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Jedediah Hotchkiss

   Hotchkiss, JedediahJedediah Hotchkiss was born on November 30, 1828 in Windsor, New York. His family had immigrated from England in 1638 and lived in New England for many generations. His great grandfather had founded the town and built the "stone house" where Hotchkiss was born. The house still stands today.

   He was educated at local schools and by his voracious reading, especially in science and geology. In 1847, at the age of 19, he and a friend traveled to the Shenandoah Valley, mostly on foot. On this trip Hotchkiss met Henry Forrer who owned the Shenandoah Iron Works. A year later he would return the valley as the Forrer family tutor. That led to opening his own school in Mossy Creek in 1852. He also began surveying and continued his own studies in a variety of subjects. In 1859 he and his brother founded a new school in Churchville named Loch Willow.

   Mr. Hotchkiss is a fascinating study for a number of reasons. First, he was a yankee. Second, he never held any military rank. Third, as a school teacher he was an unlikely person to be the great Stonewall Jackson's right hand man.

   In March of 1862, after a bout with typhoid fever, Hotchkiss joined a column of men in Stanton that was reporting to Stonewall Jackson. After meeting with Jackson and making him aware of his abilities, Jackson said "I want you to make me a map of the Valley, from Harper's Ferry to Lexington, showing all the points of offense and defense in those places. Mr. Pendleton will you give you orders for whatever outfit you need. Good morning sir." To say this was the start of a beautiful friendship is an understatement.

Battle of Kernstown   Hotchkiss proved his value to Jackson at the battle of Kernstown. Jackson had chosen a place to stand, against the advice of his mapper that could not be defended and had no line of retreat. After reconnoitering and finding a better location, he reported to Jackson and convinced him to redeploy his troops. From this time to Jackson's mortal wounding at Chancellorsville, he made full use of Hotchkiss' skills to win some of the greatest battles of the war.

   The staff that Hotchkiss joined was like no other. At various times Jackson's staff consisted of three present or future doctors of divinity, at least eleven holders of master's degrees or more advanced degrees, a former congressman and diplomat, at least four attorneys and nine teachers, five of whom held or would hold professorships or chairs. Even more impressive is the relative youth of the staff. Many were in their twenties and several were boys fresh out of college.

   General Jackson's StaffThe valley campaign is considered to be one of the greatest series of battles of the war and the making of Jackson's legend. How did one small army defeat four larger armies? The answer lies in Hotchkiss's maps and Jackson's trust in them. Many times during the campaign, Hotchkiss led troops to battles and found alternate routes that the yankees knew nothing about. Often Hotchkiss would climb to the top of Massanutten Mountain and signal to Jackson the deployment of the federal troops. Banks, Fremont and McDowell were all defeated by Jackson's foot cavalry.

   The spring of 1863 saw the high and low points of Hotchkiss' career. On the night of May 1, Lee and Jackson sat on cracker boxes left by union troops and studied a map he drew of a possible route around Hooker's right flank. After the attack ground to a halt in the darkness of May 2, JacksonGeneral Thomas and his staff rode in front of the lines to see if his advantage could be pressed further. After encountering union pickets, they turned back toward their lines. Mistaking them for federal troops, a North Carolina regiment opened fire on them. Hotchkiss was slightly behind the General and was unhurt. After seeing that Jackson was still alive, he rode to find Dr. McGuire and an ambulance. He then rode to Lee's headquarters to inform him. He rode to the location were the shooting took place and found the body of his good friend James Boswell, who had been riding in front of Jackson. On May 4, Hotchkiss saw Jackson for the last time when he led his ambulance to Guiney's Station, where he died five days later. The loss was felt deeply in the army and the entire south. Hotchkiss wrote: "The singular but good and great man that directed everything and stamped a peculiar character upon it is no longer at his post and everything wears an altered and lonely look, but such is earth and such are earthly things."

   In May, 1864 a new union commander, Grant, tried what all the others had been unable to do. His 118,000 troops attacked Lee's 62,000 troops in the Wilderness. During the battle, Hotchkiss came as close to death as he had during the war. A bullet smashed his binoculars that were around his neck over his chest. The binoculars were destroyed, but he was barely bruised. Lincoln decided that the valley must be controlled at all costs and sent Hunter to do the job. Lee countered by splitting his army yet again and sent the Second corps under Early to stop him. Hotchkiss accompanied the army and watched as Hunter retreated without a fight. With no one to fight, Lee ordered Early towards Maryland. Early swept General Jubal Anderson Earlythe federals aside at Monocacy and moved towards Washington, hoping to draw troops away from Lee's front. The campaign ended in the July heat just outside Washington. Early's troops were too few and too tired to continue.

