As stunning in scope as it is in its presentation, “The Old North State at War – The North Carolina Civil War Atlas,” recently released by the N.C. Office of Archives and History, is a compilation of North Carolina’s role in the Civil War. The oversized 190-page volume penned by historian and cartographer Mark Anderson Moore with support from department staffer Jessica Bandel and supervisor Michael Hill comes complete with 99 highly-detailed maps, many spanning an entire 17-inch by 11-inch page
The coffee table book commemorates the Civil War sesquicentennial, but it’s much more than a tradit
ional blow by blow look at major battles. Instead, the text highlights the military engagements and analyzes the war’s social, economic and political consequences through tables, images and charts. Manuscripts, enlistment data, election returns, newspapers, census records and a variety of other sources were researched for this decade-long project.
The state knew early on that it wanted to do something bold to mark the war’s 150th anniversary, forming a committee in 2004 to begin early outlines of the project. The result is a definitive look at North Carolina through the war years, broken down into seven informative chapters. From the fall of Hatteras and the Burnside Expedition through the fall of Fort Fisher and the Carolinas Campaign of 1865, the state’s Civil War years are examined in a new light. Learn about the U.S. Colored Troops, trace Sherman’s route and explore the Burnside Expedition through Eastern Carolina. How was slavery impacted? What was life like for the women and children left at home? How many of the troops deserted during the war? The many questions Civil War buffs have unanswered are met head on in this definitive compilation, then supported by data, personal accounts, images and artwork of the period.
“Maps are the core of the book, but we were encouraged by our advisory board to explore beyond the military confrontation,” offered Michael Hill, administrator of the Historical Research Office. “The home front, dissent, women’s roles and other topics, such as food shortages. There’s a section I spent a particularly large amount of time on that charts inflation. So we did not spend all of our time tracing the battles and campaigns.”
Thanks to the maps, battle information is presented as never before. The state’s road network was applied against modern GIS technology and period cartography from map makers that went into the field with Confederate and Union forces. Thanks to that effort, landmarks and wartime events, identified with their contemporary spellings, are given more accurate geospatial orientation than ever before. And Hill couldn’t be more pleased with the result, calling Mark Moore the nation’s premier Civil War cartographer.
“The maps are the most accurate and detailed yet produced of Civil War North Carolina. Most of the smaller engagements included in the atlas have never had modern map studies completed on them,” the book’s introduction reads.
While Hill notes that the Civil War is the most researched and written about war in history, this book goes a step beyond anything that has previously been published.
“To date there is simply nothing else like it, not on this state or any other.
“It was difficult to produce, primarily because it’s an unusual size. But in order to give as much scope and depth to the maps it was necessary,” he added. “Small communities, creeks, troop movement simply couldn’t have been detailed at such a level had it been a smaller volume.”
It is not necessarily a book for the masses, but rather one that will surely be found in libraries and universities as well as the homes of avid Civil War buffs. It’s an invaluable resource on the state’s wartime history – one that a recent newspaper article referred to as the “agency’s crown jewel.” It’s a must for any Civil War buff eager to fill in the gaps.
The book retails for $85 and can be purchased at www.ncdcr.gov. For those who would like to bypass the $13 shipping cost on the oversized book, will find it at local state museums and historic sites, including the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort.