best described as “variable,” but for a first effort it gives quite a good impression of the corridor between Montreal and the Mohawk Villages. It shows Lake Champlain, Lake George (which is not named), and “Fort Orange or Nassau, inhabited by the Dutch.” One of the most interesting features on the map is a dotted line, labeled “chemin des Iroquois,” running from the base of Lake George to three villages of the Mohawks (Agniè). It also shows a path running between the Hudson River and Wood Creek (which flows north into Lake Champlain). This is labeled “route by which the Canadian Algonquins (Montaignez) sometimes go to war.”
3.1. [Jean Bourdon], Chemin de Iroquois, [1646?]. Photograph from Karpinski Collection.
The geographical knowledge acquired in the early period of missionary activity prior to 1653 is best summarized in a map entitled Novae Franciae Accurata Delineatio (1657). This map, part of which is shown in 3.2, was almost certainly prepared by Father Francesco Bressani, the only Italian Jesuit active in New France, for inclusion in a book he published describing his work as a missionary. Although the map was engraved on copper, it was not published in Bressani’s lifetime. Bressani was primarily active as a missionary to the Huron in what is now Canada. At one point he was captured by the Mohawks, and suffered horrific tortures, which he was lucky to survive with the loss of three fingers on one hand. The account of his sufferings has come down to us, and it is not recommended reading for the squeamish.
3.2 West sheet of Francisco Bressani, Novae Franciae Accurata Delineatio (1657). National Archives of Canada.
The parts of Bressani’s map dealing with the area around Georgian Bay on Lake Huron, where he worked for many years, are considered to be outstanding in their detail and accuracy. The portions dealing with western New York are also quite carefully drawn, although they do not reflect such an extensive geographical knowledge of the area. Nonetheless, the map shows a much more wide-ranging knowledge of the geography of New York than one would expect from the limited contacts between the Jesuits and the Iroquois. The Five Nations are shown in approximately their correct locations. Such important features as the Finger Lakes, Niagara Falls, and the Oswego River already make their appearance. The courses of the Genesee River and its tributary Honeoye Creek are clearly shown, along with the Seneca villages in their vicinity. Even the northern edge of the Appalachian Mountains near the present Pennsylvania border is sketched in, along with the headwaters of the Delaware River, and the map includes a clear indication of the Ohio River. Nonetheless there are some serious errors in geography—showing that the area had yet to be systematically explored. Although Bressani was taken captive by the Mohawks, he misplaces the Mohawk River and has it running almost directly north rather than west. The headwaters of the Delaware River are misplaced far to the north and west, and the Delaware seems to be confused with both the Susquehanna and the Mohawk rivers. Finally, Lake Oneida is shown far to the west of its correct location—reflecting a general lack of knowledge of the area between the Mohawk River and the Finger Lakes.
In spite of its errors, Bressani’s map shows that as early as 1650 the French already had a fairly good working knowledge of the geography of central and western New York. Many of the features shown on this map were unknown to contemporary Dutch and English map makers. Most of the information on the Bressani map could not have been based on his own experiences. Aside from his involuntary trip to Mohawk country in 1644, he did not visit New York. His sources seem to have been completely unknown manuscript maps, which must have been in the possession of the Jesuits. Much of the information available to the Jesuits might have been obtained from Indians, or possibly from fur traders, for the map includes many areas where French missionaries or explorers are not known to have visited. In the following decades, as we will see, the French were to further expand and improve on their knowledge of the geography of New York.
Before proceeding to other maps, something should be said about the iconography of the Bressani map, which makes it an impressive example of a propaganda map. A propaganda map is not necessarily false or distorted; its purpose is to convey a motivational message. In this case, the message is to support the Jesuit missions, and it achieves its purpose by depicting the cruelty and barbarism of the pagan Indians, and contrasting them with the redemptive sacrifices of the Jesuit fathers. This message is conveyed most obviously through the depiction of a family of praying Indians in the upper-left corner. This engraving is counterbalanced by another on the eastern sheet (not shown here), which shows the martyrdom of Fathers Brébeuf and Lalemant at the hands of the Iroquois. The smaller details on the map subtly reinforce the basic message, besides which they are true to life and convey interesting information about the New World. On the upper-right is a good representation of a moose, along with a bear and an Algonkian Indian on snowshoes. Rather less successful is a drawing of buffalo or “wild cows”(vaccae silvestres). Several drawings show details of Iroquoian life, including a longhouse, food preparation, and women carrying babies on their backs, as well as dancing, and men at a council fire. Some of the other drawings are more pointed. There is a drawing of an Indian carrying a gun in the section of the map covering New Netherland: a none-too-subtle reminder of where the Iroquois obtained their arms, which they put to such effective use against the French and their Indian allies. This Indian is wearing a remarkable suite of armor made of twigs bound together. At the bottom of the map there is a rather disturbing drawing of mummified Indians in Virginia.
After 1654, when semi-permanent missions were established among the Iroquois, a new chapter opened in the Jesuit mapping of New York. The first European to visit the western Adirondacks was probably Father Antoine Poncet, who was captured by the Mohawks in 1653, and also taken on an involuntary journey from Canada to the Mohawk River via the Lake Champlain route. After a brief captivity and a relatively mild bout of torture, Father Poncet was released, as peace negotiations were underway between the French and the Iroquois. Because of the season of the year, he was returned to Canada by a different route. This route has been plausibly reconstructed as leading from West Canada Creek to Cranberry Lake, and from thence down the Oswegatchie River, which joins the Saint Lawrence at Ogdensburg.
In the following year (1654), Father Le Moyne ascended the Saint Lawrence River to found the first French mission among the Iroquois of central New York. Ascending the river, he saw the Adirondacks, which he named after Saint Margaret. He crossed the Salmon River and made his way overland to the chief village of the Onondagas. There he sampled the salt springs at Lake Onondaga, and returned via the Seneca and Oswego Rivers. In the following years, other missionaries expanded on his discoveries and founded missions among the Seneca farther to the West. By 1680, the Jesuits had obtained a good working knowledge of the geography of much of northern, central, and western New York.
A good overview of the geographical knowledge acquired by the early Jesuit missionaries is contained in a map of northern New York that first appeared in the Jesuit Relation of 1664-65. This map bears the title “Plan of the Forts Constructed by the Carignan Salieres Regiment…” ( 3.3). Although somewhat schematic, it provides a reasonably good picture of the major features of northern and western New York. It presents the villages of the Iroquois in approximately their correct locations—showing considerable improvement in this respect over Father Bressani’s map. Reflecting the adventures of Father Poncet, the Oswegatchie River is shown, approximately where it belongs; it is labeled “River that comes from the direction of the Mohawks.” A second river—apparently the Salmon—bears the same inscription. The Jesuits were uninhibited by modern ideas concerning the separation of church and state, and most of their maps served the French army, as well as provided information useful to missionaries and their friends. This map is fairly typical in its intermingling of military and religious purposes. In addition to sketches of forts, it shows the route that the French were to use in their invasion of the territory of the Mohawks in the following year—an adventure that will be touched upon below. This is essentially the same route as that followed by the Mohawks in conducting Father Jogues and other French captives to their villages.
3.3. Map of Northern New York Published in the Jesuit Relations for 1664/65. Courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library.
Somewhat later developments in the French exploration and mapping of this area are summarized in the so-called “Great Lakes Map.” This is an anonymous map of uncertain origins dating from about 1680, which resides in the Archives of the Marine in Paris. It was a favorite map of Francis Parkman, and a copy of it can be found in the Parkman collection at Harvard. The eight sheets of this map cover the entire area from the coast of New England to the Mississippi River. Regardless of who drew it, it is a work of synthesis that draws on a number of earlier maps and reports by explorers and missionaries.
The easternmost sheet of the Great Lakes Map covers present-day New England and northeastern New York ( 3.4), and shows how extensive was the knowledge the French had gained of this area by the fourth quarter of the seventeenth century. It clearly shows both the Green Mountains in Vermont and the Adirondack Mountains, which are named for the first time on a map as “the Mountains of St. Mary.” (This may be an error in copying, since on later French maps the Adirondacks are consistently called the Mountains of Saint Martha.) A note on the Green Mountains reads “here one can find veins of lead, although not in great abundance,” which indicates that the French were active enough in this area to engage in prospecting. Northern New England is shown as inhabited by “savages called Mahingans or Socoquis.” The depiction of the Lake Champlain corridor is not particularly noteworthy, but it is interesting that the Hudson River is labeled “the North River, or of Traders (traittes), or of Maurice”—echoing the Dutch names for the river and the name assigned to it by Champlain, but ignoring the name favored by the British. The mapmaker showed more willingness to acknowledge political reality in naming “Albanie ci devant Fort d’Orange.” This sheet also shows quite clearly the Black River, which is shown flowing from the “Country of the Iroquois” in northern New York into the St. Lawrence, and is here called the Soegansi River.
3.4. Eastern portion of “Great Lakes” map. Photograph from Pinart, Recueil de cartes.
The second sheet of the Great Lakes Map continues the first, and shows the region around Lake Ontario ( 3.5). This sheet focuses primarily on the area north of the lake, but it includes some information in what is now New York. The Iroquois villages south of Lake Ontario are shown, as well as some of the paths connecting them. Niagara Falls is described (with a bit of exaggeration) as a “waterfall 120 toises high, by which Lake Erie drops into Lake Ontario.” The Salmon River is shown with the annotation: “Cahihonoüagé, the place where most of the [Canadian] Iroquois and the Algonquin disembark and set forth to trade in beaver with New York, following the paths marked by double rows of dots.” This same route is shown on the previously discussed “Plan of the Forts Constructed by the Carignan Salieres Regiment….”, although there the Salmon River is called “La Famine,” and there is no annotation.
3.5. Western portion of “Great Lakes” map. Photograph from Pinart, Recueil de cartes.
Maps produced a few years later reflect greatly improved knowledge of the Finger Lakes Region. A summary of French knowledge of upstate New York made several years after the “Great Lakes Map” is provided by a map entitled “Lake Ontario with its Surroundings, and Particularly the Five Nations of the Iroquois, 1688” ( 3.6). This map is a reworking, probably by Jean-Baptiste Louis Franquelin (of whom more later), of a somewhat more crudely drawn map with a similar title by the Jesuit missionary Pierre Raffeix, who was active in much of this area between 1666 and 1680. This map appears to draw on a variety of sources, including (along with missionary accounts), the explorations of La Salle, and records from Denonville’s expedition against the Seneca in 1687.
The Lake Ontario map shows both shores of the lake, and the entire Iroquois country from the Mohawk River to Lake Erie. It shows the location of a short-lived Sulpition mission to emigrant Cayugas on the Quinte Peninsula on the north shore of Lake Ontario, along other villages north of Lake Ontario where Iroquois were living at the time. The locations of the Five Nations in present-day New York are carefully depicted, along with the Finger Lakes and trails connecting the Iroquois settlements. A trail is also shown leading from the Salmon River (here called, as on most French maps, “La Famine”) to the villages of the Oneidas and the Onondagas. Near the Senecas (Sonnontouans), the Genesee River can be seen with a waterfall (saut) at its head, as well as Irondoquoit Bay with its surrounding wetlands (Marais des Sonnontouans). Along with more conventional information, the map shows favorite Indian fishing locations along the Oswego River, and the location of a salt spring near Onondaga Lake. The map does not neglect military affairs. It shows the site of Fort Niagara, “to be constructed soon.” (The beginnings of a fort were built at this location by La Salle in 1679, although it was not until 1725 that a permanent fort was constructed.) Also shown is the “Grand portage of 30 leagues by which the Senecas go to war against the Illinois”—a path from the Seneca villages near the Genesee River to Lake Erie.
