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    The Original Hand Drawn Pen and Ink Version of Captain William Ludlow's Important 1874 Map Detailing George Armstrong Custer's Historic Expedition into the Black Hills. In July 1874 Custer embarked from Fort Abraham Lincoln on a major two-month expedition to explore and map the (until then) largely unexplored Black Hills. Their goals were threefold: To search for a suitable location for a Fort, discover a passable route to the southwest, and to investigate rumors that significant gold deposits might be found there. The expedition included over a thousand troops with 110 wagons and numerous civilians. While Custer's men sought out a possible site for a fort, the civilians fanned out looking for gold. Throughout the expedition significant traces of gold were found in streams and rivers. Word of the discovery would quickly spread, leading to a gold rush into the Black Hills, an area sacred to the Sioux and reserved to them by treaty. Hostilities quickly ensued which would ultimately culminate in the notorious Battle of Little Bighorn, in which Custer would perish with over 200 of his men.

    Captain William Ludlow of the Army Corps of Engineers supervised the careful mapping of the Black Hills, previously uncharted, during the expedition. Upon his return, Ludlow published his Report of a Reconnaissance of the Black Hills, which included three highly detailed fold-out maps of the region which were widely circulated. Offered here is the original pen and ink map, drawn on slick, almost cloth-like oiled paper which was used in the event that the map became wet in the field. While the published map bears a close resemblance to the original, significant differences are immediately apparent, ranging from the type of lettering used for the map's title, etc., to the use of and exact placement of the identification of various features. The original map is, of course, in black and white, while the published version has colored highlights added to make the topography easier to envision. Perhaps quite significantly, the original map is signed in the lower right-hand corner "Sergt. J.E. Wilson, Co. D, Batt. of Engineers." It seems highly probable that Sergeant Wilson actually drew the original map, inasmuch as our research confirms that he did work under Ludlow on the expedition. However, only Captain Ludlow is credited on the published version. It seems clear that Ludlow was looking ahead to the implications of the expedition. It was he who arranged the photographing of the entire exploration by William H. Illingworth, a professional photographer who took numerous images along the way, 70 of which were ultimately published (Illingworth was the photographer of the stereo views of this expedition which are offered for bidding in this auction).

    On this original map the entire line of March has been delineated in a reddish brown ink, setting out from Fort Lincoln and eventually returning by different route. Various dates in July and August 1874 have been carefully noted along the route, indicating the expedition's progress. Aside from the original fold lines as made, the map is in excellent condition, and measures 42" x 52". There are some general scattered, light triangular shaped tape marks, left when the accompanying stereo view cards were once affixed to the map for display purposes.

    Few episodes in American history have been so much written about and widely popularized as the history of Custer and the Black Hills. This extraordinary original map is truly a "museum piece," a once in a lifetime opportunity to obtain an utterly unique and incredibly important artifact of these historic events.

    Please Note: It has come to our attention that another very similar hand-drawn map exists, now in the National Archives. If differs in minor details, but is almost certainly by the same hand as our map and was done at roughly the same time.
    The National Archives version was signed by Capt. Ludlow, and is possibly the copy which was sent for publication and subsequently returned.

    Of course in those days there was no method of photo-reproducing a map, so copies had to be meticulously hand-drawn.. Considering the time and effort that would have been involved in drawing each map, it seems likely that both copies were prepared by Sgt. Wilson for official use, although their exact applications will probably never be confirmed.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    Nov-Dec, 2011
    30th-1st Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,438

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