Archive for September, 2010

Fort Montgomery

September 28, 2010

One of the first images we included in the Heritage Charts collection was  ‘A Plan of Fort Montgomery & Fort Clinton’.  The 1779 Samuel Holland plan tells the story of one of the most important and daring engagements of the Revolutionary War which took place in October 1777.

(click on the map for more information)

A Plan of Fort Montgomery and Fort Clinton by Smauel Holland and J. F. W. Des Barres. 1779

It was a great thrill, on the way up to the Newport RI International Boat Show, to be able to make a small detour to find the site of Fort Montgomery and witness first-hand the site of such a historic event in the history of American independence.

The site has been extensively excavated and now includes a very well-organized visitor center, as well as an informed tour….

The Visitor Center at Fort Montgomery

(click on the picture to enter the Visitor Center)

 ….but nothing quite prepares one for the striking view the fort commands over the Hudson (or ‘North’) river.

 View from Fort Montgomery looking South down the Hudson with Fort Clinton to the right.

 On the actual plan the view is marked in red..

According to Samuel Holland the ‘chain’ (yellow line) and the cable (orange line) which were strung across the river to impede the British advance would have been approximately here..

It is not my intention here to give a full history of events at the time.  For that, there are plenty of sources, not least the visitor centre and the supporting New York State Parks web-site.  What is worth noting, apart from the striking beauty of the region (even today with Route 202 and the Bear Mountain bridge which now spans the river), is the sheer ingenuity and determination of the American defenders and engineers to impede the British advance in support of General John Burgoyne.  Although the British land force of Loyalist, Hessian and regular troops under the command of Sir Henry Clinton along with the supporting naval force prevailed on the 6th October 1777, the victory ultimately proved hollow.   The intended reinforcement of Burgoyne’s army further north was fatally delayed and Burgoyne (and the British northern initiative) was forced to surrender ten days later at Saratoga.

Of further interest to the region, as with so many other parts of America are the place names which have emerged from the Revolutionary War period.  In the case of this particular corner of New York is the nearby ‘Hessian Lake’, which given American feelings toward the mercenary Hessian force employed by the British, not just in this engagement  but throughout the war, is perhaps a little surprising.

 More images from Fort Montgomery..

The Battery (red dot on plan which follows..)

 The Powder Magazine (‘d’ on the Plan)

Plan of the fort

Click image for more information

 And finally….

I see no more ships, so it must be time for a lemonade!..

Long Island Rail Road

September 2, 2010

Can anyone help with dating the survey for this beautiful map of Long Island with the Environs of New York and Southern Connecticut?  Clearly the publication date of 1836, is not the same as the survey dates – they rarely are.  The map would have been compiled ‘from surveys..’

Click map to link to and more information on the map

The map was published by J.H.Colton the famous publisher of maps of America in 1836 and this edition of the chart is dated 8 years before any other edition I can find in either American Public Record houses or even in the catalogues of antiquarian map dealers.  It is certainly in a near pristine state.

The surveyor was J. Calvin Smith

One of the most obvious ways to date the original survey is to look at the development of the railways and the LIRR is an obvious starting point.

The question is:  At what date did the LIRR get to this point?

All help gratefully received.


One for AJ – West Florida Chart in the locker

September 2, 2010

Here is a chart (one of many) of Florida which I came accross the other week…

  Dedicated “To John Ellis Esq F.R.S. King’s Agent for the Province of West Florida. This Draught is Humbly Inscribed by his Most obliged and obedient humble Serv James Cook” pubd. 1766. 

The James Cook mentioned here is not, by the way, the James Cook.

It is printed with inserts of Pensacola Harbour & Spirito Sancto.  Remarks made by Cook very much in the style of Gauld.  Includes boundary between French and British after 1763. 

For anyone who was born in New Orleans…

and now lives in Mobile…

…Its all here!

James Cook, who surveyed the chart/map worked closely with George Gauld along the Florida Gulf coastline and he adopted Gauld’s ‘style’ whereby he made detailed notes on the charts as he went along.  He even, on this draught, marks his own house and base of operations (sorry haven’t got time to throw-in that thumbnail pic).

The original document is about 55″ w x 21″ h and is just one of many under research at the moment.

Finally, here is a snippet of text spotted on another chart/map, this time by the master himself, George Gauld.  It is taken from a 1777 draught of ‘Part of the Coast to the Westward of the River Mississippi with Part of the Island of New Orleans &c.’,  for The Right Honourable The Board of Admiralty.

 The transcript reads: 

‘The Wreck at the Entrance of Chicouansh was a sloop from Jamaica bound for the Mississippi. Having fallen into the west.d they bewildered themselves on this inhospitable coast and after they were cast away, the Savages plundered them and the vessel of everything they could carry off, even the sails and rigging.  Only three people remained out of the nine, the Master and all of the rest having died on the coast.  These three men in a small boat wandered along the coast for some months in quest of the Mississippi, but after a fruitless search they had returned to the Wreck for some provisions, and were just going away again, when providentially the Surveying sloop Florida appeared and relieved them from their distress July 27th 1777, after they had been eight Months from Jamaica.’

They certainly don’t make ’em like that anymore!

East End Lighthouses of Long Island Sound

September 1, 2010

One of the most important and relevant features usually portrayed on a sea chart is the Lighthouse.  The lighthouses of America are well documented and many have played their part in the birth of the nation and the struggles with the British in particular.  The lighthouses of the east end of Long Island sound around Block Island, Fisher Island, Gardner Island, Connecticut and Long Island itself are no exception.

On this previously unseen chart of 1813, surveyed and drawn during the British blockade of the sound throughout the 1812-15 war the Lighthouses each have a story to tell.  In the first two instances the Lightouses in question were apparently more valuable strategically with their light extinguised than they were lit!

The lighthouse on Little Gull island overlooked naval activities between the Americans and the British in the vicinity of ‘the Race’.  It was constructed in 1806 and was 51ft high.  The light on the tower was forceably removed by British marines on the instructions of Sir Charles Hardy, commander of the British squadron patrolling the sound in 1813, after the lighthouse keeper, Giles Holt, refused to extinguish it.

The New London harbour lighthouse depicted at the mouth of the Connecticut River, south of New London, was constructed in 1801 and stood 89ft.  The octagonal brownstone tower still stands and is the oldest existing lighthouse in Connecticut.  This light was extinguished during the War of 1812, this time at the request of the American Commander, Commodore Stephen Decatur, Jr., who spent most of the war confined, along with his fleet, by the British in the Connecticut River. 

The East-end lighthouses depicted on the Heritage Charts chart A211 also include the construction on Watch Hill Pt. and Montauc Pt. both of which share the history of the region.

The light at Watch Hill (‘Watchill’) Point was reputedly first established to warn local residents of attack from the sea, not as an aid to navigation.  The lighthouse depicted here, an 81ft wooden tower, came into operation in 1808.  It was Rhode Island’s second lighthouse.  During his 27 year incumbency, lighthouse keeper Jonathan Nash, recorded 47 wrecks.

Finally, the lightouse on Montauk (‘Montuc’) Point was completed and came into operation in 1796 and was the first public works project of the United States of America.  It is alleged that the infamouse pirate Captain Kidd buried treasure at the ‘money ponds’ near where the lighthouse was built nearly a hundred years later.  Maybe!…

For the complete chart please visit our main website at:

For more detailed information on the lighthouses of the east end of Long Island Sound I strongly suggest that you follow this link:


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