maritime? [applause] >> welcome to booktv. .. >> washington's maps at the new york society library in new york city. it's an hour. [applause] >> thank you, betty, for that wonderful and warm welcome. i'm honored and delighted, of course, to be back at the new york society library where i'm a proud member. and i want to give a special thanks to the librarians and staff here where i did so much
of my research and writing on this book. as well as my other books. and, of course, there is a special resonance, as betty pointed out, in giving a talk about george washington at a library where he borrowed books when he was president during his first term when new york was briefly the capital of the united states under the constitution. so it's a wonderful honor and a wonderful occasion. let me just begin by saying that, as betty pointed out, there have been a thousand biographies at least. it's over 200 years historians have been poring over washington's papers, his diaries and searching mostly for some glimpse of the inner man, the real flesh and blood human being behind the books and the marble monuments and bronze statues. and what i'd like to suggest to you tonight is that another important window on his life, on
his personality, on his passions is the collection of maps and atlases that he kept at mount vernon and were found in library upon his death. now, washington, as i suggested, had a deep and abiding connection to the land, and maps were always central to his work first as a surveyor when he was 16 mapping, measuring the frontier, then, of course, as a military man during the french and indian war. and there he brought his surveying skills to bear again. he always had an eye out as a speculator for the good pieces of land even as he was on military campaign. and then retiring early to become a gentleman farmer, his plantation at mount vernon. and, of course, a deep connection as a farmer to the cycles of the weather, the land, the quality of the soil, the rotation of crops. it's fascinating to read his intimate study of these things. and then, of course, moving on to the american revolution and the post-war period and the
transformations that we see in his views after independence and the struggle both, during both administrations, his two terms, to keep this new, young country together as the european powers at the various or borders were struggling to tear it apart. and then, of course, back to the land again in retirement as farmer washington. so what i'd like to do is take you through some slides tonight, show you some of the maps that have been incorporated into the book, and i think the maps give us a couple of things. one, they place us at the scene of the most dramatic events of washington's life and give us a view. we're really looking over his shoulder because these are the maps that he used, that he owned or drew himself. and beyond that, i think you'll see as we go through the slides we also get a glimpse of the heroic transformation of washington from a young, striving virginia gentleman, very ambitious, very inquisitive
in the 1740s and '50s, '60s. and then the statesman that emerges through the study of maps, through politics, through experience. in the 1780s and '90s as we see a visionary statesman and founding father. so let me begin with a map of virginia, appropriately enough. a map that in some ways tells the story of washington's life from cradle to grave. and in the book one of the nice things that we've been able to do with the book, and i want to say a thanks, too, to the art directer and the designer of the book who createdded such a beautiful -- created such a beautiful object. and we've also been able show close-ups of these maps. these are large maps. of it's pretty hard to see some of the detail, but we have
dozens of detailed views looking at where washington was born and grew up, and, of course, this is the country that he returned to in his great victory at yorktown. so his life kind of comes full circle in this map by fry and jefferson, a manuscript from 1751, first edition from 1753, right at the givenning of washington's military -- beginning of washington's military career. there was actually a great moment where joshua fry who designed, who drew the map is riding out to meet washington on the frontier and assume command of the regiment, so there's this wonderful kind of collision of maps and life. [laughter] but here's a detailed is view that gives you, i think, a view of one of the most important forces in the life of young washington, and can that is called the northern neck proprietary, a piece of land granted by the king to a single
man, lord thomas fairfax, a piece of land more than five million acres, about the size of massachusetts taking up most of northern virginia. and what that meant for someone like george washington, and let me go back. let's try the pointer here. this piece of land between the potomac starts out as a real neck of land, but then it expands as we follow the course of the potomac river to its source in the mountains, and then it comes down along this line. it says lord fairfax's boundary. so this huge piece of land here became an obstacle and an opportunity in a way for young washington because he was, of course, his father had died when he was 13, his half brother lawrence stood to inherit the lion's share of property, and washington seemed to be, like
many second sons in colonial america, destined to seek his fortune in the west. and so fairfax, in fact, was a great connection for young washington, he gave him his first job as a surveyor and created social connections to him. lawrence was married into the fairfax family which you can see on the map, too, i show in a close up the fairfax estate was right next, right across the creek from what became mount vernon. so washington was taken there many times, became part of that social circle with his brother. so that led to advancement, to jobs and, ultimately, to seeking not just a job surveying small parcels here or near the seaboard, but striking out on his own and looking to get beyond the mountains. the p map, of course, sometimes it's not clear that these are actually mountains. these individual peaks that are
