Historians with the Adams County Historical Society in Gettysburg, PA, have made an exciting discovery that will help reshape our understanding of the aftermath of battle at Antietam while also shedding some new light on our understanding of the aftermath of battle at Gettysburg.
Historians Andrew Dalton and Timothy H. Smith, while researching an article about a “railroad swindler,” S. G. Elliott, discovered a newly digitized map in the holdings of the New York Public Library that shows detailed locations for burials on the Antietam battlefield.
The announcement was made today by the American Battlefield Trust, which gave ECW advanced access to materials. As part of our coverage, we’re pleased to offer exclusive interviews with Dalton and Smith, as well as Antietam National Battlefield’s Brian Baracz; details about the map and its discovery; a look at how the map will impact interpretation at Antietam; and special resources from the American Battlefield Trust. Read on!
The newly discovered Antietam map by Elliott is similar to one he had drawn that depicts the burials at Gettysburg, which historians have used for several decades. According to historian William A. Frassanito, Elliott’s Gettysburg map presented the first post-battle survey of the field, and the map has been widely influential.
The Antietam map, on the other hand, was lost to time. “Battle of Antietam historians have long-hoped that something like [the map] might exist—a wartime map denoting the location of thousands of hastily dug battlefield graves,” says Garry Adelman, chief historian for the Trust and a frequent Smith collaborator, brought in to assist with the material. “We think [this] is the only known extant copy of Elliott’s map for Antietam, which no historian or park curator is ever known to have used or referenced.”
Elliott’s map, drawn in 1864, was based on the work of others. Dalton, in his research on Elliott, discovered that the mapmaker “was nowhere near either Gettysburg or Antietam when the initial burial information was being collected.”
“His maps were undoubtedly based on the efforts of earlier surveyors,” Dalton adds, “and in the case of Gettysburg, may represent the field as it appeared within mere days of the battle.” Nonetheless, he says, “Elliott deserves credit for compiling this valuable information and having it published.” (To read Dalton’s full article on Elliott and Elliot’s maps, visit The Adams County Historical Society Digital History Blog.)
Brian Baracz, a historian at Antietam National Battlefield brought in to help with the project, counted the burial marks Elliott made on the map. “It took a good part of two days and a little help from my wife,” he says. “I took the map and created 24 sections to make it easier to count, [then] hand counted every mark on the map and checked them off as we went.” The tally came to 2,634 Union and 3,210 Confederate, for a total of 5,844 burial marks. Fifty of the individual graves have notes about the identity of the soldier buried there (as compared to Elliott’s Gettysburg map, which identifies only 18 soldiers). The location of many units are also listed on the map by name. The map also included 152 cannon marked in 29 different locations and 269 horses marked in 40 different locations.
Baracz says Antietam National Battlefield now has a special page devoted to the map (you can see it here).
“This discovery reveals truths about the Battle of Antietam lost to time,” Adelman said in a press statement. “It’s like the Rosetta Stone: by demonstrating new ways that primary sources already at our disposal relate to each other, it has the power to confirm some of our long-held beliefs — or maybe turn some of our suppositions on their heads.”
Andrew Dalton took time this morning to talk with ECW about his research on Elliott and how that led to the map’s discovery:
Historian Tim Smith, who discovered Elliott’s Antietam map, also took some time this morning to talk with ECW. He talked about making the discovery and what it might mean for battlefield interpretation:
Antietam National Battlefield Historian Brian Baracz spoke with ECW this morning to talk about his work applying the map at Antietam:
You can read the full press release from the American Battlefield Trust and the Adams County Historical Society here.
The Trust has also compiled a variety of online sources related to the Elliott’s Antietam and Gettysburg maps:
- “S.G. Elliott: A California Railroad Swindler Turned Civil War Cartographer“
- “Antietam – S.G. Elliott Burial Map“
- “Antietam – West Woods, S.G. Elliott Map Section“
- “Antietam – Cornfield and Epicenter, S.G. Elliott Map Section“
- “Antietam – Bloody Lane, S.G. Elliott Map Section“
- “Antietam – Burnside Bridge, S.G. Elliott Map Section“
- “Antietam – Final Assault, S.G. Elliott Map Section“
- Nineteenth-Century Geolocation: The Elliott Map of Gettysburg
- Death & Burial: Guideposts to Gettysburg’s Dead
- Gettysburg – S.G. Elliott Burial Map
And of course, you can also check out the map for yourself, available as a free hi-res download from the NYPL.
Finally, I want to give a special shout-out to historian Kristopher D. White, senior education manager at the American Battlefield Trust (and ECW co-founder!), for his assistance in making today’s report possible.