Written by: Autumn Faulkner
Primary Source: Wallace Conservation Lab Blog, November 11, 2015.
I had to do a little poking around after I noticed a certain name on this map I’m repairing. Do you see it? Here’s what I found out:
In 1835, when Michigan was petitioning for statehood and aggressively contesting its southern boundary with Ohio (a dispute which is somewhat ludicrously remembered as the “Toledo War”), the Army Corps of Engineers formed a team to survey the disputed territory and map out proposed boundary lines.
Among the men sent on this politically charged errand was one R.E. Lee, an up and coming West Point grad (who, incidentally, had just married Martha Washington’s great-granddaughter). After helping create maps which Congress used to negotiate a boundary which stands to this day, 2nd Lieutenant Lee would next be assigned the important task of clearing the channel in certain parts of the Mississippi River to improve navigation and trade, and would ultimately become a Captain in the Corps of Engineers.
So it seems he was helping write bits of American history long before the Civil War.
For more details about Robert E. Lee’s early military career, see Cullum’s Register, Class of West Point, 1829: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/America/United_States/Army/USMA/Cullums_Register/542*.html
Once these historic maps of the Michigan-Ohio boundary are repaired and cataloged, patrons may view them at the Michigan State University Maps Library (G3312.E7F1 1835): https://www.lib.msu.edu/map/