train one by one. but you can see the alleghenies, the appalachians create a serious boundary here that washington would struggle, really, for the rest of his life to try to create connections between the ohio country, the great lakes via the potomac river to bring the wealth and the trade of the west through virginia to the eastern seaboard and, of course, to the atlantic and europe. so that quest really l -- begins with the sense of being thwarted here, but opportunity beyond the mountains. and as we get into washington's early military career in 1753, '54, we see his surveying skills coming into play. here's a map that he drew on his first mission, his first military assignment ever when he went on behalf of the virginia governor to challenge the french in the ohio valley. he went out to the forks of the ohio which is today's
pittsburgh, pennsylvania, and you could see how he drew the potomac, the allegheny mountains here. and he went through the snow and rain and cold in late fall and made his way all the way up to the french forts on the southern shore of lake erie. you can see a little bit better in this map some of the wonderful drawing. and even by modern standards if you look at the distances, this turns out to be a very accurate map. so his training paid off. and it also shows washington's initiative. there was nothing in his military commission that said bring back a map, only that he was to deliver a letter, an ultimate may or tunnel, and bring -- ultimatum, and bring back an answer. but he was suited to life on the frontier and to going out and making maps of the land. so what we see is him, this young man, coming back. he's 21 years old, he comes back with a journal of his adventure
and a successful report and a map. and to him, that was the way of thinking about the world and the way of representing it, and as he knew as an ambitious young man, he knew it was a kind of currency. maps were knowledge, and knowledge was power. and this was about power politics on the frontier. so that map was included by the governor in a packet that was sent to london to the board of trade, and really this is the beginning of washington's fame. up and down the seaboard in america and published in europe as well, his diaries show this tenacious young man going out, braving the elements and being a patriot at the same time. now, a couple of years late orer in 1755 louis evans publishes an important map of the middle british colonies, and it's a document that really becomes a major reference tool for washington for much of his life
into the 1790s. or 1780s and '90s. and it's, there are many things you could point to on this map. i'll just pick one, which is that it gives a lot of information about the indian nations that washington had to negotiate with during his time on the frontier during the french and indian war. for example, from the no be hawk river -- mohawk river all the way down to lake erie, we see the territory of the six nations, the iroquois con fed race si that played such a powerful role with the british empire. but the territories of the mohawks, o nay das, senecas are all mapped out clearly. and can this was a kind of crash course for washington with in the very complex alliances, shifting alliances and
bewildering relationships that he would have to contend with as he tried the woo the indians away from their or bonds to the french and into the british fold. and here is a close-up of the same map which gives us the same view that i showed you in washington's drawing. we're looking at, essentially, the same nexus here of the forks of the ohio river where the allegheny comes together to form the ohio. here you see the french fort has been established, later to be destroyed by the british. but, again, it gives you a sense of a published map in contrast to washington's manuscript map of a copperplate map with hand coloring that's been printed in london. one of the great maps of the 18th century. now, another important mission
that washington went on during the french and can indian war was the ill-fated braddock campaign of 1755. and i want to show you a little bit about that campaign using a map of -- map of of pennsylvania that actually dates from 1770. it's a later map. washington owned this map, and i think it's a great tool for looking at some of the details of that campaign which, again, played a big role in washington's life. if we go down to the very lower left corner of the map, we can start to trace some of the movement of braddock's column as it left the settled areas and moved into the frontier, hacking its own road through the wilderness, crossing and moving up toward what's here called fort pith and fort due cane. you can see from this map that
the expedition crossed the river twice, avoiding a defile be here between two hills where they thought they might be ambushed. crossed the river and then recrossed it right before they collided with the french and indian column that tore them to shreds. and one of the most harrowing passages from washington's diaries is that night when after the battle, the battle in which his commander braddock had been mortally wounded and washington had -- despite suffering from weakness, dysentery and fever -- had charged around the battlefield, taken bullets through his hat, his coat, remained unscathed and managed to get braddock onto a cart and get him across that second ford in the river to create some distance between the indians who they thought would be pursuing them. and then braddock assigning washington to go back and get help from the column in the ear.
