First Official English Survey of the Lower Mississippi
Historically Significant for Emigration and Boundary Purposes
360. [MAP]. ROSS, John. Course of the River Mississipi, from the Balise to Fort Chartres; Taken on an Expedition to the Illinois, in the latter end of the Year 1765. By Lieut. Ross of the 34th. Regiment: Improved from the Surveys of that River made by the French. London Printed for Robt. Sayer. No. 53 in Fleet Street. Published as the Act directs. 1 June 1775. London, 1775. Copper-engraved map on two joined sheets of heavy laid rag paper, original yellow outline hand coloring, neat line to neat line: 111.8 x 34.5 cm; overall sheet size: 118 x 54.7 cm, verso with original inkstamp 33. A bit of mild staining to outer edges of blank margins, a few short tears neatly repaired, minor spotting not affecting image (including one on verso, but no bleedthrough), remains of old mounting strip on verso, overall a fine copy with very generous margins.
First edition, issue “b”, after the original publication with imprint: London: Robert Sayer 1 June 1772. In the present issue, many alterations have been made in the New Orleans region, including the addition of Forts St. Leon and St. Mary. The map was published on the eve of the American Revolution in Sayer and Bennett’s American Atlas, which Schwartz & Ehrenberg describe as “one of the most authoritative and most comprehensive atlases covering the revolutionary period…the primary cartographic publication consulted by both contestants in planning strategy, and after the war it was valuable in setting boundary disputes” (The Mapping of America, p. 204). The American Atlas contained twenty-nine (or more) large maps by one of the best and most accurate chart makers, Thomas Jefferys, whose atlas was taken over by Sayer and Bennett. In addition to on-the-land surveys, Ross partially based his map on French sources, especially the maps of Jean Baptiste D’Anville. Phillips, Maps of America, p. 439. Phillips, Atlases 1165, 1166. Sellers & Van Ee, Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies 1750-1789 781, with note and illustration of the first issue on p. 166: “British interest in an outlet to the sea for settlers in the west is reflected in this government sponsored survey of the Mississippi River.” Stevens & Tree, MCS 39:31b. Taliaferro, Cartographic Sources in the Rosenberg Library 168: “The first map to show the English occupation of the Illinois country, acquired from France under the Treaty of 1763.”
John Ross’ map of the Mississippi was the first official English survey of the Lower Mississippi, and one of the most historically significant American maps, delineating the British gains from France in the French and Indian War and later establishing the future western boundary of the new United States. The map opened the area to settlement from the east—the beginnings of the Anglo-American mid-South. This handsome map shows on a large scale details, such as islands in the river, navigational instructions, other rivers and connecting tributaries, boundaries, towns and settlements, forts, local history (including the spot where De Soto discovered the Mississippi in 1541), quarries and potential mining areas, productive land, cane fields, and mountains and other topographical details. Tribes located include the Flathead, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Chackhuma, “Akansas or the Handsome Men,” Wiapes, Corrois, Yazoo, Ofogoulas, Chepoussea, Caskaskias, Colapissas (later known as Huoma), and others. Interestingly, Frederick Webb Hodge in his massive Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico has numerous citations to this map.
Following the Treaty of Paris by which France surrendered its possessions in continental North America to England, a British expedition was sent to the recently acquired Illinois territory to demand the surrender of Fort de Chartres, the last outpost under French control in the area. Lieutenant John Ross (Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers, revised edition, Vol. IV, p. 74), surveyor of the 34th Regiment of the British Army, went with this expedition and surveyed the territory shown in the present map, which extends south from the fort to the mouth of the Mississippi River. The eastern bank of the river contains more detail than the western side, because the expedition could not enter Spanish territory.
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