3.6 Le Lac Ontario auec les lieux circonuoisins (1688). Probably by Franquelin. Photograph from Karpinski Collection.
At about the same time as the Lake Ontario map, the French produced two remarkably detailed maps of the Finger Lakes area. The first of these is a polished and accurate Carte du pays des Irroquois (Map of the Country of the Iroquois), which was drawn by Jean-Baptiste Louis Franquelin, probably around 1688 ( 3.7). Its depiction of the area around the Finger Lakes is so detailed and precise that it excels anything else produced prior to the American Revolution. The Finger Lakes themselves are carefully depicted, along with surrounding rivers and the shore of Lake Ontario. In addition, Lake Oneida is shown, along with the Seneca and Oswego Rivers, Wood Creek, and the headwaters of the Mohawk River. The Iroquois villages appear, complete with counts of the number of longhouses in each. Finally, trails connecting the villages are shown, along with some topography, hydrology, and other information. This map should be of great interest to anthropologists and students of Iroquois history.
3.7. Large detail of Franquelin’s Carte du pays des Irroquois. Photograph from Karpinski Collection.
An even more detailed map of a portion of western New York has been given the title “Map of Route from Villages of La Conception and St. Jacques to Lake Ontario.” This map has been dated between 1670 and 1688, but the latter date is almost certainly correct, since the map clearly reflects information collected shortly before or at the time of Denonville’s expedition against the Seneca in 1687. It shows in careful detail the area between Iroquois villages and Irondoquoit Bay (near present-day Rochester). In addition to fortified villages and Indian paths, it shows topography, wetlands, and a sandbar at the mouth of the bay. It is so carefully drawn that it could be used to study changes in streams and shorelines in the area since the end of the seventeenth century.
All of these maps are summarized to some extent in Franquelin’s relatively well-known manuscript map of North America, which is a masterly synthesis contemporary French geographical knowledge of the new continent (3.8). It is appropriate that Franquelin should have made this map, for he is the most important single in the seventeenth-century mapping of New France. As a summary of the geography of New France, this work was unsurpassed until the publication of the DeLisles’ map of 1703 (which will be discussed below)—and even the DeLisles failed to equal Franquelin’s depiction of northern and western New York. Franquelin had first-hand experience of his subject; he lived in Canada between 1671 and 1692, and produced maps for the governors and intendants of New France. Although he never visited central New York, he had access to maps produced by the Jesuits and other explorers and missionaries who were active in that region. In 1693 he returned to France, where he continued to be employed by the King, and had access to the manuscript maps at the Dépôt des Cartes et Plans de la Marine.
3.8. Franquelin, Carte de l’Amerique Septentrion.lle. Detail showing New York Area. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
The maps discussed above represent a high point in the cartography of western New York that was not reached again for over 100 years. The decline in the quality of the mapping of this area has much to do with the expulsion of the Jesuits from the territory of the Five Nations, and it underlines an important lesson in the history of cartography. Under pre-modern conditions, there was often no reliable way for European cartographers to evaluate the accuracy of individual maps of distant places. This was especially true for areas like the Iroquois lands, which were on the fringe of European colonization, and in which there was no literate population able to inform distant mapmakers of errors on particular maps. Under these circumstances, mapmakers usually examined whatever maps they had available, and based their works on what they perceived as a rough average of the features found in several examples. This method almost guaranteed the perpetuation of errors. The occasional gems that might come under their purview often could not be recognized as such.
French Military Maps, 1660-1713
The distinction between military maps and maps made for civilian purposes is not clear cut even today. This is certainly the case with maps made for the centralized French monarchy, where civilian administrators, military leaders, explorers, and missionaries all acted as servants of the king. Individual maps could simultaneously serve to further exploration, to guide missionaries to the scene of their labors, to provide fur traders and their employers with information useful for their business, and to help in the planning of military campaigns. Several maps that have already been discussed show the locations of fortifications and routes for the movement of troops, which are among the most important identifying characteristics of military maps. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to single out for special attention some maps that were made primarily for military purposes.
Maps made specifically for military use became prominent shortly after1660, when New France entered a more dynamic and aggressive phase. By this time France had recovered from the effects of the Thirty Years War and the civil war known as the fronde. Louis XIV’s position was by then firmly established in France and in Europe, and he and his minister Jean Baptiste Colbert were able to devote more attention and resources to their struggling colony. In 1660, New France was made a royal province. Its finances and administration were reorganized, and it was strengthened by several companies of regular troops, including the famous Carignan Salières regiment.
The stage was thereby set for French military intervention in what is now New York. At this particular time, the French were not so much concerned with strengthening their position against the Dutch and the English as with fending off the Iroquois. In 1665 The French began construction of their first forts on the Richelieu River and at the northern end of Lake Champlain. In 1666, the Carignan Salières regiment accompanied by Canadian militia launched two expeditions against the Mohawk Villages west of Albany. The first expedition, launched in January, did the French more damage than the natives, and several wounded French soldiers had to be saved by the Dutch at Fort Orange. A second expedition, which took place that autumn, was more successful. Although it caused no Mohawk casualties, their villages were burnt and crops destroyed. The Iroquois decided to sue for peace, and the French claimed possession of the Mohawk lands by right of conquest. When the first of these expeditions set forth, the French were not aware of the English takeover of New Netherland, although they found out about it in the course of their campaign. Needless to say, the English were thoroughly alarmed by these incursions, which mark the beginning of the struggle between the two nations for the control of New York and North America.