and we can -- rear. and we can see on the map what washington had to do which was to get from all the way up here, retrace their steps through the dark wilderness at night and get down here to dunbar's camp which is also marked where the second column had been bringing up the rear with all the supplies and wagons. and washington describes trying to make that horseback ride, still suffering from dysentery. there's no light whatsoever. his guides, he said, are literally dproaping on the ground for the -- groping on the ground for the path, and the groans of the wounded are coming out of the trees on both side of the path. and it's literally like something out of dante's inferno. and washington just persevered and made it back and brought help and, ultimately, buried braddock in the road and had the wagons run over his grave to hide it from the enemy who might take it out and tear it apart.
now, it's also -- a final note on that braddock campaign. when washington got on to braddock's staff in the first place, he was very disgruntled with the treatment of american so-called provincial officers in the british command structure because they could be outranked by any british captain, no matter -- washington was a colonel by then. so he quit and said, i'm going to volunteer. i won't take your money. i'm going to sol p tier for braddock's staff. what did he do? he drew a map of the frontier, folded it up and put it in a letter to robert orm, braddock's aide, and ingratiated himself and got a job on braddock's staff. this is a man who thought through maps. now, washington after -- as i mentioned, he retired in 1758 from active military duty, went to mount vernon to establish himself which he had inherited after lawrence's premature
death. and, of course, he also got married to martha and became a member -- got elected to the virginia house of burgesses and settled could be -- settled down to a civilian life and aspired to accumulate all the trappings of a first-ranked virginia gentleman. in the process, of course, he became very unhappy as allñ americans did with the mercantilist system that the colonies were trapped in. he was constantly in debt. acquiring all the finery from england while tobacco prices were on a constant slide. so washington was actually a reluctant revolutionary, but once he joined the continental movement, he never looked back even when the virginia governor, lord kunmore, threaten today invalidate all his claims to western land that he'd acquired as bounty for his military service along with all his
fellow veterans. du nmore hoped he could pry washington away from the continental movement with these threats and, of course, it didn't work. and washington attended as a delegate to the continental congress and, of course, in july of, early july of 1775 as commander in chief of the new continental army, he was on his way, arrived in boston -- cambridge to besiege the british in boston. and here's a map that was in washington's collection called the seat of war in new england. a beautiful map that uses not only cartography, but some wonderful drawing to dramatize the opening phases of the revolutionary war. here we can see, of course, after lexington and concord in april of 1775, we had the battle of bunker hill. you can see charlestown in
flames with orange and yellow and all the formations of men. and washington, of course, that was june 17th, and washington arriving in a column that's drawn very beautifully over here. in fact, you can see that there are columns coming down from from new hampshire, up from connecticut all converging in this great congregation of citizen soldiers to besiege the british. and here just one detail you can see, the march of general washington with his virginia, virginian horse, his riflemen and the new york grenadiers. so there's an encampment, just a really enchanting map. now, once he'd arrived, washington had to size up the situation, and this map of boston harbor gives some tremendous detail of the situation. and i think perhaps you, like myself and most americans, think
of the siege of boston as a fairly static affair. that washington was encamped in cambridge with americans pinched off the neck of the boston peninsula at rocksbury and the charlestown peninsula at the neck here and that they sat and ghaired at each other for 13 months which is pretty much what happened. but if you have washington's maps in hand, which i did when i went to read his papers again, some other details emerge that give a sense of washington playing out this drama on a much larger canvas. for one thing, he was sending his fledgling navy, the privateers, all the way up to canada to the mouth of the st. lawrence, and they had maps of the st. lawrence river, too, to try to blockade quebec or intercept ships that were coming from halifax one to boston -- down to boston to resupply the
british army. washington was also using a fleet of of whale boats, small craft that were plying the waters of boston harbor and setting them to burn the lighthouse at the entrance to the harbor, looking for ways to disrupt the british, stealing sheep, burning hay on the small islands in order to starve them. and then the shallow draft allowed them to get away from the deep-hulled british ships. so with map in hand we can see washington really creatively using the topography to his advantage. and, of course, ultimately, door chester heights would be the key to ending the siege placing the guns from tie cond rogue georgia here on this commanding spot that would render boston untenable for the british.
