The Cruelty of War

Another Wikipedia map (don’t worry, they won’t all be from there), showing battles of the American Civil War, based on National Park Service data:

Amazingly enough, it turns out that the red-coded counties, coded for “Eastern Theater,” are, in fact all in the east! The color coding has no particular use here, except to show you the difference between the NPS-defined theaters of the war. Why not just draw a border around the zones, so that you don’t need a confusing rainbow of colors to tell you roughly nothing that isn’t apparent by looking at where the filled-in counties are?

Also, why is “Mult. Years” the darkest color? This map’s color scheme suggests that “darker is later” – 1863 is darker than 1861. Making a county that saw battles in multiple years (about half of the ones on the map) even darker than the color for 1865 makes it seem like they were fighting the war there well into the 1870s. A media conspiracy has kept it secret.

Quick tip: Let’s say you’re making a map of something that happened, say, 140+ years ago. Using modern county and state borders might be ill-advised.

It looks like the US is tilted backwards. Maybe it’s a commentary by the author – “Look! The US is falling over…a house divided cannot stand!” Actually, what probably happened is they used a sinusoidal projection, which is good for showing the whole world at times, but not so good for showing one country at high latitudes.

One Nice Thing: The color scheme for the years within each theater makes some level of sense – the colors are arranged in a light-to-dark pattern as the years go on. Excepting, of course, the color for “Mult. Years.” Good cartographic sense.


4 Responses to “The Cruelty of War”

  1. 1 Wikipedian
    10th July, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    You should leave a comment on the talk pages of maps you complain about, so they know what to fix.


  2. 2 Lurker
    1st September, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    It’s *HARD* to get old data (Especially cartographically usable date) on State boundries, let alone counties! I suspect even back then it was hard, since for an example, when Congress was legislating on territorial boundaries, they inadvertently let the Oklahoma panhandle fall out of any jurisdiction!

    Counties are just impossible, especially since back then plenty of counties were ill defined at best, given the terrain and # of civil engineers/1000 sqmi.

  3. 3 Kyle
    8th November, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Is the ommision of the raid of St. Albans Vermont a mistake or intentional? Was it not considered part of the war?

    • 4 Daniel Huffman
      11th November, 2010 at 3:40 pm

      Probably a matter of interpretation. I suppose the Park Service considers it to be more of a non-military action (and probably likewise with something like the plot to burn down NYC). Fortunately, the person who made the map at least relied on a reputable source for those kind of decisions, and cited it (though we may reasonably disagree with the classification of battle/non-battle).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: