Friday, April 15, 2011

Jedediah Hotchkiss

Jedediah Hotchkiss (b. November 30, 1828 – d. January 17, 1899), was also known as Jed. He was an educator and the most famous cartographer and topographer of the American Civil War. His detailed and accurate cartography of the Shenandoah Valley is considered a principal factor in General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's victories in the Valley Campaign of 1862.

Jedediah Hotchkiss was born on November 28, 1828, to Stiles and Lydia (Beecher) Hotchkiss in Windsor, NY. He lived and went to school in Windsor, graduating from the Windsor Academy. He was teaching school in Lykens Valley, PA, by his 18th year of age. In 1847, at the age of 19, he and a friend traveled to the Shenandoah Valley, mostly on foot. On this trip Hotchkiss met Henry Forrer who owned the Shenandoah Iron Works. A year later he would return the valley as the Forrer family tutor. That led to opening his own school in Mossy Creek in 1852. He also began surveying and continued his own studies in a variety of subjects. In 1859 he and his brother founded a new school in Churchville named Loch Willow.

In exploring his adopted home, he began the hobby of map making and developed the skill that would make him invaluable to the Confederate Army.

A transplanted New Yorker, Jedediah Hotchkiss became the most famous of Confederate topographers. In 1861 he gave up teaching and offered his services as a map maker to General Garnett in western Virginia. After serving at Rich Mountain and mapping out General Lee's planned campaign in the mountains, he fell ill with typhoid fever. In March 1862 he joined Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley as a captain and chief topographical engineer of the Valley District. Often personally directing troop movements he took part in the actions of the Valley Campaign and at Cedar Mountain, Chantilly, Harpers Ferry, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. At Chancellorsville he found the route by which Jackson was able to launch his surprise flank attack on the Union 11th Corps. After the death of his chief he served the next two commanders of the corps, Generals Ewell and Early, but was frequently assigned to work for Lee's headquarters. In this dual role he served at Gettysburg and in the Mine Run and Wilderness campaigns.

Accompanying Early to the Shenandoah, he served through the campaigns there until after the disaster at Waynesborough. He gave himself up upon notification of Lee's surrender. By now a major, he was arrested but General Grant had him released and returned his maps. Grant even paid for the right to copy some of them for his own reports. Most of the Confederate maps in the atlas of the Official Records were drawn by Hotchkiss. After the war he was energetic in trying to develop the economy of his adopted state. Also involved in veterans' affairs, he authored the Virginia volume of Confederate Military History.

After the war, Hotchkiss taught school for two years before opening an office as a civil, mining and consulting engineer. With his wide knowledge of Virginia, he helped obtain the foreign and Northern investment of millions of dollars for the state.

He visited England and Scotland to encourage emigration to Virginia and worked ceaselessly to popularize the new notion of the public school system.

He was one of the "distinguished men of the South" who collaborated in the writing of the 12-volume "Confederate Military History", single-handedly composing the 1,295 pages of the Virginia volume. It is obvious that New York's loss of Jed Hotchkiss' public spirit was Virginia's gain.

Called by his peers "a well rounded Christian character of beautiful purity and cheerfulness", Hotchkiss also has the unsung place as the eyes of one of the world's most celebrated military geniuses (General Stonewall Jackson). In part, each of the hundreds of monuments in the name of Stonewall Jackson throughout the South also honors Jed Hotchkiss.

On January 17, 1899, at age 71, Jedediah Hotchkiss died at his home (437 East Beverley Street) in Staunton, VA.

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