By: Captain John Pope
Date: 1854-6 / 1861 (published) Washington D.C.
Dimensions: 28 x 57 inches (71 x 145 cm)
This is an intriguing map representing mid-19th century exploration of Texas by Captain John Pope. Presenting a variety of wagon trails, springs, rivers, physical topography, Native American trails, military forts, and settlements, this map offers remarkable insight as to the level of understanding of the cartographic makeup of much of Texas less than 10 years after adding the independent republic to the Union.
It was under the provisions of the Army Appropriation Act of 1853 that the Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis directed the largest (to date) government funded surveying project for potential transcontinental railroad routes. Of the four main east-west routes under survey, it was the most southern route along the 32nd parallel that Jefferson Davis favored most. This was in part due to the fact that the U.S. had just added 525,000 square miles of land that made up the American Southwest with the signing of the treaty of Guadaloupe Hidalgo in 1848. Construction of a transcontinental railroad near the new border would provide a strategic military advantage should the U.S. ever need to defend its new southern border.
Pope's Expeditions, Finding Water and Fording Rivers
In February of 1853, John Pope began his surveying expedition of the eastern half of the proposed 32nd parallel route. Contrary to the what the map title suggests, Pope led group of approximately 75 officers, scientific specialists, teamsters and escort troops, from Doña Ana, New Mexico, to the Red River just north of Dallas. Pope's line of travel with nights of encampment from February 29th to May 15th is delineated and the map extends as far south to include San Antonio and east to include Fulton Arkansas.
The most challenging portions of a route along the 32nd parallel was the area between the Pecos River and the headwaters of the Colorado River, a difficult part of the Llano Estacado that contained very little water. Pope argued, that the best solution for attaining a reliable water source would be to drill artesian wells along the east side of the Pecos River. Artesian wells which are wells from which water flows under natural pressure without pumping. After submitting this information in a report to congress in 1854, Pope was ordered to return to the Pecos in search of these underground water sources.
John Pope would spend over three years unsuccessfully searching for water and exploring the region, documenting newly discovered flora and fauna as well as fordable river crossings. One such crossing (noted on the map) was Horsehead Crossing, which got its name from a series of horse sculls found along the bank that were likely left by the Comanche as a trail marker. Historically, it was a major landmark on the trail west as one of a few fordable sections of the Pecos in West Texas, and as the first reliable source of water for about 75 miles on the route from the east. In 1866, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving blazed their famous cattle trail, which came to this point before heading north along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains through Denver and into Wyoming and South Dakota.
Though Pope was largely unsuccessful in finding Artesian wells, much of his route would be built upon by the Union Pacific Railroad company, connecting El Paso with Dallas / Fort Worth. His time spent in the Pecos region and Llano Estacado further opened a part of the country to emigrant travelers and cattle drivers that was otherwise out-of-reach due to its location in the heart of Comanche territory, the harsh weather conditions, and lack of fresh water sources. This map, along with the elevation profile at the bottom is an important piece in the history of Texas cartography.
Condition: This map is in A condition, professionally linen-backed for preservation and presentation purposes. It is extremely clean with very little paper toning and or fold separations.
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