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A DIVISION OF “The Original” Mike The Mover
It was the spring of 1861, in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. The newly
formed Confederate Congress was mustering military recruits in preparation of an
impending armed conflict with their northern countrymen
For Jed Hotchkiss, a 32 year old school professor, geologist & map-maker,
he left his home and family in search of employment, with a ‘zeal of patriotism’.
His immediate role in the army was ‘undefined’. In fact, he wasn’t even in
the army. In the large and chaotic military hierarchy, he was considered a recruit,
assigned to a teamster position. He had no rank, no uniform, and no pay.
As Hotchkiss performed his duties, he used his spare time mapping the
country-side. As a teamster, his advice to commanding officers concerning travel
routes and destination times became a critical factor in war planning. At several
times Hotchkiss actually led infantry troops in military movements.
As a result, General William Loring, promoted Hotchkiss to the rank of
“semi-official” lieutenant of engineers, detailed to topographical duty. The
appointment carried no ‘weight’ with the Confederate Engineering Corps, but
now Hotchkiss would be paid for his work. Even if it was piece-meal.
A month later, Colonel Robert E. Lee, commander of the Virginia State
militia, approved Hotchkiss request for “sick leave” and Hotchkiss returned to his
family in Churchville, VA. Like others, Hotchkiss suffered from typhoid fever.
The next spring, 1862, Hotchkiss was again fit and ready for duty. The
officers of the 160th VA Regiment elected him adjutant (or spokesman) for the
Virginia Militia, assigned to Thomas Jackson’s 2nd Corps.
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At this point, Hotchkiss hoped to become a private in the army, as the
Confederate Army was now considering militia organizations as permanent
Before his enlistment papers were ratified, Professor Hotchkiss, as he was
referred to by his friends, was summoned to General Jacksons’ Headquarters.
Jackson was abrupt; “I want you to make me a map of the Valley, from
Harper’s Ferry to Lexington, showing all the points of offense and defense in those
The scope of this undertaking would take two years, or more, and consist of
150 miles in length, by 25 miles of width. Overlays of maps produced more maps.
Though Hotchkiss was hoping for a staff-appointment, he had received a
worthy assignment. He had no official position, but considered himself an
excellent topographer.
As a result, Hotchkiss new position brought him into an extraordinary group
of men, under Jacksons’ command. There would be no doubt to the other officers
that Hotchkiss himself, was affluent in discourse… from literature and geology, to
history and scripture.
As the spring turned to summer in 1862, Jacksons’ army was now on the
move. And so was Hotchkiss, constantly at Jacksons’ beckoning.
After a series of Confederate victories in the Valley, on August 25th, Jackson
moved his troops east, in support of Richmond, then awaited Generals Lee and
Longstreet, at Manassas Junction. Hotchkiss followed the army at his own pace.
But Jackson didn’t wait long. On, August 28th, Jackson attacked a Federal
column, and the battle of Second Manassas was underway.
On the final day of the battle, Jackson ordered Hotchkiss to map the
battlefield, and do so quickly, for the army would soon be on the move.
This task for Hotchkiss was almost beyond comprehension. More than
eighteen thousand men had either died or were wounded, in less than fifty hours.
To this point in his service, it was the greatest slaughter Hotchkiss had ever
Barely had Hotchkiss begun his survey of the field, when Jackson
summoned him to his headquarters, and directed Hotchkiss to guide a portion of
the army north by northwest.
As the troops moved towards Maryland, Hotchkiss recorded,’ that it was a
thrilling moment’, and the ‘men in the ranks were ‘in high spirit’!
Jackson’s plan was to invade Maryland (Martinsburg), and then move south
and capture the federal garrison at Harper’s Ferry.
Lee’s over-all plan was to move the entire army of Virginia north, and force
a battle somewhere in Pennsylvania.
On September 15th, Jackson joined Lee’s scattered troops in Sharpsburg,
MD., leaving Hotchkiss, among others at Harper’s Ferry to assist the engineers in
destroying two bridges across the Potomac.
On the 18th, the day after the battle of Antietam, Hotchkiss crossed the
Potomac at Shepherdstown and rejoined Jackson’s staff. Whereupon, Jackson
ordered Hotchkiss to re-cross the Potomac and survey all possible sites “where
cannon and wagons might ford”.
Later, at dusk, as Hotchkiss returned from his day in the saddle, much to his
surprise, he found that the army was in full retreat.
As Hotchkiss attempted to re-cross the Potomac and rejoin Jackson, he met
JEB Stuart who requested that Hotchkiss accompany him as a guide. He did as
Stuart wished, leading him along the dark crowded roads leading south..
Once back in Virginia, Jackson moved his headquarters just south of
Winchester. As the troops rested and refitted, Jackson kept Hotchkiss busy
making maps of the region and finishing the just completed Maryland campaign.
General Lee also requested maps from Hotchkiss. And being confident in
Hotchkiss work, and his value to the army, Lee ‘borrowed’ Hotchkiss on occasion
from the Second Corps for specific assignments.
On the last day of October, Hotchkiss who had been serving on Jackson’s
staff since the following spring, ’without rank or military status’, met with
Though Hotchkiss received the pay of a 1st Lt., Jackson considered Hotchkiss
a ‘civilian employee’, or perhaps that of a ‘private’ detailed to special duty. But no
records existed of either.
Therefore, Jackson who had no authority to engage Hotchkiss in a military
manner, suggested to Hotchkiss that ‘he best ‘go see General Lee’.
Hotchkiss reported to General Lee on November 6th.
Of course, Hotchkiss received permission from Lee to remain with Jackson.
As a result, Hotchkiss received a temporary appointment from the Secretary
of War, at Lee’s request, “as a captain of engineers”, which entitled him to
military rank and pay. In reality, a brevet commission.
A day later, Union Gen. George McClellan was removed from command, in
favor of Ambrose Burnside.
Within a month, Burnside’s army was moving towards Fredericksburg, VA.
Once again, Hotchkiss served as Jackson’s mapmaker, as the Second Corps
prepared for another march to the east, and anticipating the worst.
As fate would have it, the Union Army once again took the worst of it.
The battle of Fredericksburg was another resounding Confederate victory.
After the battle of Fredericksburg, Jackson’s command retired to the
plantation of Moss Neck, where they spent the winter, outside of Chancellorsville.
By May 1st, 1863, the new Union commander, Joseph Hooker, was pushing
his army south of the Rappahannock River, squarely in front of Jacksons’ troops.
Hotchkiss had spent the winter mapping the area, but the map was not
very detailed. When asked by Jackson if Hotchkiss new a route around the Union
right flank, Hotchkiss, went to work.
Upon surveying the area, Hotchkiss reported to Lee and Jackson, that a
local farmer had created several new roads across his property, during the winter,
that circled to the left of the Union right flank.
With no further discussion, Lee consented, that Jackson move his Corps at
daylight to the enemy’s right wing, and attack as might be prudent.
As Jackson moved out, Hotchkiss remained with Lee who wanted maps for
himself. Later in the day, Hotchkiss returned to Jackson as the battle was about to
begin, late in the afternoon.
As night fell upon the battlefield, news of Jackson being wounded reached
Hotchkiss. Hotchkiss directed Dr. McGuire to the scene, arrived himself, and
ordered the ambulance to Wilderness Tavern, a few miles west of the turnpike.
With Jackson in a stupor, and in the hands of Dr. McGuire, Hotchkiss resaddled and went off (a four hour ride) to find General Lee.
In the morning, at breakfast with General Lee, Hotchkiss was ordered to
join JEB Stuart who had been temporarily placed in Jacksons’ command, and soon
after to be replaced by A.P. Hill.
For the most part, Jackson’s staff respected Hill, but the two (Jackson & Hill)
were often at odds with each other. In fact, Jackson once had Hill arrested for
negligence of duty. In truth, Jackson’s staff had no affection for Hill, ‘for he could
never be their general”.
Hotchkiss, who was depressed at the loss of Jackson, considered his
resignation, and thought constantly of going home.
Within weeks, Lee, noticing the change in Hotchkiss’ disposition,
reconsidered his selection of A.P. Hill, appointing Richard Ewell as its new
commander. Thus, Hotchkiss turned to God and his faith.
Jackson’s staff was eager to leave the Rappahannock area and bid farewell
to the many unpleasant memories that they logged over the past six months. For
Lee had given orders for the army to move north.
As the month of May gave way to warmer weather, the Second Corps
morale soared. “They were back in the Valley, some near their homes”.
As they entered Pennsylvania, men of the Second Corps were pleasantly
shocked to see the beauty and bounty of the land. Virginia was war weary, with
desolated areas of trench works, and want of crops, fruit trees or cattle.
“It was”, as Hotchkiss put it, “as if we were awakened from a bad dream. To
see land that had not been ravaged by years of war”.
It was mid June, and the Union Army had yet a new commander. Lincoln
had appointed George Meade as his new chief. On June 20th, the State of West
Virginia was ratified by the United States Congress. Now Virginia was divided.
A.P. Hill’s Corps approached Gettysburg, PA., on the morning of June 1st,
1863. Union detachments were close behind. So was the rest of the Union Army.
Two days later, Lee had had enough. Hotchkiss noted: “the unmistakable
signs of retreat were plentiful, with wagons and prisoners moving out”. The Army
would return to Virginia.
For the next two months, the two armies seemed content to ‘rest and
reorganize, probe and skirmish, and plan the next move’. And so it was, that
Hotchkiss returned to making maps, no longer leading men.
General Ewell had decided that Hotchkiss should no longer be at risk.
Other than a few minor battles, summer turned to autumn, then to winter,
as both armies settled in quarters. Hotchkiss went home to Churchville, and his
On May 1st, 1864, Hotchkiss was back in Lee’s camp. A new Union general
by the name of Grant now led the Union Army. And that army was headed
towards the Wilderness with a force of 118,000 troops.
As the fighting moved towards Spotsylvania, Hotchkiss learned of the death
of his old friend JEB Stuart, of which he wrote, “I am deeply saddened”. It was a
great loss to Lee and his army.
By mid June, Grant had pushed Lee’s army to the outskirts of Richmond.
In the Valley, federal troops, under the command of MJ General, Phillip
Sheridan (‘Little Phil”) burned homes and barns, mills and crops, even the Virginia
Military Institute, which was reduced to rubble and ashes.
Now, it was time for Lee to make changes. Lee appointed Jubal Early to
replace an ailing Ewell as commander of the Second Corps, and return to the
Unlike Jackson, ”Early was a man that drank, smoked, and was prone to
have fits of anxiety, including “swearing and cussing”!
The Second Corps was again on the march, and for the third time in three
years, were heading into union territory, and nearing the Union Capital.
But not much came from that, other than making a ‘little fuss’. However,
Lincoln was furious, and ordered Grant to take care of the problem.
After the withdrawal from the Washington (District of Columbia) area,
Early’s army fled south, finding refuge south to Winchester, then Fisher Hill.
Next, came the battle of Cedar Creek on October 18th. General John
Gordon was present. So was Hotchkiss. He masterminded the plan.
As a result of poor execution, preceding a successful rout of the Union
Army, commanded by Phil Sheridan, a union counterattack took the field.
Early’s troops were either destroyed, captured, or in ‘flight’. To be sure, it
could not be called an Army. As the army disintegrated, Hotchkiss, was in an
improvised tent collecting his maps, while scribing notes as he went.
On the third day, after the battle, Early selected Hotchkiss to travel by
coach to carry news to Lee of the outcome of the battle.
While in Richmond Hotchkiss did receive some good news. He was
informed by the Chief of Engineers that he would be promoted to the highest
civilian position available in the Confederate Engineer Corps – First Military
Assistant Engineer – with a salary of $4,000 a year.
Soon afterwards, Hotchkiss returned to the Second Corps. And then came
the winter, 1864-65.
Hotchkiss found himself elbow to elbow with his staff trying to satisfy the
demand for maps, as the winter wore on. As the spring approached, their was a
sense of anticipation, even dread that the end was near.
On March 2nd, a Union detachment of cavalry under the command of
General George Custer, smashed into a part of Early’s army, near Waynesboro,
VA. The Confederate line collapsed, and a full-scale rout ensued.
With little exaggeration, Hotchkiss recorded in his journal “the whole army
was destroyed or scattered”.