and, again, this sense of washington spontaneously using maps, this is his own drawing of the boston area in case anyone would be confused, he writes water, water, water. [laughter] makes a grid to show us boston and a grid for cambridge. and this he folded up and put in a letter to his brother, john augustine, saying i've just arrived, and here's the dilemma we have. we've got the british in the center able to move in any direction, and we have to surround them and be ready to jump and cover every point of the circle. so, again, a man who's really thinking on paper. now, one of the expeditions that washington launched from boston, from cambridge during the siege was benedict arnold's march to quebec through the maine wilderness with a thousand troops. and the wonderful thing about
studying washington through his maps is that we can see vents that meant a great deal to him, but even in places where he never set foot personally. the whole canadian campaign which was launched initially by congress up this, from ticonderoga up to montreal and quebec and then supplemented by washington sending arnold, this occupied a great deal of his energy and passion at this time. you can read his letters and see how concerned he was for the welfare of these men, if they'd made their way from the late fall and winter and the anxiety and attention that he paid to getting letters and getting news. and, of course, there's this great irony that we're reading with the perspective of history, and we know arnold's ultimate fate. and here is washington clearly seeing arnold as a kind of younger alter ego. perhaps seeing him in some ways
like himself on the braddock expedition, this kind of quixotic, impulsive march through the wilderness to strike at the enemy first at all odds, at all hazards. and arnold really is just a phenomenal soldier. he doesn't stop. he gets knocked down, and he keeps going, and his men are starved and ragged, but they get to the, they come up the river, and they manage to get across under the nose of british ships. now, this map which washington owned, and i tracked as carefully be as i could through receipts and expense account entries of which maps washington was buying during these years. so i was able to pinpoint very carefully what maps he would be looking at. and this was definitely -- even though it's a map from 1759 from the french and indian war, this would have been the most current intelligence that he would have, the most up-to-date and detailed map to follow arnold's progress.
even e though it depicts a battle from 1759 which was actually between the french who were holding, who were then holding quebec and the british who took it from them. but here now it was the british, and arnold was trying to dislodge them. we can see how he followed arnold's every step and even how he followed the same strategy as the british had, moving his men to the same landing place. you can even see the little path going up the pal said here -- pal i said here, same one william howe, then a colonel, had used. unfortunately for arnold, he made it up here, but he couldn't lure the british out as the french had come out to fight the british. and that, of course, had been their mistake. so the canadian campaign collapsed, and american forces fell back toward ticonderoga.
of course, in october '76 arnold fought a famous battle which was a great turning point, staved off, held off a british penetration into new york state for an additional year and, perhaps, saved the american cause. and so the, again, the campaign while on its face it was a disaster, it served a purpose. and that's another aspect of washington's character that comes through, is his ability to always look for the benefits in a situation no matter how gloomy and be -- and grim things seem. he was able to find the positive side and to keep moving forward. and, of course, the british had been stopped at the northern border by weather, by arnold and the need to return to quebec and wait for campaigning season with warmer weather. but, ultimately, their goal would be to come down via lake
channel plain, lake george and the hudson. and to take the hudson and use it as a divider to break the colonies, isolate new england over here from new york and all the southern colonies to the south and west. and this is a map that washington owned, it's from 1775 by john montrosore, chief british engineer. i just want to note here, you may be noticing a lot of these maps were printed in londoning including the one i showed you of boston harbor. so the question is how did washington get ahold of these maps in the middle of war? [laughter] it turns out washington had a french connection. [laughter] the british map publishers and dealers didn't cease their trade with the, with the french.
