General Taylor's "Astonishing" Map
of Northeastern Mexico
A T THE OUTBREAK OF THE MEXICAN WAR NEAR MATAMOROS IN APRIL
1846, the U.S. military had no real understanding of the terrain
below the Rio Grande. Stephen F. Austin's 1830 map of Texas, published
by Henry S. Tanner at Philadelphia, showed the country as far south as
Monterrey and Saltillo and amounted to the best information then avail-
able, simplified though it was.' Most maps published in the next sixteen
years (and there were many of them) lifted the northern sections of
Tamaulipas, Nuevo Le6n, and Coahuila directly from Austin; some of
these deigned not to show anything south of the Rio Grande at all, partic-
ularly those released after Texas declared its independence in 1836.
Even Lt. William H. Emory's 1844 map of Texas and adjacent terri-
tory, prepared by the Bureau of Topographical Engineers from avail-
able sources,2 was sadly lacking in any kind of detailed view of the
region that Gen. Zachary Taylor had to traverse with his Army of
Occupation once he had secured Matamoros. But what was the best
route to use in pursuing Gen. Mariano Arista's forces, which were
bloodied at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma? Where could depend-
able water and forage be found for an army of six thousand men
marching through enemy territory? Which roads were most suitable
* Jack Jackson is a freelance illustrator/historian living in Austin. His award-winning Los
Mestedios has just been reissued by Texas A&M University Press. Currently at press with the Book
Club of Texas is his two-volume study Shooting the Sun: Cartographic Results of Mltary Activities in
Texas, 1689-1829. The author wishes to express his thanks to Katherine Goodwin, map archivist
at the Cartographic History Library at the University of Texas at Arlington, for her help with
many of the maps cited in this article. Also of great service were Richard H. Smith at the
Cartographic and Architectural Branch of the National Archives and Ralph E. Ehrenberg, chief
of the Geography and Map Division at the Library of Congress.
'Austin's 1830 Map of Texas is reproduced in the portfolio of maps accompanying Robert
Sidney Martin and James C. Martin, Contours of Discovery: Prnted Maps Delineating the Texas and
Southwestern Chapters in the Cartographic History of North America, I513-1930 (Austin: Texas State
Historical Association, 1982).
2 See ibid. for Emory's 1844 Map of Texas and the Countres Adjacent.... Apart from Austin,
Emory's main source for Texas was the 1841 map by John Arrowsmith published in London,
also reproduced in ibid.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117155/. Accessed March 2, 2015.