These military activities were duly recorded by mapmakers. Under Louis XIV, the French were the leading producers of military maps, and when the French troops arrived in the New World they brought their cartographers with them. Several maps connected with the military campaign of 1666 have come down to us—all of which are very similar. It is not unusual for such maps to have been made in multiple copies for use in the field and by headquarters. Many of them appear to update or correct information found on earlier maps of the region. These maps are worth examining carefully because, in spite of their overall similarity, each provides unique information about the critically important route between Montreal and the Mohawk Villages via Lake Champlain.
A map mentioned in the previous section of this chapter records the earliest French military activities in the Lake Champlain corridor. This is Bourdon’s map of northern New York, which was published in the Jesuit Relations for 1664-65 ( 3.3). It presents, among other things, an overview of the corridor between Albany and Montreal at that time. It includes ground plans for the three forts the French had recently constructed along the Richelieu River (then called the Rivière des Iroquois), and it reflects improved and updated geographical knowledge of the area. Lake Champlain is shown with considerable accuracy, and Lake George appears bearing the name given to it by Father Jogues, Lac du Saint Sacrement. The alignment of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers is considerably improved in comparison to Bourdon’s Chemin des Iroquois of 1646, and the Dutch settlement at Schnectady is shown in addition to the three Iroquois villages.
A more elaborate depiction of this area is contained in a manuscript map dated 1666, which may also be by Jean Bourdon.. This new map contains a much more accurate delineation of the lakes and rivers between Montreal and Albany than its predecessors, and its military purpose is more explicit. Like the “Route of the Iroquois” map it shows a path from Lake George (Lac du St Sacrement) to the Iroquois villages, which are here labeled “habitations Iroquois que les troupes du Roy doivent attaquer” (Iroquois settlements which the troops of the King are to attack). This map appears to show Lake Saratoga and two other lakes north of Albany. The Dutch fort on the site of Albany is identified (Orange), as is Schenectady (Petit village Hollandais).
With the outbreak of King William’s War (1689-1697), the rivalry between the French and English in North America erupted into open conflict. By this time the French had developed definite plans for seizing the province of New York. From a strategic point of view, the French would have gained much from the possession of New York: it would have given New France a warm water port, largely cut off the English from the fur trade, separated New England from the southern colonies, and generally deprived the English from access to the interior of the continent. In practical terms, the population difference between New France and the English colonies probably made this program impractical, but the seizure of Albany was a real possibility. After 1689, the French tried to realize these ambitions, which had brewing since at least the 1660s. In 1690, a small party of French and Indians destroyed Schenectady. Albany was in serious danger of being taken, and the French even entertained plans for seizing New York City. With a brief interruption between 1697 and 1702, warfare between the French and the British continued until Queen Anne’s War (The War of the Spanish Succession) was ended by the treaty of Utrecht in 1713.
Few manuscript maps have been uncovered that show French military activities in New York during these years. Most of them come from the early part of King William’s war, when the French posed the most serious threat to New York. Most of the fighting in the latter part of King William’s War and in Queen Anne’s War took place in eastern Canada, and neither side had sufficient resources to engage in extensive aggression along the New York frontier. Fur traders and merchants in Albany continued to do business with Montreal during most of Queen Anne’s War, and for all practical purposes there existed a state of undeclared neutrality between New York and New France.
One of the most detailed maps produced during this period of war shows the entire strategic corridor between Boston and New York City. It has been attributed to the French military engineer Robert de Villeneuve, and dated to 1693 ( 3.9). It shows the area between Montreal and Albany, and for much of this area is more detailed and accurate than any of its predecessors. It also includes a fairly good delineation of the Hudson Valley, including the settlements in the vicinity of Kingston, which are labeled “Les Villages D’Isope” (which at that time would have included Hurley, Marbletown, and New Paltz along with Kingston). Villeneuve’s map makes an unabashed claim for the French to the area around New York City, labeling what is now known as New York Bight as the “Mer de la Nouvelle France” (Sea of New France).
3.9. Robert de Villeneuve?, [Region from Montreal to New York, 1693?]. Map photographed in two parts. Photographs from Karpinski Collection.
An interesting manuscript map showing southern New York was compiled in 1693 by J.B.L. Franquelin—the same cartographer who produced the remarkably accurate maps of northern New York discussed in the previous section. This map, however, is more notable for its errors than for its accuracy. It bears the title: “Map of the Coast of New England from Cape Ann to Neversink Point, Including the Route by Land and Sea from Boston to Manhattan.” Franquelin compiled this map shortly after his return from Canada, at the time when the French were seriously contemplating an invasion of New York. This map appears to have been put together from information supplied by a spy, who was probably a double-agent, since some of the details on the map appear to be deliberately misleading. The map’s focus on roads and harbors is understandable, since such information is always useful for invading armies, but at least one of the roads was imaginary. The map shows “a great road” running down the center of Long Island. This road is presciently located where the Long Island Expressway is now found, but no such road existed in the seventeenth century. This map also includes an inset showing Manhattan, which has been reproduced recently by Cohen and Augustyn in Manhattan in Maps. As Cohen and Augustyn remark, this inset shows New York as a “veritable fortress,” equipped with much stronger defenses than it actually had.
Many of the military activities that took place in New York during this period are summarized in an anonymous manuscript map drawn around 1710. It shows the entire passageway from Canada to Albany via Lake Champlain. Both British and French fortifications are depicted, as well as well as portages and other information useful for military planning. Similar sketch maps were prepared by the British and French armies throughout the period of their conflicts—field maps of this type were a staple of military cartography.
Small-Scale Maps of New France, 1650-1720
Before proceeding further in our discussion of specialized maps, it would be worthwhile to consider some of the less detailed (small-scale) maps of New France. These maps show much or all of New France, or even the eastern half of North America. Unlike the manuscript maps discussed above, all of these maps were published. Because of their small scale, they do not contain as much information specific to New York as do more narrowly focused maps, but they can nonetheless be quite informative. Occasionally they contain bits of information that are not found on other maps. Because they were published and therefore widely distributed, they give us a good idea of the overall development of French knowledge of New York and North America. Many of these maps were distributed throughout Europe, and were sometimes used to assert French claims vis à vis the English. Thus, they often functioned as propaganda maps, and throw light on the English and French rivalry in the area.
Because most of the information relating to New York presented on these maps has already been discussed, I will go through them selectively and in relatively little detail. A complete list of French maps published prior to 1700 covering North America can be found in Philip Burden’s useful Mapping of North America.
Several maps that appeared around the middle of the seventeenth century updated earlier maps by Champlain. Until around 1650, Champlain’s 1632 map of New France remained the best published map of New France. In 1643, Jean Boisseau published a slightly amended edition of Chaplain’s 1632 map. In 1653 Pierre Du Val provided an interesting update of Champlain’s work. Du Val obtained a plate that Champlain had prepared in 1616 for a map of New France that was never published. Du Val amended the plate with additional information for his 1653 map, which he republished with further additions in 1664, 1667, and 1677. None of these maps contain new information about New York, but Du Val’s are among the first to show the boundaries claimed by New France against New England and New Netherland.
Several maps published between 1650 and 1660 resemble the Bressani map, and are clearly based on similar sources. At the time of its publication, the best widely available synthesis of French knowledge of northeastern North America was contained in Nicolas Sanson’s map of “Canada or New France,” which was published in 1656 ( 3.10 ). Sanson (1600-1667) was Geographer to the King of France between 1630 and 1665, and therefore had access to the manuscript maps arriving from New France. The Sanson map, which closely resembles Bressani’s map, shows how much French knowledge of the Great Lakes region had improved since Champlain’s time. In the maps of Champlain and Duval there is only a hint of Lake Erie. Here Lake Erie is clearly shown, and the other great lakes make a recognizable appearance. Sanson’s depiction of modern New York also closely resembles Bressani’s, but Sanson does a somewhat better job of handling the geography of central New York. Like Bressani, Sanson was confused by an error appearing on early Dutch maps (including De Laet’s map of 1630), which showed a large lake as the source of both the Mohawk and Delaware Rivers. But Sanson partially corrected this error by placing the lake closer to the position of Lake Oneida, and by having the Mohawk River flow westward into it. He also did not extend the Delaware River into the Finger Lakes region. Sanson seems to have been working with more recent Dutch maps than Bressani, and his work is an excellent synthesis of contemporary French, British, and Dutch sources. It should be remembered that this map is almost exactly contemporary Visscher map of New Netherland, and as an overall depiction of the region, Sanson’s work is superior to Visscher’s.
3.10. Detail of Nicolas Sanson, Le Canada ou Nouvelle France (1656). Courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library.
Sanson’s map went through several editions, and it shows the boundaries that the French claimed between their territory and New England and New Netherland. As do later French maps of North America, Sanson’s 1656 map of New France minimizes English and Dutch possessions, and shows New France sprawling off indefinitely toward the west. Of course, these claims constitute audacious and extravagant propaganda, since at this time the French had no settlements or fortifications whatsoever in present-day New York (to say nothing of the Ohio Valley and other regions further to the west). All of these territories were still firmly in the hands of their original Native American possessors, and at best French missionaries and fur traders visited them at their sufferance. The effectiveness of maps as vehicles for propagandistic territorial claims is shown by the fact that even today people looking at these maps are drawn into regarding the flimsy and dream-like French empire in North America as much more of a geographic reality than it actually was.
In 1664 François du Creux (1596-1666), another Jesuit missionary, published a map of New France, which closely resembles those of Bressani and Sanson. It also has a fairly detailed depiction of present-day New York State, which differs in some details from the other two maps. These differences make the map potentially useful to historians and archaeologists interested in studying the Jesuit missions or Iroquois settlement patterns.
Among best-known maps of New France published in the last half of the seventeenth century are those of Vincenzo Coronelli (1650-1718). Coronelli’s maps are carefully crafted, and are important for their depiction of the western Great Lakes and the northern Mississippi Valley, but they do not present substantial new information about New York. Coronelli was a Venetian map maker, who worked for only two years in France, and appears to have had fairly limited access to the many unpublished maps of New France. And by the 1680s, the focus of French exploration and missionary activity had already shifted to the west.
One family of map makers that deserves particular attention is that of the De L’Isles (or Delisles). Guillaume De L’Isle (1675-1726), along with his father Claude (1644-1720), is considered to be among the founders of modern “scientific mapping.”  Such claims need to be examined carefully, since there is not much agreement between historians of cartography as to what constitutes “scientific mapping,” or even if the concept is valid at all. On the surface, the maps of the De L’Isles do not look very different from those of Sanson or Coronelli. And, in fact, the De L’Isles put together their maps in much the same way as their predecessors—mainly by collating and updating earlier manuscript and printed maps. Their maps of North America are not derived from surveys based on triangulation, like those his near contemporary Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1625-1712) made of France, and this type of survey-based mapping was considered (at least in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) to be the hallmark of “scientific” cartography. On the other hand, the De L’Isles did make particular efforts to evaluate their sources, to avoid placing on their maps information that they could not confirm, to cite their sources, and to obtain from others accurate longitudes and latitudes. Thus, their work might be said to be “scientific” in the same way that a work of history can be described as scientific when it is based on the careful evaluation of verifiable sources. Another characteristic of the De L’Isle’s maps is their stylistic simplicity. Rather than fill their maps with pictures of animals, Indians and sailing ships, the De L’Isles left out most art work, which might detract from the purity and scientific seriousness of their cartographic message. In this respect the De L’Isles started a trend that is also seen in subsequent scientific cartography.
