Confederate cartographer and industrial promoter Jedediah Hotchkiss (November 3, 1828-January 17, 1899) was born in Windsor, New York. He was educated at local schools and through self-study, and in 1853 he married Sara Comfort of Pennsylvania.
After a short period teaching in Pennsylvania and a walking tour in Virginia, Hotchkiss settled in Mossy Creek, Virginia, near Staunton, as a family tutor. During the 14 years before the Civil War he founded and taught in schools in Augusta County. There he indulged his interest in geology, acquired a detailed knowledge of the Shenandoah Valley, and developed his skill as a surveyor.
It was in this capacity that he offered his services to the Confederate forces and became the foremost topographical engineer in the Army of Northern Virginia.
Hotchkiss served on Stonewall Jackson’s staff, and his careful mapwork made an important contribution to Jackson’s success. His journals and diaries are the largest single source of information on Jackson.
After the war Hotchkiss devoted most of his time to furthering the development of the natural resources of the two Virginia’s, in particular the coal-bearing areas of West Virginia. In 1871, he explored the newly extended Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad and described the now accessible resources in two illustrated articles in Scribner’s Monthly. The year 1876 saw the publication for Virginia’s legislature of Hotchkiss’s Virginia: A Geographical and Political Summary, which included the first printed map of William Barton Rogers’s 1835–41 geological survey of Virginia. From 1880 to 1885, he published the monthly magazine The Virginias: a Mining, Industrial and Scientific Journal Devoted to the Development of Virginia and West Virginia. Hotchkiss was closely associated with Frederick J. Kimball and Edward C. Clark in the evolution of the Norfolk & Western Railroad and the exploitation of the Flat Top coalfield. In the course of this work he surveyed hundreds of thousands of acres in the mountains of West Virginia.
Hotchkiss was concerned that the moral and religious condition of the mining communities should not be neglected. Thus, he ensured the building of a church at the new town of Dunlow, and was secretary of a committee appointed by the Lexington Presbytery to establish a school at Elkins. Although not immediately successful, this project was revived after his death and led to the founding of Davis & Elkins College in 1903. Hotchkiss died in Staunton.
This Article was written by Peter W. Roper
Last Revised on December 03, 2012
Roper, Peter W. Jedediah Hotchkiss: Rebel Mapmaker and Virginia Businessman. Shippensburg, PA: White Mane Pub., 1992.