As for his previous map works, he had sent them via train to Richmond for
safekeeping, a week or so earlier.
As the remnants of the Second Corps drifted south and east, Hotchkiss
traveled to Richmond, VA., to carry papers to Lee. It was mid-march, and what
was left of the Valley was in bloom.
After visiting with Lee, Hotchkiss stopped by the Engineer’s Bureau to
reclaim the works he had previously dispatched to Richmond. Days later Hotchkiss
returned to the Second Corps drifting command.
On April 2nd, Union forces broke through the Confederate lines southwest
of Petersburg. It is referred to as the ‘breakthrough’ and dedicated/ remembered
as the site of the death of General AP Hill.
On April 9th, 1865, Hotchkiss was at Lynchburg. That day he heard news that
General Lee had surrendered at Appomattox Court House. Yet, their was still talk
of fighting on, continuing southward, and joining up with General Johnston in
North Carolina.
Days later, Hotchkiss returned home to a tearful welcome. He was now,
thirty-six years old.
On May 10th, 1865, Hotchkiss celebrated the second anniversary of General
Jackson’s death at an open house at his school, in Staunton. Next, he got busy.
Hotchkiss was virtually a young man at the end of the Civil War. He was a
self made man, born of wartime experience. He was a man of vision.
Hotchkiss’ initial plan was to detail and document each engagement, via
maps, of his eyewitness accounts of the war.
The Federal government however, caused ‘Hotchkiss’ plan to re-write
history to almost suffer a fatal blow’. The US War Department demanded that
Hotchkiss relinquish his map collection.
Hotchkiss protested that the charts were his personal property. The
government protested that the maps were considered Confederate documents.
As a result, Hotchkiss traveled to Washington D.C., and met with General
Grant. Grant, allowed Hotchkiss to keep his maps and paid a fee to have them
While the government did not bother Hotchkiss again, they did seek his
help for future projects, to record the history of the war.
In 1867, Hotchkiss and his old friend, William Allan, formerly Jacksons chief
of Ordnance, published “The Battlefields of Virginia”, consisting of maps.
The two men would hook-up again to write a superb history of Jackson’s
Valley Campaign.
During that period, Hotchkiss opened an engineering business in Staunton
as Jed Hotchkiss Mining and Consulting Engineering Co.
Meanwhile, Hotchkiss continued to write. He realized that he could still
make a living mining, help the economy by identifying its natural resources, and
complete a ‘war time journal’ of Virginia state history.
When Confederate Veterans began organizing fraternal groups to support
each other, Hotchkiss was in the forefront, forming with others. He was known as
Major Hotchkiss.
Though he had never been commissioned in the Confederate army, and his
wartime rank of captain was temporary, his rank was no more than honorary.
At times, Hotchkiss traveled to England and Scotland, attempting to lure
foreign investors. He continued to write books and reports on Virginia’s geology
and mineral composites.
In 1880, Hotchkiss began “The Virginias: A Mining, Industrial and Scientific
Journal, which he edited until 1884.
In 1884, Hotchkiss was appointed assistant US Commissioner of ores, and
mines at the World’s Fair, held in New Orleans.
Still, at the age of 56, Hotchkiss had more authentic stories to relate to than
the average soldier. His hobby? Collecting war materials, newspapers, et al.
Eight years later, in November of 1892, while visiting Washington D.C.,
Hotchkiss stopped in Georgetown to visit Rev. Lacy, who had been Jackson’s
Chaplain during the last five months of Jacksons’ life.
It was Lacy, who revealed to Hotchkiss that Jackson had admired Hotchkiss,
and his instinct for detail. As recalled Lacy, Jackson said, “I have never met a man
who could communicate a knowledge of the topography with such remarkable
During the next few years Hotchkiss’ health began to decline. In the latter
part of 1898, Hotchkiss was on his death bed. He was now 70 years old.
Hotchkiss died on January 17th, 1889, just one and one half months past his
70th birthday.
In retrospect, Hotchkiss left a remarkable legacy of impressive
achievements, supporting him, where others had failed. Like Jackson, Hotchkiss
believed it was ‘God’s will’!
Regardless, Hotchkiss is probably the most remarkable individual to survive
the American Civil War, and his contribution is priceless.
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