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1837 Robert E. Lee Map of the Des Moines Rapids, Mississippi River


No. 1. Map of the Des Moines Rapids, of the Mississippi River.
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Title:    No. 1. Map of the Des Moines Rapids, of the Mississippi River.

Description:    A scarce 1837 map of the Mississippi River's Des Moines Rapids in the vicinity of Fort Des Moines (Montrose, Iowa) by Robert E. Lee. Centered on the Mississippi River and oriented to the west, this map covers from Fort Des Moines south along the river for about 10 miles. It covers parts of modern day Illinois and Iowa, but when this map was issued, the western shores of the Mississippi were part of Wisconsin Territory. The detail through is stupendous with individual buildings, farms, and stores alongside the river being noted - often with family names.

This map was intended to illustrate the Des Moines Rapids, one of two major rapids on the Mississippi River. These, along with the Rock Islands Rapids further north, became increasingly problematic in the early 19th century as steamboats dramatically increased travel and commerce along the Mississippi. The Army Corps of Engineers assigned 30 year old Robert E. Lee, then but a First Lieutenant, the task of mapping and blasting a channel through the rapids. This map is the result of those efforts. Lee's channel, little more than a widening of already existing passages, is clearly visible winding its way through the generally rocky riverbed.

The survey work behind this map was completed by a party under the command of Robert E. Lee. It was drafted by M. C. Meigs, and Henry Kayser. The engraving and printing was accomplished by W. J. Stone of Washington, D.C. It was published a Senate report for the 25th Congress, 2nd Secession, 1837.


Date:    1837 (dated)

Source:    25th Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Doc. #139 (Washington) 1837).    

References:    Koepp, D., Exploration and mapping of the American West: selected essays, no. 316.

Cartographer:    404 Not Found

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Size:   Printed area measures 50 x 21.5 inches (127 x 54.61 centimeters)

Scale:    1 : 12000

Condition:    Very good. Some creasing. Backed with archival tissue. Some wear and toning on original fold lines.

Code:   DesMoinesRapids-robertelee-1837 (to order by phone call: 646-320-8650)

Tags:    Robert E. Lee , Mississippi River

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