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Comparing Gen. Sherman’s march across South Carolina using historical maps

Authors: Silvia Piovan*, University of Padova, Jacopo Signorini, University of Padova
Topics: Cartography, United States, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: General Sherman, Mill’s atlas, South Carolina, Civil War, GIS
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


During the last phase of the American Civil War, General Sherman’s five Armies crossed South Carolina between February 1st and March 20th 1865.
The first goal of this work was to georeference the two historical maps of Orangeburg and Lexington districts from the South Carolina atlas of Mills (1825). Even if these two maps pre-date the civil war, they provide a detailed image of the road network of the two counties at that time, which we assume did not had major changes before the war.
The second goal was to digitize the paths of the Sherman’s armies upon the lines drawn in the maps of Ruger (1865) and Kossak (1865). The digitalization was carried out in a GIS environment, using the Mill’s atlas maps for the Orangeburg and Lexington districts as basemaps. A further investigation on the paths documented on historical documents was also carried out for validation purposes.
The digitalization allowed analyzing the different versions of the reported paths, bringing interesting conclusions on general and specific cartographical aspects. For example, from the comparison between the paths extracted from the written documents and those represented in the two historical maps that depict the advance of Sherman, it is possible to say that the traces reported by the Kossak seems to be more accurate than those in the Ruger map.
This work can provide also a detailed paths network at the larger scale of the Mill’s atlas map (2 miles/inch), which can be useful in cultural heritage research project.

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