Sketch of the Battle of McDowell
Original Author: Jedediah Hotchkiss
Created: 1860–1865
Medium: Pen-and-ink and pencil on lined paper, mounted on cloth
Publisher: Library of Congress, American Memory

Sketch of the Battle of McDowell

A topographical map by Jedediah Hotchkiss shows the positions held by Confederate general Edward "Allegheny" Johnson's troops on the crest of "Setlington's Hill" during the Battle of McDowell on May 8, 1862. Johnson and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson had Union generals Robert H. Milroy and Robert C. Schenck caught in a seemingly untenable position. The Union troops were clustered around the village of McDowell (seen center left) in the valley of the Bull Pasture River, and were nearly hemmed in by surrounding mountains. Late in the afternoon, Milroy led a surprise attack on the larger Confederate forces on the hillside and managed to inflict double the casualties that his own troops sustained. During the battle, Johnson's ankle was shattered by a bullet and Confederate general William B. Taliaferro assumed command of the field. The furious action lasted for four hours, from 4:30 until 8:30 p.m. when it became too dark to see.

A New York native, Jedediah Hotchkiss was an avid hiker who taught himself mapmaking and engineering. In the 1850s he moved to Augusta County, Virginia, and in 1859, with his brother Nelson, he opened Loch Willow Academy. The two, along with Jed Hotchkiss's Pennsylvania-born wife, owned at least one slave. During the war, Hotchkiss became an officer on the staff of Stonewall Jackson, using his mapmaking skills to help orient the general during the Shenandoah Campaign, of which McDowell was an early battle. Thanks to Hotchkiss's maps, Jackson always had ample knowledge of the geographic setting within which he was operating and a good appreciation of the terrain he would put to use against the enemy.