and so even though the countries were at war, ultimately, the map trade was going on furiously, and all these maps were coming in. it's pretty well documented, the debar map in particular, that these were coming in via french sources to american commanders. so here's a, again, a great sort of military map in the sense that montrosore, you can see, focuses on the topography, and this is a great map for washington because these are the areas where washington's going to actually spend most of his time during the revolution. here's a close-up where you can see the hudson highlands, this great natural fortress where the river cuts a zigzag through the rock and, of course, west point being up here and other american forts built to block the british advance and con quest of the -- conquest of the river. central new jersey, morristown, this is where washington will
encamp for most of the war and particularly after the british capture of new york city in 1776 and their occupation of new york for the next seven years, washington will play a psychological war of keeping pressure on the british by using these natural elevations to his, for defensive purposes. and really keep the british pinned in new york when, and throwing them off at yorktown, at certainly saratoga and then again at yorktown, these great turning points where they didn't move their troops and ships out of new york to help their commanders in the field. here just another shot that gives you a sense of the wonderful detail that you could find on these maps. now, another important theater of the revolution, of course, was the war in the south where washington was not able to go during the war, but traveled to after as president to go and
visit some of those battlefields where he had been conducting operations by remote, by letter and by studying maps. just to give you an example, i mean, general green's famous campaign in the carolinas, washington followed it as closely as he could with letters taking weeks and months to be exchanged. but we see him talking about the specifics of the campaign with green in his letters and, clearly, following it on this map of the carolinas which dated from the 1750s. but, again, by the 1770s, it still remained the authoritative and most detailed map of the region. and just a couple of things about this map. it shows the various layers of settlement from the topography of the seaboard, the tidewater area where the -- and the fall
line of the rivers and the piedmont in between and then the mountainous area, the appalachians here. and, of course, the topography in the war in the south would be tremendously important because different groups depending on where they lived had differenã levels of3h loyalty or allegiane to the crown, and both sides were trying to calculate the3h depth of that sentiment as theyh tried to win allies and navigate what degenerated into a horrific civil war between loyalists and whigs. but i'll give you one, one detail shot here just from the inset on the lower right. the harbor of charleston. a couple of important campaigns here. in 1776 the british tried to take it in the runup to the battle for new york, sent a fleet down here. and washington in his letters gets the news of the british defeat. and they were repulsed.
the fleet came in through this channel here next to sullivan island, and the americans had a palmetto log fort, and they bombarded the british who ran aground on the shoal and were sitting ducks for the american cannon fire. and to read washington's letters as he's clearly looking at a map and the glee -- [laughter] that you see coming off the page as this victory unfolds is really tremendous. and then equally emotional was the sad loss of charleston to the british in may of of 1780 when sir henry clinton came down and not only captured the harbor, but maneuvered overland -- moved overland. a tremendous blow, the worst american loss of the war. and washington follows that we equal intensity. now, we're coming to the winding up, the winding down of the
revolutionary war in 1783. i'm showing you here the mcmurray map which shows the united states according to the definitive treaty of peace, the treaty of paris of 1783. and this is a map which probably for the first time shows the united states as a single political entity with no internal divisions. and that, i'm sure, was a sight that was dear to washington's eyes when he looked at this map. a phenomenon that he would fight for in the coming years to establish the constitution and to really hold the country together. and what's fascinating is to watch washington's evolution in these waning months of the war as he's waiting for the news of the definitive treaty which, of course, takes months to cross
the ocean. but in late 1783 he's, obviously, getting a bit stir crazy around new york, and the british are still holding on to the city, and he decides to go on a trip for a few weeks. goes up to explore the frontiers of new york that he hasn't seen in person yet, only through maps. he goes up as far as lake channel plain to the north and then comes back towards schenectady and then out along the mohawk toward lake ontario. and when he gets back, he writes a letter and says, i had a kind of revelation during this trip. after looking at maps and reading reports -- and these, of course, were lifelong habits -- he said for the first time i realized that the inland waterways, the great rivers that this country is blessed with are going to be a political asset for us. these are going to be the ties
that bind the nation together. and here is a man who starts out his life going after every parcel of land he can find, trying to build a waterway between the west and his native virginia and admitting all the while that it's going to increase the value of his land. and, you know, a man who's really a serious speculator. but here we see him evolving into the great statesman that he became and seeing the maps as a vision of the country and it future. as he put it, as a rising empire in the new world. and so he said, now is the time to practice the arts of peace, to clear the rivers, to improve them, to make them the commercial arteries that create the bond of mutual interest between the immigrants, our newest citizens who are flowing out to the west toward the mississippi and the easterners in the great cities on the seaboard.
