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Extraordinary Aerial View of the Coast of Texas in 1861

From Bachmann’s Civil War Panoramas


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50.     [BIRD’S-EYE VIEW]. BACHMANN, John. Panorama of the Seat of War. Birds Eye View of Texas and Part of Mexico John Bachmann, Publisher, 115 & 117 Nassau St., New York. [below image at left] Drawn from Nature and Lith by John Bachmann [below image at center] Entered according to act of Congress in the year 1861 by John Bachmann in the Clerks Office of the District Court of the U.S. for the Southern District of New York. New York, 1861. Three-color chromolithograph in shades of blue, green, yellow, and black, showing the coast of Texas from Littel [sic] Constance Bay, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Rio Grande; major towns such as Galveston, Houston, and San Antonio indicated by nebulous, indistinct, miniature bird’s-eye views; rivers, estuaries, and other topographical features; roads, railroads, ships at sea. Image: 47 x 71.5 cm; image with titles and imprint: 57 x 71.5 cm. A few areas faded in lower half and upper right, light waterstain at lower right (primarily affecting blank margins), a few closed marginal tears (no losses) and light vertical creases, overall a very good copy of a rare and extraordinary Texas view. Matted and framed under Plexiglas.

     First edition. This is the Texas section of a six-sheet aerial view of the Confederate States in 1861; this Texas view is the most difficult of the six views to locate. Rumsey 2708. Stephenson, Civil War Maps 1.7. Among the details shown are the Union blockading ships, identified by their flags. On the other hand, Confederate blockade runners are also shown and may be identified by the lack of flags and the fact they are all side wheelers. It appears, however, that Bachmann never really saw a blockade runner, because they all have large masts.

     David Rumsey, Cartographica Extraordinaire, pp. 62-63, 141 (discussing the general technique of the series of views and illustrating a digitally merged composite of the three views showing the eastern seaboard):

The most natural way to portray the shape of a surface is an oblique perspective, or bird’s eye view. Despite its name, the bird’s eye view is drawn from an artificial, even impossible vantage point. From no one place on earth, or off of it, could one see the land stretching away—to the horizon…. Unlike a standard, orthographically-oriented map, which is equally artificial but makes no pretense to be anything else, an oblique view such as this emphasizes the shape of the land surface over portraying what is on that surface. In the early days of the American Civil War, Bachmann chose a unique vantage point…to create his panoramic view of the likely theaters of war…. Produced in three-color lithography, Bachmann’s views were issued as separate maps.

     Dr. Ron Tyler discusses this Texas view in his preliminary study of nineteenth-century Texas lithographs:

Once the war began, part of the immediate Federal strategy was to apply a strangling blockade to Southern ports. The first blockading vessels arrived off the coast of Galveston, the principal Texas seaport in June, 1861, and are, perhaps, part of what John Bachmann intended to show in a series of prints entitled Panorama of the Seat of War, in which he depicted the coastline from New England to Mexico as “drawn from nature.” The Birds Eye View of Texas and Part of Mexico is a fascinating view of the state at mid-century, clearly identifying all of the major Texas cities, rivers, roads, and ports. There are a few mistakes—he seems to locate “Austin City” on the Guadalupe rather than the Colorado—but the view provides the kind of glimpse of the coastline that might have been useful in military planning.

The present view and the following two views from the same series on the Civil War are considered the most important of Bachmann’s prints, along with his 1849 view of New York City (see Items 49, 51, and 52 herein).


Sold. Hammer: $15,000.00; Price Realized: $18,000.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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