“The American military’s first great amphibious invasion”
145. [MAP]. UNITED STATES. ARMY. CORPS OF TOPOGRAPHICAL ENGINEERS. TURNBULL, W[illiam], et al. Siege of Vera Cruz, by the U.S. Troops under Major General Scott, in March 1847, from Surveys made by Major [William] Turnbull, Captains [John T.] Hughes, [George Brinton] McClellan & [Joseph Eggleston] Johnston Lieutenants [George Horatio] Derby & [Edmund La Fayette] Hardcastle, Topl. Engineers. [text at lower left] Patterson’s Division... [text at lower right] Dragoons under Col. Harney... Worth’s Division... Twigg’s Division.... N.p., n.d. Lithograph map, hand colored (Mexican troops in blue, U.S. in orange), neat line to neat line: 41 x 64.6 cm. Creased where formerly folded (but not to standard 8vo size), left margin lightly browned, overall fine.
This map documents a momentous military event in U.S. history, both in terms of outcome and tactics. “The landing near Veracruz was the American military’s first great amphibious invasion” (Sandweiss, et al., Eyewitness to War..., Fort Worth & Washington: Amon Carter Museum & Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989, p. 262). Phillips, America, p. 971. Not in Garrett & Goodwin, The Mexican-American War. Similar to a map of the same title that is irregularly found in a government document, United States 30th Congress, 1st Session. Senate Executive Document 1. Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress, at the Commencement of the First Session...December 7, 1847. Washington: Printed by Wendell and Van Benthuysen, 1848 (Garrett & Goodwin, The Mexican-American War, p. 321), but here the map is slightly larger, on slightly thicker paper, the title is positioned 3 cm below neat line, and the “s” in “I. de Sacrificios” extends beyond the neat line on the right.
Following an amphibious landing, Scott invested Veracruz for twenty days before the city and the fort capitulated. This was one of the few times that Scott enjoyed numerical superiority and superiority of position, since a naval fleet blockaded the port and prevented reinforcements from arriving by that avenue. As is clearly shown on the map, Scott had the city completely cut off. The U.S. siege works are carefully delineated, including the numbers and types of weapons, and troop positions and headquarters on the investment line are also shown. Shortly after capitulation, Scott departed on his momentous march to Mexico City. Although Scott’s amphibious landing is often referred to as the first such assault in U.S. military history, that is not correct. The earliest recorded assaults were executed by John Paul Jones in 1778 in the British Isles. Scott’s invasion, however, was certainly the first significant use of amphibious warfare in U.S. military history.
As noted by William H. Goetzmann (Army Exploration in the American West, 1803-1863, Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1991, pp. 151-152), the theater of the Mexican-American War was where U.S. Topographical Engineers honed the skills that would serve so well for subsequent survey and cartographic work in the West. The six engineers responsible for this map later went on to produce significant depictions of the territory that would come to the U.S. as a result of the Mexican-American War. Each of their lives and working histories are important and interesting. Perhaps the most unusual and lesser-known member of that splendid team was 24-year-old George Horatio Derby. Although best known for his humorous writings under the pseudonyms of John “Phoenix” and “Squibob,” Derby (1823-1861) served with distinction with the U.S. Army, creating an important map of the California gold regions and performing the first reconnaissance of the Colorado River (see Thrapp I, p. 394). ($600-1,200)
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