Claude and Guillaume De L’Isle’s 1703 Carte du Canada ou de la Nouvelle France (Map of Canada or of New France) summarizes much of the French mapping of North America in the seventeenth century. Another work of synthesis, it updates Sanson’s map and has much more accurate estimates of latitude and longitude than previous maps of the area. As far as its depiction of New York is concerned, it does not constitute a radical improvement over the work of Sanson, although it finally did away completely with the fictitious lake at the headwaters of the Mohawk and Delaware Rivers.
In 1718, Guillaume De L’Isle published an even more important landmark map, which is entitled in its English edition A Map of Louisiana and of the River Mississippi ( 3.11). This map shows the tenuous French empire extending over most of the eastern two-thirds of what is now the United States and much of Canada. It is indeed a notable production. Its depiction of the Mississippi River system was remarkably accurate for its time—so much so that it was consulted as late as the beginning of the nineteenth century by Thomas Jefferson in preparing his instructions for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. De L’Isle’s map was not merely a brilliant work of cartography, but it was also a bold piece of propaganda. When Governor Burnett of New York saw the French version of this map in 1720, he noted that the French were claiming huge swaths of territory that the English considered to belong to themselves: “Particularly all Carolina is, in this new Mapp, taken into the French Country, and in words there said to belong to them, and about fifty leagues all along the edge of Pennsilvania & this Province taken into Canada, more than was in their former Mapp.” In other words, the French were already claiming on paper territories in the Ohio Valley and elsewhere that they would actually to try to occupy militarily only later in the eighteenth century. This map was the opening salvo in a lively exchange of cartographic artillery that continued until the end of the French and Indian War.
3.11. Detail of Guillaume de L’Isle, Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Mississipi (1718). Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
In spite of its smaller scale, the depiction of New York on De L’Isle’s 1718 map of Louisiana is considerably better than on his 1703 map of Canada or New France. It appears that De L’Isle had consulted Franquelin’s unpublished maps in the interim. Lake Oneida is finally shown in its correct position close to the headwaters of the Mohawk River. The depiction of the Finger Lakes, which is clearly copied from Franquelin, is better than on any published map made prior to the end of the American Revolution. The courses of the Hudson, Delaware, and Susquehanna Rivers are all shown closer to their correct locations than on any earlier map. De L’Isle also shows Lake George (Lac du Saint Sacrement), which is not identified on his 1703 map, or on earlier published maps. The boundary between New France and New York is shown running through the middle of the Mohawk River and bending east well south of Lake George. The British, who claimed sovereignty over the Iroquois and everything south of the St. Lawrence River, were predictably upset. In spite of their political objections, the British recognized the cartographic superiority of this map. Cadwallader Colden, Surveyor General of New York from 1720 to 1763, complained for decades that there were no British maps of interior North America comparable to those of the French. He paid De L’Isle’s depiction of central and western and central New York the compliment of copying it and publishing it at as his Map of the Country of the Five Nations Belonging to the Province of New York, which will be discussed in the next chapter.
One oddity on De L’Isle’s 1718 map illustrates the limitations of his version of scientific mapping. The portion of the Hudson River north of Albany (called here as on some other French maps “R. du Cayeux”) is shown flowing westward almost as far as Lake Ontario. In fact, there is just a short portage (“Portage d’Anwuenre”) connecting the Hudson with Lake Ontario near Sacketts Harbor. This particular feature does not appear on Franquelin’s maps, and is most likely derived from one of the written sources that De L’Isle consulted. Apparently De Lisle read an account of someone who had traveled up the Hudson River and reached—after several long portages—the Black River, which flows into Lake Ontario at approximately the location shown on the map. This description could have come from a French explorer, or possibly from an Indian account. Such dramatic errors can easily arise when one attempts to convert vague travelers’ reports into the precise imagery of a map. On the 1703 Carte du Canada, the De L’Isles famously fell into the same kind of trap when they added a good deal of fictitious geography to the Great Plains, which he had derived from the later discredited “explorations” of Baron Lahontan.
In spite of its limitations, De L’Isle’s 1718 map is an outstanding summary of more than a century of French exploration in and around New York. It continued to dominate the depiction of northern and western New York until the middle of the eighteenth century.
From De L’Isle to the Fall of New France, 1714-1760
During the eighteenth century, the French did not come forth with such spectacular contributions to the mapping of the New York area as they had in the previous century. Surveyors and map makers were not completely inactive in New France during this period, but their efforts were directed mostly to the west of our area. This period can be broken down into two phases. During the first phase, which runs roughly from 1714 to 1744, there was an uneasy peace between France and Great Britain. The lack of military activities, combined with the exclusion of the Jesuits from most of Iroquoia, led to a reduction in French activities in present-day New York, and consequently few maps of the region were produced. After 1744, the military rivalry between the two powers heated up and led to open war, which culminated with the fall of New France in 1760. Not surprisingly, the last fifteen years of New France saw a resurgence of military mapping, as well as the production of many general-purpose maps displaying the competing claims of the French and the British
It was more than twenty-five years before De L’Isle’s 1718 map of French North America encountered any serious competition from published maps. However, some important regional explorations and surveys took place between 1720 and 1740. Many of the manuscript maps produced during this period are associated with the name of Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry, which was shared by a father-son team of mapmakers. The elder de Léry, a French military engineer, arrived in New France in 1716, and made maps until his death in 1756. His son, who became his assistant, started making maps in the 1730s. Since both shared the same name, and they did not always sign their maps, or signed them only “de Léry,” there is much confusion concerning the authorship of their maps.
