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October 26, 2007

Large Format Version of Hardcastle & Smith Map of the Valley of Mexico

140. [MAP]. UNITED STATES. ARMY. CORPS OF TOPOGRAPHICAL ENGINEERS. HARDCASTLE, [E]dmund L[a] F[ayette] & M[artin] L[uther] Smith. Map of the Valley of Mexico with a Plan of the Defences of the Capital and the Line of Operations of the United States Army under Major General Scott. In August and September 1847 Surveyed and Drawn by Lieut. M. L. Smith and Brevt. Capt. E. L. Hardcastle U.S. Topl. Engrs. NB. Route of the U.S. Army in Red, Mexican Works Blue. [scale] J. & D. Major’s Lith. 49 Wall St. N.Y. [Washington, 1850]. Lithograph map, routes and defenses in red and blue, neat line to neat line: 66 x 49.5 cm. Creased where formerly folded, a few minor splits at old folds (no losses), lower blank corner with one small void, a few fox-marks (mainly confined to lower blank margin), generally a very good copy.

            First edition. Garrett & Goodwin, The Mexican-American War, pp. 296, 430-31. Haferkorn, p. 31. Tutorow 1632. Like many of the maps prepared by members of the U.S. Army Topographical Engineers in the Mexican-American War, this map appeared in many formats and permutations. The map offered here was published in the following government document: Report of the Secretary of War, Communicating a Map of the Valley of Mexico, from Surveys by Lieutenants Smith and Hardcastle (Washington: 31st Congress, 1st Session, Senate Executive Report 11, dated January 19, 1849, published 1850). It also appeared in Senate Document 19 (Washington, 1850), but lithographed by Duval rather than J. & D. Major, in a substantially reduced format (approximately 49.5 x 32.5 cm), with far less detail, uncolored, and showing an area farther to the south and east of the present map. The large format version is a far superior production in every way.

            William H. Goetzmann discusses the role of Army topographers Hardcastle and Smith in the Mexican-American War and how their experience contributed to subsequent work in surveying the American West (Army Exploration in the American West, 1803-1863, Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1991, pp. 151-152. In discussing Hardcastle & Smith’s cartographic work in the heart of Mexico, Goetzmann comments: “There, on the height of Chapultepec, in the ruins of the military academy, Lt. Edmund L. F. Hardcastle, Topographical Corps, laid down his saber to pick up the very instruments used by Humboldt himself in mapping the Valley of Mexico. Together with Lt. M. L. Smith, also of the Corps, Hardcastle spent the succeeding weeks retracing Humboldt’s footsteps, making a new survey of the valley. His map supplanted that of the great geographer.”

            In the report which this map accompanied, Smith writes to J. J. Abert (Colonel, Corps Topographical Engineers), paying homage to the accuracy of Baron von Humboldt’s map of the Valley of Mexico and stating that it was the only one in which the U.S. Army placed confidence for moving troops to capture the city. He remarks, however, that he believes that the present map is the first survey of the valley of Mexico ever made by triangulation. In their reports accompanying this map, both Smith and Hardcastle comment on how the map was made. The map shows in great detail the physical features of the Valley, such as roads, swamps, waterways, lakes, and settlements. There is considerable commentary about how these features influenced U.S. strategies and troop movements. The campaign is reviewed step by step, as is demonstrated in extraordinary detail on this map. Overall, this the finest map of the area at the time and vividly demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses of both armies and their tactics. See also: Adrian G. Traas, From the Golden Gate to Mexico City: The U.S. Army Topographical Engineers in the Mexican War, 1846-1848 (Washington: Center for Military History, pp. 1993, pp. 203-205). For more on lithographers John and Daniel Major, who were working at the address indicated in the present map in 1850-1851, see Peters, America on Stone, p. 271. ($400-800)

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