Explorations and Surveys for a Rail Road Route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean: Map No.1 From Fort Smith to the Rio Grande | Map No.2 From the Rio Grande to the Pacific Ocean
By: Lieut. A.W. Whipple and Lieut. J.C. Ives
Date: 1853-54 / 1861 (published) Washington D.C.
Dimensions: Each Sheet 22 x 51 inches (56 x 129.5 cm)
This is a complete set of superbly preserved survey maps for a potential transcontinental railroad route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Though none of the three major transcontinental railroads would be built on this route, the documentation and maps of the journey is a standout work among maps of the Southcentral and Southwest regions of the United States.
These land survey maps include a variety of lines, and symbols that help explain the map upon close examination. Astronomical stations are marked with stars, forts appear as squares with triangular corners, small hallow dots mark settlements and trading posts, while a series of triangles denotes Native American villages. The varying line patters delineate the line to which the profile was constructed, existing wagon roads, extensively used trails, proposed railroad routes, and the routes of past expeditions. While the survey party did not traverse all of the land depicted in these maps, they did utilize information from these past expeditions to fill in what would be empty space. The name of these prior authorities are listed in Map No.1 and include the name of Sitgreaves, Kern, Emory, and Beckwith, among others.
Map No. 1 From Fort Smith to the Rio Grande
The first half of this route was one of extreme danger and peril for the topographical engineers and their team as they would traverse through some of the most hostile of Indian territories and treacherous environments the land had to offer in the mid-19th century. Beginning in Fort Smith, located on the western fringe of the Arkansas Territory the team would cross 500 miles of rolling prairies dealing with all the torments mother nature could throw their way and always on the lookout for bands of Kaioways and Comanches that had been engaged in battle, and leading raiding parties since the days of the Spanish Conquistadores over 150 years prior.
After crossing the infamous Llano Estacado (a.k.a. the Staked Plain) the party made their way through Pecos Canyon, the first of many canyons that lay just south of the oldest town in the American West, Santa Fe (est. 1610). This region had been well traversed for centuries, by way of the Rio Grande from the south and the Famed Santa Fe Trail which begins in Independence Missouri. Most recent to the publication of this map, General Kearny followed this route and much of what is shown in Map No. 2 for his 2,000 mile march through Santa Fe (defeating General Armijo) and continuing on to San Diego (which would include the bloody battle of San Pasqual).
Southern Plains Tribes - A Dichotomy of History, Culture, Lifestyle and Hostility.
Much of this map denotes the tribes that lived in this region of the country. What is does not distinguish is the major difference between them. The Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw had been moved into the Arkansas (or Indian) Territory for over 20 years prior to the publication of this map by way of the Trail of Tears. Originating from the lower Appalachian woodlands, and the swamps, and marshes of the Southeast, the never adapted to a way of life on horseback. Couple that with the confines of their new reservations along the edge of the frontier, their methods of survival was based upon farming and trade with travelling whites.
The Kaioway and Comanche on the other hand had well adapted to life on horseback, similar to their counterparts to the north in the Arapahoe, Cheyenne, and Sioux. What was different between the lower plains tribes was their long history of warfare beginning with the Spanish Conquistadores in the early years of the 18th century, then the Mexicans after they won their Independence from Spain, and seamlessly, continuing with the Texans after they won their Independence from Mexico. Their extensive and deadly raiding parties were a major reason Mexico had invited American immigrants to settle (or, act as a human buffer) in Texas when it was part of Mexico, and they were the primary motivation for the founding of the Texas Rangers.
Map No. 2 From the Rio Grande to the Pacific Ocean
This map continues where Map No. 1 left off with the departure of the Rio Grande at Isleta, following the Rio San José though Campbell's Pass (see inset map of at top right) right into the heart of Navajo Country by way of the Rio Puerco. A likely reason for this path was its proximity to Fort Defiance (est. 1851), which was built on valuable Navajo grazing land that the federal government then prohibited the Navajo from using. As a result, the appropriately named fort experienced intense fighting. While the Navajo were not as hostile as the Comanche and Kaioway, they had seen their fair share of battles with the Spanish and Mexicans for hundreds of years and had to encounter a visiting race that had not lead to bloodshed.
Continuing on into the region of the Tontos, the track of the proposed railroad splits multiple times. One line turn directly south along the Rio Verde where it would later follow the Gila River west through the Sonoran Desert. Much of this route was traversed by Kit Carson multiple times, once leading General Kearney's regiment to San Diego. The proposed line turns north to its final destination, the town of Los Angeles and the coastal settlement of San Pedron (present-day Long Beach). The other, more northern route continues west, splitting just one more time, before extending through a maze of canyons and the vast deserts of the Yampais, Mojave, and Pah-Utahs. This route then continues through the Mojave desert before reaching "TAH-EE-CHE-PAH PASS" through the Sierra Nevada Mountains into the lower central valley of California, then north to San Francisco.
The Land, Time Period, and People, Represented in These Maps
This entire stretch of land had only been considered by the United States to be their territory for less than 10 years. Though self-declared independent from Mexico since 1835, Texas had not joined the Union until 1845. The New Mexico Territory and Upper California was added at the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo in 1848. Living within the vast, dynamic stretch of land were thousands Native Americans with an underappreciated spectrum of customs, way of life, and attitude towards white men. The stories engrained in the history of this stretch of land are numerous and go well beyond what we can include in this description.
Condition: These maps are in A+ condition, flattened and linen-backed for preservation and presentation purposes. Browning along fold lines which is common for these maps is apparent, but subtle and does not distract from the overall work.
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