In the 1720s, the elder de Léry was involved in surveying the south shore of Lake Ontario. He also made many plans of fortifications, including drawings of the French Fort Niagara, and of the British fort at Oswego, which was established on what the French regarded as their territory in 1727.
Starting around 1730, the French moved to strengthen their hold on the strategic Lake Champlain corridor. In 1731 they began construction of Fort St. Frederic (Crown Point), which is about two-thirds of the way down the lake. This fort was designed by the elder Chaussegros de Léry, who also helped fortify Québec and Montreal. During time of war, the fort at Crown Point was used effectively by the French to launch raids against the British settlements in the Connecticut River Valley. In 1755, the French pushed even further south with the construction of Fort Carillon (later Fort Ticonderoga). As was usually the case with fortifications, both French and British military engineers lovingly drew numerous maps of these structures and their surroundings. These military maps and plans will be discussed at the end of this chapter.
The French also drew a number of regional maps of the Lake Champlain area, several of which show French land grants in the vicinity of the lake ( 3.12). This is the only area in what is now the Northeastern United States that the French attempted to settle. In New York, the French, like the Dutch, produced little in the way of property maps, since they had few settlements in the region. Again like the Dutch, they were primarily oriented towards fur trading, and the population of New France was small in comparison to that of the British colonies. The French attempted to settle their colony using a system of seigniorial grants. This system was only slightly more successful for the French than it had been for the Dutch or the English, and almost all of the French settlements were in the Saint Lawrence River Valley. When the attempt was made to extend settlement to the vicinity of Lake Champlain, the area was divided up into estates, as shown on 3.16. Most of these estates were never populated, and the grants were eventually withdrawn because of a clause requiring settlement. French settlement in this area was inhibited not only by of the small population of New France, but because the incessant warfare with the English and their Indian allies discouraged settlement in this border area. The few seigneuries that lasted for more than several years were in the vicinity of the French fort at Crown Point, where they enjoyed some protection. Several of the French land grants survived the French and Indian War, and were acknowledged by the British. They appear on some of the British maps made between 1763 and 1775, and created legal problems for the British settlement of the area.
3.12. Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry, Carte du Lac Champlain depuis le fort Chambly jusquáu fort St. Frederick. Facsimile from the Documentary History of New York.
In addition to their work along the shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, military surveyors explored some inland parts of western New York, especially around the headwaters of the Allegheny branch of the Ohio River. This region was important for communication between the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley, where the French founded Fort Duquesne on the site of Pittsburgh.
Materials from these surveys were used in 1744 by Jacques Nicolas Bellin (1703-1772) in his map of the area around the Great Lakes (Carte des Lacs du Canada). This map is an important work of synthesis, and it opens the final phase of the mapping of New France. It was later largely incorporated in Bellin’s Partie occidentale de la Nouvelle France ou Canada (1745), which was accompanied by a Partie orientale de la Nouvelle France ou Canada, covering eastern Canada and New England. On the whole, the depiction of New York on these maps reflects only a modest improvement over De L’Isle’s rendition, and Bellin’s delineation of the Finger Lakes is actually less accurate than that of De L’Isle. By this time the Iroquois had wisely become cautious about letting either English or French surveyors make maps of the region around their villages, which largely explains the inaccuracy of the Bellin map in this area.
On the other hand, Bellin makes up for this weakness by a much more careful rendition of the shoreline of Lake Ontario, along which all the major rivers and inlets are carefully detailed and named—reflecting the previously mentioned military surveys. The map also shows the strategically important British fort at the mouth of the Oswego River (labeled Fort de Chougen), as well as the French fort at Niagara Falls, which served to cut off the British from the western Great Lakes. Several new features in southwestern New York make their first cartographic appearance here. Lake Chautauqua is clearly shown, along with a portage to it from Lake Erie. The sources of the Ohio River in New York are also shown in approximately their correct location. The explorations of the French in this area mark the beginnings of their efforts to build a chain of forts from Lake Erie to modern Pittsburgh, and thereby prevent the English from expanding into the Ohio Valley. The Genesee River is shown to its headwaters with the note appended to its upper regions, “river unknown to geographers which is full of waterfalls and cascades.” The lower reaches of the Genesee were shown on many maps reaching back to the middle of the seventeenth century, but this map apparently marks the first attempt to explore the scenic middle and upper reaches of “the Grand Canyon of the East.”
In 1755 Bellin issued a revised edition of his Partie occidentale de la Nouvelle France ou Canada ( 3.13). The revised edition is significantly different from its predecessor. It is on a smaller scale and omits many of the details in western New York found on the earlier version. However, it provides us with a drastically revised view of Lake Ontario, which is presumably based on the new surveys mentioned above. The new version captures more successfully the correct shape of Lake Ontario, but the Lake is tilted to the northeast. (This may be the result of using surveys that failed to correct for the magnetic declination of the compass.) The new edition also provides a better rendition of the British colony of New York (except for most of Long Island). For the portion of the map showing areas controlled by the British, Bellin clearly relied on British and American sources, particularly on Lewis Evans. Bellin shifts the line of demarcation between the British and the French colonies slightly to the west from where De L’Isle placed it. Here it passes just to the west of the headwaters of the Mohawk River and arcs slightly to the west before passing through the middle of Lake George and the southern portion of Lake Champlain.
