Tuesday, July 2, 2013

1777 Map of American Revolution

by Bryan Whitledge

Every year, we celebrate the American Revolution with a parade, or maybe a barbecue, or potentially some fireworks. The Clarke Historical Library has numerous resources documenting how the people of Michigan have celebrated Independence Day throughout the years. We have historic photographs showing Fourth of July events in various Michigan cities. We have publications commemorating the American Revolution. And we have a great deal of material from the Bicentennial celebrations in 1976, including microfilm of over 90 Bicentennial editions of newspapers throughout Michigan – from the Allegan County News & Gazette to the Ypsilanti Press.

Click on the maps to see larger images
or download the images to enlarge them
Because of our focus on materials that document Michigan history and the history of the Old Northwest, children’s literature, and the history of Central Michigan University, we do not have many materials directly related to the Revolution. Despite the fact that we do not have a large collection about the fight for American Independence, we do have a few very interesting items. In honor of the 237th birthday of the United States this year, we are sharing one of these items - a map of the U. S. from the time of the Revolution.

This map, printed in France in 1777, is entitled Theatre de la Guerre en Amérique, or the "Theater of War in America." It shows the 13 colonies (some are tricky to find – “Conecticut” is an example) and southeastern Canada. There are also insets showing the American Southeast, an engraving of Niagara Falls, and the Louisiana Territory (the Mississippi River system), which was French territory at the time of the printing of this map.

The map was engraved in Paris by Monsieur Le Rouge, the King’s Engineer of Geography, and printed under the authority of the King of France. The slight coloration used to denote the borders of some of the colonies and territories was done by hand. Lands that were deemed by the European settlers and the engraver of the map to be the territory of specific Native American groups is identified by the overarching names of the tribe or tribal groups, such as Miamis or Iroquois.

For the size of the map and the time in which it was printed, there is a substantial amount of detail. Larger towns and cities are noted, as are forts. Some of the words on the map differ from what we are accustomed to today, such as “Nouvelle Yorck” for New York or “Pekepsil” rather than Poughkeepsie, but even with the different language and the 236 years since its creation, one can easily discern what this map shows. From a Michigan perspective, there are some locations of note. “Fort du Detroit,” “Sault Ste. Marie,” and “Baye de Saguinum” are just three examples.

While Theatre de la Guerre en Amérique is not a battle map as we might think of one today, it would have given the Frenchman reading it an idea of what the British were up against across the Atlantic 237 years ago.

The Clarke wishes you and yours a happy and safe Independence Day. We will be closed Thursday, July 4 and reopen with regular business hours – 8 am to 5 pm – on Friday, July 5.