and so if we look at these mcmurray map in a little more detail, we can see some of what captured his imagination. here the ohio river, the cumberland, the tennessee. these are the great commercial arteries of this region, and, of course, also the mohawk and the area where those yorkers were going to beat the virginians by opening the -- by opening the erie canal before his potomac project really never came to fruition. and, again, the maps and his sense of geography were constantly in play as he tried to keep the country against external threats -- country together against external threats. now, the british were hanging on at the northern border of the country. now, this line that you see, this brown line that cuts through the center of the lakes indicates the new northern border of the united states. and there were seven military
posts that were, clearly, inside the american terrain, on american soil. yet the british refused to give them up even though, as promised, during the treaty they would keep them until 1796. and they were a thorn in the side of washington for years. and more than that, the british kept them and used them as depots for arms for supplying the native americans, the shawnees, et, the northwest tripes to foment as much trouble and bloodshed as they could on the borders. so that was a challenge to the north, and if we look -- this is a john rocks map, general map of north america in washington's collection, and here's a detail from it showing you the old southwest along the mississippi, here what was called the yazoo strip between the chat hue chi
and the ya river which -- yazoo river which feeds it to the mississippi. and this area was where the spanish were fomenting similar trouble by arming the cherokees, the chickasaws, the choctaws and pitting them against the georgia, settlers from georgia who were trying to move west and coming into conflict. and so washington had a real fire to deal with down here too. and what he managed to do in this case was to stay out of war. he invited 30 of the creek chiefs to come to new york and wined and dined them and, you know, gave them a good treaty. and part of his genius was to be able to balance all these forces and, for the most part, avoid armed conflict which he knew too
well. unfortunately, you know, aside from slavery, the other great tragedy of american history was the removal of the native tribes from the west. and washington tried his best to abide by the new treaties that were being made. he wanted his administration to be honorable in abiding by those treaties that were made with the western indians. at the same time, when you read deeply into his writing, his letters to congress as he advised them, you know, before he became president advising on the formation of new state, he basically said, you know, it's a tough game here. we told them not to side with the british. they picked the wrong side. we're going to be as accommodating as possible but, ultimately, you know, one way or another we are going to push them off the land, we are going to expand. and this map by thomas hutchens
from 1778, a new map of the western parts of several states, was really washington's, his bible for westward expansion in this post-revolutionary war period. it's just tremendous to be able to read his letters and papers and to see him talking about specific cartographers. well, louis evans did that great map in the 17 oohs, but now -- 1750s, but now it's been superseded by this one. and you could see him studying the map in great detail, even picking out this kind crossroads or cross rivers, this strategic point which connects the great lakes to the mississippi via the what bash and saying this is where we have to strike at the indians and capture or the miami village in order to really hold this area for ourselves. if we look at the map from just
a couple years after the fact, 1796, abraham bradley, we can see the three military campaigns that washington launched in the northwest during his presidency in the early 1790s and follow, you know, here's -- let me just back up. the city of since p natty is a mere or fort and then additional forts were built to protect the soldiers as they moved up to capture the miami village. and and, of course, at fallen timbers in 1796 anthony wayne -- this, of course, is now ft. wayne, indiana, today. anthony wayne conquered the miamis and really destroyed the alliance with the british at the battle of fallen timbers in 1794. which you see unfolding on this map. so washington needed maps in his presidency, and then when he retired, he would need them to resolve his estate. and this map, his own survey of
his almost 8,000-acre estate at mount vernon, was actually drawn in 1793 while he was in office. but it was an attempt to break up his farm by renting out, by keeping the manor house farm here where the mansion is and, but renting out to capable farmers the various or component farms -- various component preponderance farms. and his plan was to free his slaves. he had undergone a transformation, in his views, from being a run-of-the-mill slave owner with the worst attitude in his younger days to abhorring the whole institution. but he had a problem. his peers in virginia were still slave holders or and would have been shocked and felt betrayed if he had suddenly freed his slaves while he was in office. so he struggled to try to develop a secret plan where he could parcel out mount vernon,
free the slaves and then have them hired as free laborers on the estate. and he couldn't get his wife's family to agree. he didn't want to rock the boat while he was trying to get the j treaty approved which might have, you know, hurt planters who would have to repay debts to the british. complicated political pressures. story short, he didn't free them while he was in office. tantalizing to think what might have been the effect of the first figure in the land freeing his slaves while in office. but he did the next best thing which was upon his death, to free them in his will. and so i'm going the conclude there with these two transformations really, one inner and one outer. the statesman and the liberator, a washington who was connected to the land, who in his will went back to being the surveyor to mark out the stones and the
trees and bringing his life full circle as he prepared to move on. so thank you. i'll take some questions. [applause] >> that was a wonderful presentation, the historical part of it. as i was listening to you talking about this, i was wondering what of the conferences with your editors were like when you were planning this. and they would say, a book of maps? first of all, how are you going to sell this? a book of maps costs a lot of money. it's got to be big to start with. and what went on? obviously, devoted an enormous amount of time and effort into this. >> right. >> what were the conversations like of planning a book like this, of maps?
