Tuesday, July 10, 2012
By Bob Hurst
For as long as I can remember, I have had an affinity for people’s names that seemed to portend an individuality to the bearer that was not granted to those whose names were not so intriguing. There have been names that I found appealing because there was a suggestion of power implicit in the name. The ancient Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, had such a name as did the Inca leader Manco Capac. My two favorite baseball players when I was a young fellow – Harmon Killebrew and Rocky Colavito – also had names that I thought only a player of great power and heroic accomplishments could live up to.
Other names that have caught my fancy are those that simply sound melodious and beautiful when spoken. The current-day Ukrainian tennis player, Kateryna Bondarenko, has such a name and I enjoy watching her play televised matches just to hear the announcer say her name. Another such name was that of the Russian olympian from the mid-1950’s to the early 1970’s, Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, who was also from the Ukraine. Now, don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. There is certainly nothing wrong with being named John Smith, Jack Jones, Tom Brown or Bob Hurst. I have known individuals with each of these names and most of them have been really good folks – their names just don’t have that "zing" that I find interesting.
Those of you who have been reading this column for any length of time know by now where this will eventually lead – my favorite Confederate names – and now is as good a time as any to get there because this article is about the bearer of one of my favorite names among the immortals who wore the sacred gray.
Let me begin by saying that my two favorite names of Confederate heroes are "Turner Ashby" and "Jedediah Hotchkiss". Now, I’m sure you are familiar with Turner Ashby who was a magnificent general, amazing horseman and tremendous fighter. To this day I consider "Turner Ashby" to be the ultimate name for a Southern Gentleman and each time I read or hear the name I immediately have visions of cavaliers, courtly gentlemen and magnolias. This other fellow, however, you might not be too familiar with despite his exalted place in the annals of the Confederacy. From the first time I read his name, though, I had an idea that he was a cut above and my study of the man has done nothing to dissuade me of that notion.
Jedediah Hotchkiss, or "Jed" as he was commonly called, was that atypical Southern hero who was not born in the South. He was born (in 1828) in a small New York town called "Windsor" which was in the central part of the state just above the Pennsylvania state line. He lived his first eighteen years there but then decided to set out and explore other places. He was an extremely intelligent young man and had self-taught himself the skill of map making. After traveling for awhile he eventually reached the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and quickly concluded that it was in the Shenandoah Valley that he wished to spend the rest of his life. Virginia can do that to you.
While living in New York, Jed had taught school at a private academy. He soon opened a private school in Staunton, Virginia, and continued his endeavors in map making while exploring the Shenandoah Valley. All of this changed when the War started as he closed his school and volunteered his services to General Richard Garnett as a Confederate topographical engineer.
Jed also provided valuable service to General Robert E. Lee during this period as he mapped out the general’s campaigns in the mountains. Unfortunately during this time, he experienced a near tragedy as he contracted typhoid fever and was unable to rejoin Confederate forces until March of 1862. Fortunately, when he was sufficiently recovered, he joined the forces of General Stonewall Jackson as his chief topographical engineer in the Valley.
This was the proverbial "match made in heaven". Jedediah Hotchkiss has been described by those who knew him as having a "well-rounded Christian character of beautiful purity and cheerfulness". Perhaps this explains why he and the strongly religious and extremely pious Stonewall became close friends and formed a close and effective working arrangement.
General Jackson’s first order to Jed Hotchkiss was to make for Jackson a map of the valley which would include the entire region from Harpers Ferry in the north to Lexington in the south – an area of more than 2000 square miles. This colossal endeavor, this "Map of the Valley", was Jed’s greatest accomplishment. The map was huge and when completed measured more than eight feet in length and was about three and a half feet wide. The detail was amazing. Through this magnificent map, Jed proved to be a set of eyes for Jackson that allowed the wondrous general to outmarch and outmaneuver many enemy armies that, while far superior in number and weaponry. did not have the detailed information that was provided by the Hotchkiss map.
Jed’s maps not only provided Stonewall with information about terrain and highway routes but also about back roads, sources of water, fields for forage and woods for campfires and shelter. Jedediah Hotchkiss proved to be vital to the success of Jackson’s forces in the Shenandoah.
Interestingly, map making was not the only service that Hotchkiss provided. He had been made a captain and often directed troop movements. He was active in the Valley Campaign, Chantilly, Sharpsburg, and Fredericksburg, to name a few. At Chancellorsville it was Jed Hotchkiss who found the route by which the magnificent Jackson was able to make his famous flank attack on the Union 11th Corps. After Chancellorsville, Jedediah Hotchkiss was making a map of the battlefield when word came to him that General Jackson had died. He expressed his thoughts poignantly in writing and revealed his strong Christian conviction that all events were ordained by God and must be accepted. He wrote:" Our revered and adored Commander is gone. The singular but good and great man that directed everything is no longer at his post and everything wears an altered and lonely look, but such is earth and such are earthly things."
After Jackson’s death, Jedediah Hotchkiss served the next two commanders of the corps – Richard Ewell and Jubal Early – but was frequently assigned to work for General Lee’s headquarters. He served at Gettysburg and also in the Wilderness Campaign. He also served under General Early during his march through the Shenandoah and the subsequent attack on Washington.
After the surrender at Appomattox, Jedediah Hotchkiss was arrested and his maps taken. He was later released by General Ulysses Grant who also returned his maps. Grant even paid Jed for the right to copy some of the maps for his own report.
With the War concluded, Jed returned to Staunton and reopened his school. He later opened an office as a consultant on matters regarding mining and civil engineering. He also continued making maps and these included information about mining, geology, mineral deposits, railroad placement and history. Most of these maps were exclusive to Virginia and West Virginia but some were also of other states. He succeeded very well financially at this endeavor. He also visited England and Scotland to encourage inhabitants of those countries to emigrate to Virginia and, especially, the Shenandoah Valley.
The Hotchkiss Collection of more than 600 maps is housed primarily at the Library of Congress, with a few of his maps and the entire collection of his papers held at the Handley Regional Library in Winchester, Virginia. In the Library of Congress collection are many battle maps of the Shenandoah Valley and other strategic areas. Many of these maps have annotations of various Confederate officers detailing the importance of the maps in various campaigns.
As did many other prominent Confederates after the War, Jedediah wrote about the history of the conflict. In fact, he wrote the entire "Virginia" volume (1295 pages) of the twelve-volume CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.
The greatness of Jedediah Hotchkiss has been recognized in many ways. The town of Hotchkiss, West Virginia, is named for him and his mansion in Staunton is on the National Register of Historic Places. When his birthplace in New York was being placed on the National Register (in the 1970’s), an article in an area newspaper described Jed as "the eyes of one of the world’s most celebrated military geniuses" and went on to say that each one of the many monuments to the great "Stonewall" that are throughout the South, in part, also honors Jedediah Hotchkiss.
There is no doubt that Jedediah Hotchkiss was the greatest cartographer of the Great War of 1861-65. Additionally, he was one of the great cartographer/topographers of his time. He may have been born in New York but there is also no doubt that his heart truly belonged to the South. He is a true Southern Hero.