3.13. Detail of Jacques Nicolas Bellin, Partie occidentale de la Nouvelle France ou Canada (Paris?, 1755). Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
One other map by Bellin from this period deserves special notice. This is his 1757 map of the St. Lawrence River region from Quebec to Lake Ontario. It is notable for its relatively detailed depiction of northern New York, including the Adirondack Mountains, and the rivers flowing into Lake Champlain, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River. Here is another example of a French map that is considerably more detailed than anything produced by the British or the Americans until after the American Revolution. This map also reflects the status of military activities in the opening years of the French and Indian War. The British fort at Oswego is noted as being destroyed. The French Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga) is shown at the foot of Lake Champlain; the nearby British forts Edward and George are shown at the base of Lake George. The small French fort at Ogdensburg (“La Présentation”) also makes an appearance, which is unusual on maps. Among the new fortifications depicted here is “Fort Toronto, francois,” making it the earliest printed map I have seen that shows the existence of a European settlement on the site of the present city of Toronto. (The French Fort was destroyed by the British a few years after its construction in 1755, and a permanent settlement was established only after the American Revolution.)
After 1755, both the French and the British published numerous maps of their North American colonies. Bellin himself published several more maps, and he was joined by such famous competitors as Jean Baptiste Bourgiugnon d’Anville (1697-1782), Phillippe Buache (1700-1773), Jean Baptiste Nolin (1686-1762), and Didier and Giles Robert de Vaugondy (another father and son team). Many of these maps are beautifully engraved and quite detailed, which makes them popular with collectors. They were mostly works of compilation, in which French mapmakers copied freely from each other and from their British counterparts to produce the best possible synthesis. British and French mapmakers continued to make outrageous claims on each others territory, although it is doubtful whether anybody took them very seriously, or if they had much effect on diplomacy. However, except for those of Bellin, the published French maps of this period do not show very much that is new in regard to New York. At this time, the French and British armies were too busy fighting each other for them to engage in extensive new surveys or explorations. For new information from this final phase of French North America, we need to return again to more specialized military maps.
French Military Maps, 1714-1760
The peace concluded between France and Great Britain in 1714 was never very stable. As we have seen, the French continued to annoy the British by incursions into the Champlain Valley and along the south shore of Lake Ontario. If the British had good reason to be alarmed by the French incursions into upstate New York, other activities by the French were even more upsetting. After 1714, the French followed a policy of trying to pen in the British colonies behind the Appalachian Mountains. While the British settlements remained huddled along the Atlantic Coast, the French, with a much smaller population, were developing a far-flung empire that embraced the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Valley. However tenuous their occupation of most of this area may have been, the French had effectively encircled the British colonies and were in a position to launch raids and invasions along the entire frontier.
Armed conflict between the French and the British in North America finally broke out between 1744 and 1748 with King George’s War (the American counterpart of the War of the Austrian Succession). Most of the fighting in this war took place in eastern Canada, but when war broke out again in 1755, the region around New York was at the center of much of the fighting. This final conflict is known in the United States as the French and Indian War (1755-1760), and was part of the world-wide Seven Years War (1755-1763).
As one would expect, these wars produced the usual outpouring of military maps, ranging from maps covering the entire “theatre of war” to detailed plans of individual fortifications. The French mapping of New York during this period is not as extensive as the British, and relatively few of the French maps achieved publication. By this time the British military had caught up with the French in its cartographic capabilities, and the British had much more extensive economic resources to put into the North American war. The British maps are better known than the French in part because so many of the British maps were published. This is partially a consequence of the natural tendency of victors to celebrate their triumphs. Nonetheless, the French maps produced around the time of the French and Indian War are often quite detailed and informative.
A good overview of the “theatre of war” during the French and Indian Wars is provided by a map published in 1781 in Pierre Pouchot’s memoirs, which shows fortifications, battlefields, and communications routes. It typifies the type of general purpose military map that commanders in the field and headquarters would use to orient themselves. A copy of this map can be found on the Web at the John Carter Brown Library of Early American Images, which is referenced in the endnote for this paragraph.
A remarkable and little-known map serves to illustrate the high quality of some of the French military mapping in the years after 1755. This is an anonymous manuscript map held by the Séminaire de Québec, and assigned the title Rivière Richelieu, lac Champlain, lac Saint-Sacremont et rivière Connecticut (1758). It shows in great detail the rivers, streams and paths between the Montreal-Albany corridor and the Connecticut River. The possession of such a map would obviously have been invaluable in planning and conducting the guerilla style raids which the French and their Indian allies conducted against the English settlements in the Connecticut Valley.
The French plans of fortifications and their surrounding areas are too numerous to discuss individually. They are invaluable to military historians, and sometimes provide unique information about landscape features, roads, and structures near the forts. Two examples will serve to illustrate the general characteristics of these maps. The engravings presented here show Fort Niagara ( 3.14) and Fort Carillon ( 3.15). Note that both show a good deal of the topography of the surrounding area. The map of Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga) also shows the positions of the French and British troops at Montcalm’s famous defeat of the British General Abercrombie in 1758.
3.14. Anonymous, Detail of “Plan de Niagara et des fortifications faites en 1755 et 1756”. National Archives of Canada (NMC 0026647)
3.15. Anonymous, Detail of “Plan du Fort Carillon, 1758.” National Archives of Canada (NMC 0007792).
The involvement of the French military in mapping New York did not, of course, end with fall of New France in 1760. During the American Revolution, the French army along with its mapmakers returned to fight the British, and we will have occasion to examine their work in the context of the mapping of the Revolutionary War. Even after the conclusion of the War of Independence, individual French and French-Canadians continued to participate in the mapping of New York, but they no longer did so in an official capacity as representatives of the French government