>> yeah. that's a great question. the initial inspiration was an article in the yale alumni magazine that i came across in 2007 which was highlighting the treasures of sterling library map collection at yale. and they have an atlas of 43 sheets that washington owned that depicts most of eastern north america, and my editor saw the article as well. we talked. he said, what could it hurt? take a trip up to new haven and take a look. and, of course, the experience of opening an atlas that belonged to george washington is incomparable. that sense of unfolding maps and almost breathing the same air as washington in effect, that feeling of really being transported into his time and his world view i was just very exciting. and i came back and wrote a proposal. and, you know, admissibly as many books do -- initially, as many books do, they evolve.
the book started out to be something relatively short, a few 5,000-word's essays -- word essays on a selection of the maps. but as i began writing it and can, you know, got deeply into the project, the chapters would just not stay short. [laughter] they really -- the maps had so much to tell. and that's really how i approached it was to spend, actually, several months just looking at the maps on the wall, putting up copies on a big bulletin board and arranging them, grouping them, seeing what was the information in them and then going to the papers and seeing what jumped out. in terms of, you know, costs and things like that, you know, since american flags are now printed in -- made in china, i can say it was printed in hong con. [laughter] that's why it has a very reasonable price tag for what, for what it is, a book of 304 pages in large format with, you know, some 200 map views in color.
i have to just say i have a great relationship with george gibson who's a revolutionary publisher. he was willing to put the resources into what he believed would be an exciting adventure. >> was there anything that you were surprised you didn't find, either from his letters that you didn't find in the maps or some things in the maps that you didn't find reflected in his letters? >> something about his life or -- >> anything, yes. anything about his life that you were surprised you didn't see? is. >> yeah. yeah. i mean, obviously, the thing that i wanted most in some ways was to be able to pinpoint p more accurately, you know, when he had made certain decisions or when he had bought certain maps. i was able by inference, for
example, to, you know, i had to do things like -- i was able to find a receipt that he had bought something called the general topography of north america, a famous atlas at the time, and then compare the contents to the maps at yale and see that there was an overlap and thereby infer that he had owned at least copies, you know, prints of the same map at a certain time. so that was one of the challenges. but other things that i was looking for, you know, i would have loved to have had some of the maps that were written about in his letters so that i knew they existed at some point but have been lost to history, you know? the map that he sent to robert orm, braddock's aide, or, you know, other maps that are mentioned along the way that would have been really exciting to find. >> the holy grail of maps you didn't find. >> the holy grail?
[laughter] yeah, i think some of those early maps of the wilderness would have been great to find, yeah. >> i have a question about a map that thomas jefferson sent from the south of france. he was very interested in canals through the potomac and a canal through the erie because he knew washington was. did you find anything at all that washington may have drawn? >> i did find letters between jefferson and washington right after the war, 1784, where jefferson actually took the initiative to write to washington and to sort of get him energized again about the potomac project. and, you know, washington, remember, was coming back to mount vernon after, essentially, nine years away. and his papers had been moved to
get them out of the way of the enemy, and here's a man p who just wanted to get his personal life back, back in order. so he was distracted from these bigger public projects. and jefferson, it's clear that letter from jefferson gets him fired up again. [laughter] about the potomac project. and they talk in great detail about, you know, what's -- how are you going to get goods from the southern shore of lake erie and the cuyahoga river to beaver creek, and then how do we avoid pennsylvania and all the politics there? [laughter] and get it through maryland into virginia. let's look at a southern route. i think the key map for that, again, is the hutchens which shows all of that detail, and i think that's what -- you know, that was available to me. i didn't find any manuscript maps. >> you didn't find any letters from jefferson to washington from paris? at all? this. >> hmm. i don't think these were from paris, but i'd have to take a look. >> that's when he sent the map. he, obviously, had bought the
map in paris or had someone draw it up for him, i gather. but it was a wonderful letter. >> i'm going to have to take a look for that. [laughter] thank you. >> you mentioned that there was a treasure-trove of maps at the sterling library at yale.dhl@ had all those been purchased byh people and scattered about and hard to get to? >> yeah. the question is what happened to the rest of the maps. yeah, i mean, one of the things i did, of course, was to call mount vernon, talk to the librarian there. maps of this kind were pretty much gone. a lot of material ended up at the bus and a half knee yum, and what happened, you know, as one scholar has pointed out very interestingly, in the wake of the civil war virginia's first families were on hard times. and so the yale atlas, for example, was handed down through a succession of nephews and kept
