Jedediah Hotchkiss (1828–1899)


Jedediah Hotchkiss served as a staff officer to Confederate general Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson during the American Civil War (1861–1865). A New York native, Hotchkiss opened a school in 1859 in Augusta County. His specialty, however, was mapmaking, and his topographical skills proved to be crucial to Jackson’s success during his famous Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862. 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.

Jedediah Hotchkiss and Family

Jedediah Hotchkiss was born November 30, 1828, in Windsor, New York. His father was a farmer but appreciated Jedediah’s studious bent enough to enroll him at Windsor Academy. Young Hotchkiss was fascinated with geography and geology, and after graduation in 1846 he and several friends made a walking tour of Lyken’s Valley in Pennsylvania. There Hotchkiss took his first job, teaching a term of school. When that was finished, his further wanderings brought him to the Luray Valley, part of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. There he again took work, first as a tutor to a local family and then as principal of his own Mossy Creek School. Having been raised a Presbyterian, he joined the local Presbyterian church and in December 1853 married Sara Ann Comfort of Lanesboro, Pennsylvania. In 1859 the couple moved to a farm near Churchville, Virginia, where, together with Hotchkiss’s brother Nelson Hotchkiss, they opened the Loch Willow Academy. The school was highly successful. It was during these years that Hotchkiss, who still enjoyed the study of terrain, taught himself mapmaking.

Map of Virginia

When the Civil War began, Hotchkiss—despite his and his wife’s background and his brother’s staunch Unionism—sided with the Confederacy and in June 1861 entered the Confederate army. His first service came in what was later to become West Virginia. In the Confederate debacle at Rich Mountain, Hotchkiss successfully led a small contingent of Confederate troops in escaping capture at a point when Union forces had them nearly surrounded. Later that summer Confederate general Robert E. Lee arrived in western Virginia. Quickly recognizing Hotchkiss’s special skills, he put him to work making a map of Tygart’s Valley. By autumn 1861, however, Hotchkiss was suffering from typhoid fever and had to take an extended sick leave.

Returning to duty in March 1862, Hotchkiss sought and gained assignment as a topographical engineer on the staff of Stonewall Jackson. On March 26, Jackson gave Hotchkiss his famous order: “I want you to make me a map of the Valley, from Harpers Ferry to Lexington, showing all the points of offense and defence in those places.” Hotchkiss did just that, preparing an accurate, detailed, and easily understandable map for Jackson’s use. Using pencils of different colors, he took great pains to make the map clear and easy to grasp, and he frequently briefed Jackson on aspects of terrain.

Sketch Book Showing Positions of Second Corps, A. N. Va, in Engagements of 1864–5

During the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of March and April 1862, Hotchkiss performed invaluable terrain reconnaissance and appreciation duties for Jackson. After the campaign he continued in those duties with Jackson’s Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia throughout the Virginia campaigns of 1862 and 1863. At Chancellorsville in May 1863 Hotchkiss was not far from where Jackson was mortally wounded by friendly fire. The same volley that eventually killed Jackson also killed Hotchkiss’s friend and tent-mate, Captain James Keith Boswell.

Hotchkiss continued his duties as a topographical engineer with the Second Corps under its subsequent commanders, Richard S. Ewell and Jubal A. Early. He accompanied the Army of Northern Virginia in its invasion of his wife’s native state, and he was with Early when the Army of the Valley marched to the outskirts of Washington, D.C., in 1864. That autumn, information Hotchkiss provided was a key factor in the Confederates’ initial success at the Battle of Cedar Creek. The following spring, Hotchkiss continued to serve in the upper Shenandoah Valley area with generals Thomas L. Rosser and Lunsford Lomax. Upon learning of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, Hotchkiss conferred with Confederate secretary of war John C. Breckinridge before disbanding his small topographical detachment and returning to his home, where he gave his parole to Union forces on May 1, 1865.

Jedediah Hotchkiss's Exploration of West Virginia

After the war Hotchkiss taught for several years and then quit teaching to take up engineering full-time. He became an avid promoter of and investor in the development of mining and timber interests in western Virginia and neighboring West Virginia. He composed the Virginia volume—volume 3—of the set Confederate Military History (1899). Living in Staunton, he was for many years active in the Second Presbyterian Church. Hotchkiss died January 17, 1899 at his home, the Oaks.

November 30, 1828
Jedediah Hotchkiss is born in Windsor, New York.
Jedediah Hotchkiss graduates from the Windsor Academy in Windsor, New York, after which he and several friends take a walking tour of Lyken's Valley in Pennsylvania. He will teach school there and later move to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
December 1853
Jedediah Hotchkiss marries Sara Ann Comfort of Lanesboro, Pennsylvania. Hotchkiss is principal of the school he founded, Moss Creek School, in the Shenandoah Valley.
Jedediah Hotchkiss and his wife move to a farm near Churchville, where, together with his brother Nelson Hotchkiss, they open Loch Willow Academy.
June 1861
Despite the fact that he and his wife are from the North and despite his brother's staunch Unionism, Jedediah Hotchkiss joins the Confederate army.
July 11, 1861
In the Confederate debacle at the Battle of Rich Mountain, Jedediah Hotchkiss leads a small contingent of Confederate troops in escaping capture at a point when Union forces have them nearly surrounded.
Autumn 1861
Jedediah Hotchkiss suffers from typhoid fever and takes an extended sick leave from the Confederate army.
March 1862
Jedediah Hotchkiss seeks and receives assignment as a topographical engineer on the staff of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.
March—April 1862
Jedediah Hotchkiss performs invaluable terrain reconnaissance duties for Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign.
March 26, 1862
Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson delivers a famous order to his topographical engineer, Jedediah Hotchkiss: "I want you to make me a map of the Valley, from Harpers Ferry to Lexington, showing all the points of offense and defence in those places."
May 2, 1863
Jedediah Hotchkiss is not far from Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson when he is accidentally shot and mortally wounded by Confederate soldiers during the Battle of Chancellorsville. Hotchkiss's friend and tent-mate, James Keith Boswell, is killed by the same volley.
October 19, 1864
Jedediah Hotchkiss provides topographical information that is key to Confederate success at the Battle of Cedar Creek.
April 1865
When he learns of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's surrender, Jedediah Hotchkiss confers with the Confederate secretary of war, John C. Breckinridge, and then disbands his small topographical detachment.
May 1, 1865
Jedediah Hotchkiss is paroled by Union forces.
Jedediah Hotchkiss's volume 3, or the Virginia volume, of the Confederate Military History is published.
January 17, 1899
Jedediah Hotchkiss dies in Staunton.
  • Cozzens, Peter. Shenandoah 1862: Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.
  • Freeman, Douglas Southall. Lee’s Lieutenants: A Study in Command. 3 vols. New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1942–1944.
  • McDonald, Archie P., ed. Make Me a Map of the Valley: The Civil War Journal of Stonewall Jackson’s Topographer. Dallas, Texas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1973.
  • Miller, William J. Mapping for Stonewall: The Civil War Service of Jed Hotchkiss. Washington, D.C.: Elliott and Clark Publishing, 1993.
  • Robertson, James I. Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend. New York: Macmillan, 1997.
APA Citation:
Woodworth, Steven. Jedediah Hotchkiss (1828–1899). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/hotchkiss-jedediah-1828-1899.
MLA Citation:
Woodworth, Steven. "Jedediah Hotchkiss (1828–1899)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 18 Jul. 2024
Last updated: 2021, December 22
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