We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Mapping and Empire

Soldier-Engineers on the Southwestern Frontier

Edited by Dennis Reinhartz and Gerald D. Saxon

Publication Year: 2005

From the sixteenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries, Spain, then Mexico, and finally the United States took ownership of the land from the Gulf Coast of Texas and Mexico to the Pacific Coast of Alta and Baja California—today's American Southwest. Each country faced the challenge of holding on to territory that was poorly known and sparsely settled, and each responded by sending out military mapping expeditions to set boundaries and chart topographical features. All three countries recognized that turning terra incognita into clearly delineated political units was a key step in empire building, as vital to their national interest as the activities of the missionaries, civilian officials, settlers, and adventurers who followed in the footsteps of the soldier-engineers. With essays by eight leading historians, this book offers the most current and comprehensive overview of the processes by which Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. soldier-engineers mapped the southwestern frontier, as well as the local and even geopolitical consequences of their mapping. Three essays focus on Spanish efforts to map the Gulf and Pacific Coasts, to chart the inland Southwest, and to define and defend its boundaries against English, French, Russian, and American incursions. Subsequent essays investigate the role that mapping played both in Mexico's attempts to maintain control of its northern territory and in the United States' push to expand its political boundary to the Pacific Ocean. The concluding essay draws connections between mapping in the Southwest and the geopolitical history of the Americas and Europe.

Published by: University of Texas Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (211.9 KB)
pp. vii-viii


pdf iconDownload PDF (205.2 KB)
pp. ix-xii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (104.5 KB)
pp. xiii

The editors would like to thank the contributors to the book for participating in the First Biennial Virginia Garrett Lectures on the History of Cartography in October 1998 and revising their lectures for publication in this volume. Special thanks goes to Richard Francaviglia, our colleague at theUniversity of Texas at Arlington and director of the Center for Greater...

read more

Introduction (Richard V. Francaviglia)

pdf iconDownload PDF (213.4 KB)
pp. xv-xx

One of the many ironies in southwestern history relates to the changing position of Texas in the region’s history and scholarship. A poorly explored backwater during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Texas long remained terra incognita to Spain—until, that is, the French showed...

read more

Chapter One: Spanish Maritime Charting of the Gulf of Mexico and the California Coast

pdf iconDownload PDF (957.2 KB)
pp. 1-43

Iberia, as direct heir of Greek and Arabic geometry, algebra, astronomy, navigation, and naval architecture, initiated the development of modern cartography. Catal

read more

Chapter Two: Spanish Military Engineers in the New World before 1750

pdf iconDownload PDF (701.9 KB)
pp. 44-56

The idea of the ‘‘engineer’’ goes back far into European history. In Latin the word was ingeniator, in Middle English engyneour, and in Old French engigneor. All these persons would have had something to do with ‘‘engines,’’ which were often machines used in warfare. So the engineer was thought of in medieval times primarily as somebody skilled in the art of...

read more

Chapter Three: Spanish Military Mapping of the Northern Borderlands after 1750

pdf iconDownload PDF (958.5 KB)
pp. 57-79

The era of the latter half of the eighteenth century to Mexican independence in 1821 was a dynamic period in the history of Spain, its NewWorld empire, and especially the northern borderlands of the North American Greater Southwest.1With the occupations of Texas, Alta California, parts...

read more

Chapter Four: U.S. Army Military Mapping of the American Southwest during the Nineteenth Century

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 80-129

‘‘Accurate geographical and topographical knowledge of a country are particularly essential to military operations. They are the eyes of the commanding general.’’ 1 This statement was never more valid than when Colonel John J. Abert wrote it in 1848 with the Southwestern Frontier in mind...

read more

Chapter Five: Henry Washington Benham: A U.S. Army Engineer's View of the U.S.-Mexican War

pdf iconDownload PDF (926.9 KB)
pp. 130-155

The night of February 22, 1847, was cold and miserable on the broken plains of Mexico some six miles south of Saltillo, the provincial capital of Coahuila. An intermittent rain fell, and the chilling temperatures braced the armies in the field. Henry Washington Benham, a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was anxious and excited at the same time....

read more

Chapter Six: Trabajos Desconocidos, Ingenieros Olvidados: Unknown Works and Forgotten Engineers of the Mexican Boundary Commission

pdf iconDownload PDF (832.4 KB)
pp. 156-184

‘‘It is a pity that the works on our boundary line with the United States remain unknown and forgotten—that nothing is published about them, when both for their extent and their accuracy, they are among the best works that the country owes to our engineers, and could be of great benefit...

read more

Chapter Seven: Soldier-Engineers in the Geographic Understanding of the Southwestern Frontier: An Afterthought

pdf iconDownload PDF (234.4 KB)
pp. 185-189

The preceding pages have provided a wide range of accounts and syntheses regarding the 350-year effort of Spanish and United States soldier engineers to understand and to map the vast and imposing Southwestern region that became parts of the United States and northern Mexico. As...


pdf iconDownload PDF (200.1 KB)
pp. 191-192


pdf iconDownload PDF (240.6 KB)
pp. 193-204

E-ISBN-13: 9780292796775
E-ISBN-10: 0292796773
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292706590
Print-ISBN-10: 0292706596

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 52 b&w illus., 12 color maps, 3 tables
Publication Year: 2005