in the family as long as possible. but then in 1836 at the centennial expedition in philadelphia there was a big auction, and a lot of washington's possessions went, went there. and so they have been scattered, but there are groupings that, you know, have been kept together. this map now resides at the huntington library, santa barbara, california. so it's a bit of a treasure hunt to pull them all together. [laughter] >> did you come across any of the maps of, or any maps that were from the dismal swamp area? because he was -- >> yeah. he was an investor. >> yeah. >> in the dismal swamp company be. [laughter] which i gather, i guess it would be north carolina today. i did see them, you know, again,
there are certain strands of the story that i just didn't have the time to pursue. but it's certainly a fascinating aspect. and it shows that he was engaged in all kinds of, you know, commercial enterprises. but, again, connected with the development of the land. >> what was the photo process? as you just mentioned the huntington library, who took the picture? who made it into a printable map for you? >> what's the process of getting an image like this? >> [inaudible] >> yeah. well, the maps are, some of them could be scanned, but many of them are photographed on a flatbed, a huge camera that takes up a small room. and it has a bed with pin be holes -- pinholes that vacuum the map flat onto a bed. and then it's shot from overhead with camera. and i can tell you, you know,
one of the reasons i was saying thanks to the whole team that produced this book is that, you know, we worked closely with yale, our art directer at walker blooms bury, and some of the pictures yale was good enough to reshoot them as we adjusted the -- and they, they adjusted the color and the focus, you know, to -- there's some very minute increments of adjustment that have to be made on these cameras that can throw off the focus, the color, everything. and some of these maps we asked them to shoot not only the whole map and then par is sell it up ourselves, but they shot close-ups of areas that we were interested in so that the focus would be, you know, the resolution would be high enough to print those very close-up views. so it's, it was an arduous process with many people. >> you, obviously, couldn't move that flatbed around the country. >> yeah.
>> huntington mailed you the map and -- >> oh, yeah. maps that you can't, we didn't get from yale, yeah, you get permissions from libraries to use them. but, and everything's, of course, electronic now. you know, another, another interesting aspect of the project was that when i first looked at the maps, they were about to be restored, so we were very fortunate that i was able to write the book using preconservation images of the maps, but the the timing was suh that by the time i'd finished the writing with, they had -- the paper conservator up there at yale had done her work, sarah dove, and managed to create these beautifully-restored maps which were then rephotographed for the book. >> i was, i was fortunate enough to study some of the writings of george washington.
he did take this every night he kept a diary of his surveying in that one area. and one night around the fireplace, the fire log a, a group of indians -- fortunately they were friendly indians -- and they came in from a war party, and he greeted them. and the chief asked him had he ever seen a war dance. and the general said, yes, i have. but have you ever danced a war dance? [laughter] and washington said, no, i haven't. so the chief said, we will show
you what it's like. and he brought washington into the band, and they went around a and around the fire site. and he was allowed to yee haw, yee haw all around. and afterwards he said, you know, i wish i had been with you on this war party because you only captured one skull, and i would have liked to have seen a little more bloody. [laughter] so i think, i think i have enjoyed looking at the maps up in yale because with these comments by washington himself. this was wilderness, and he reacted to it. >> right. >> thank you for your comments.
>> thank you. >> since we're in this library, what did you use, which sources did you use from this library? >> well, one of the great resources here is a collection of washington's writings that was published for the bicentennial in 1932. and, you know, in this digital age, of course, one is able to search washington's writings on the went. -- web. the library of congress has his papers digitized and facsimiles -- i mean, in fact be similarly, but also, you know, transcriptions. so it's a very handy tool. but there's something abouting t being able to have a shelf of real books that you can crack open and really look at them and page through.
it's something that's, of course, disappearing. but to be able to do it here was a tremendous asset to be able to call up those books and to search through on your own terms it's very different than working digitally. so washington's writings edited by fitzpatrick in the '30s are a wonderful jewel that not every library has a full set of that are so accessible. >> i suppose we have to give you time to catch your breath, but i wonder, what's your, what's your next project? [laughter] >> well, you know, my second book was the devil's own book about the civil war draft riots, and one of the things i notice in speaking about it was