   Early then moved back to the valley, where he fought a series of battles against Sheridan. Most resulted in retreats and even more loss of irreplaceable troops. Hotchkiss was wounded in the hand, and his best friend Col. Sandie Pendleton was killed at Fishers Hill.

   Continued skirmishing led to his second brush with death in less than a week when his horse was shot from under him. Thinking that Early was no longer a threat, Sheridan withdrew down the valley, burning everything in his path. He set of camp in Middleton, and went to Washington for a conference. Early moved close and looked for a way to attack.General John B. Gordon Hotchkiss and Gen. John B. Gordon climbed Three Top Mountain to see if they could discover a weakness in the union defenses. With strong field glasses they could see both armies and their deployment clearly. On the way back down the mountain, Gordon and Hotchkiss discussed the best way to attack. On October 19th , Gordon led his troops through the dense forest at Cedar Creek while Hotchkiss led Kershaw's along another route. When they attacked, the surprise was as great as Chancellorsville. The union troops fled in front Belle Grove mapof Early's ragged army, but the charge stalled as the tired and hungry troops stopped to grab a biscuit or pair of boots. Sheridan, returning from his meeting, heard the sounds of the battle and was able to rally his troops. One of the greatest victories had turned into one of the greatest losses for the south. This effectively ended the war in the valley. Hotchkiss was selected to board a train and carry the news to Lee.

   In December, Hotchkiss received some good news: he had been appointed to the highest civilian position available in the Confederate Engineer Corps-First Military Assistant Engineer-with a salary of $4,000 a year. Unfortunately he did not have long to collect it. In May, Custer's cavalry attacked and Early's line collapsed. Hotchkiss fled to an icy forest and rejoined headquarters several days later. On April 9, he was at Lynchburg when he heard the news of Lee's surrender. He wrote in his journal "sadness and gloom pervaded the entire community."

   After the war Hotchkiss was as successful as he was during the war. He accepted a part time teaching position at Augusta Female Seminary in Stanton and began surveying. He moved to Stanton and opened an engineering firm named "Jed Hotchkiss Mining and Consulting Engineer." Elizabeth Furnace Ore BankHe wrote extensively on geology in western Virginia and at one time controlled 60,000 acres of coal fields. Building a railroad to the fields and founding a town for the workers where some of his achievements. He traveled to England and Scotland twice to secure investments for his projects. Although he was in a sense a renaissance man, he never achieved great financial success. He kept up a lifelong correspondence with many of Jackson's staff and many of his friends such as John B. Gordon. He also was highly sought after as a speaker and lectured all over the country. He also organized the Stonewall Jackson Camp of the United Confederate Veterans.

Jedediah Hotchkiss    In 1897 Hotchkiss was asked to write the Virginia volume of a series of books called "Confederate Military History." This volume, probably the most important, contained 50,000 words and was written in a little over a year.

In January 1899, Hotchkiss' health declined. He died January 17, 1899 at the age of 70.

It is just in the last twenty years that Hotchkiss has received his due as one of the greats of the Confederacy and mapping. His life is fascinating to study for the historian, surveyor and geologist. His maps are some of the most accurate and beautiful of this or any war.


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Jedediah Hotchkiss's Grave
in The Thornrose Cemetery Staunton Virginia

(click any image to enlarge)
<Thornrose Cemetery Staunton Virginia
Thornrose Cemetery staunton Virginia 1849
Jed Hotchkiss Headstone facing South
Jed Hotchkiss grave:
He request to be buried facing south. Only grave in the cemetery that does, everyone else faces East.
Jed's gravestone inscription
South side Inscription. Jed wanted to face south where his heart lay.
inscription on westside of Jed's gravestone
Inscription on the West side.
Hotchkiss plot wife and son-in-law behind Jed
Jed's son-in-law's stone (large dark stone) faces South but he was buried facing east.
inscription on back (Northside) of Jed's gravestone
Inscription on the North side of Jed's stone.
Lady in white watching over Thornrose, Jed's grave under her extendind finger tips
Lady watching over Thornrose, under her extended fingers is Jed's grave.


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