Report of the Secretary of War, communicating, in Answer to a resolution of the Senate, a report and map of the examination of New Mexico. 30th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Executive Document No. 23

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Author: Abert, James William (1820-1897)

Year: 1848

Publisher: Government Printing Office for the Senate

Place: Washington, DC


132 pages with 24 lithographed plates and a large folding lithograph, black and white map as issued. 25 1/2 x 19 3/8" with full margins. Sheet size: 26 x 20 1/4". Royal octavo (9 1/4" x 5 3/4") bound in quarter leather with red spine label in gilt over marbled boards. Original wrappers not present, but the Streeter catalogue states that some copies were issued without wrappers. (Howes A-11, Wagner-Camp 143, Graff 5, Rittenhouse 2, Flake 726. Streeter 168) First Senate Edition.

According to Streeter, the present map is "probably the second issue of the first printed map of New Mexico made public by the War Department, the first issue having appeared without the name of the lithographer with the Abert report when that was printed in the House edition of Emory's Notes of a Military Reconnaissance." The second issue was folded into Abert's summation of his findings, Report to the Secretary of War, published in 1848. Abert and Peck, both officers with the Army Topographical Corps of Engineers, began their reconnaissance of New Mexico two years earlier, in 1846, shortly after the Mexican province surrendered to the American army. Their report combined a topographical survey with scientific data on the new territory's population, political organization, flora, fauna, and mining districts. Today, the report is considered a founding document in Southwestern literature. The map is fascinating for its highly detailed depiction of topographical features. It also shows towns, Indian pueblos, battle sites, archaeological ruins, and mines. It is an excellent example of this basic Santa Fe Trail document and a fundamental addition to any collection of New Mexicana.

James William Abert was an American soldier, explorer, ornithologist and topographical artist. In the summer of 1845 Abert was attached to the third expedition of John Charles Frémont, whose assignment was "to make reconnaissance southward and eastward along the Canadian River through the country of Kiowa and Comanche." Frémont, however, chose to take his main party on to California, and gave command of the Canadian River mission to Abert, with an assistant, Lt. William G. Peck. The legendary mountain man Thomas Fitzpatrick was employed as a guide, and Bent employees John L. Hatcher and Caleb Greenwood were hired temporarily as hunters. Except for the two young officers, the entire party of thirty-three was composed of civilians. The expedition struck the headwaters of the Canadian and followed it through the breaks in eastern New Mexico and into the Texas Panhandle. Continuing along the north bank of the Canadian, Abert noted many Panhandle landmarks, including Atascosa Creek and the Alibates Flint Quarries which he labeled Agate Bluffs. The expedition arrived at Bent's trading house in what is now Hutchinson County on September 14, rested there for a day, and exchanged gifts with a party of Kiowas and Comancheros. Three Kiowas had briefly joined the expedition to help keep the peace. On September 16, after Hatcher and Greenwood had left to return to Bent's Fort, the remainder of Abert's party crossed the Canadian and turned toward the southeast. Near the site of present Laketon, in Gray County, the party struck the North Fork of the Red River, which they mistook for the Washita and followed for a while, then turned back northeast toward the Canadian. They crossed the present Oklahoma boundary before reaching the Canadian, which they followed to its confluence with the Arkansas. At Fort Gibson, in eastern Indian Territory, the expedition was disbanded, and Abert and Peck went on to St. Louis. In the summer of 1846 Abert and Peck accompanied Gen. Stephen W. Kearny's Army of the West to New Mexico. Abert came down with a fever in July and had to remain behind at Bent's Fort to recuperate. While he was sick he continued his studies in natural science and ethnology and compiled a tribal dictionary. Afterward he joined Peck in Santa Fe, and the two lieutenants conducted a thorough survey of New Mexico as far south as Socorro. They visited each of the Rio Grande pueblos and, as before, took note of the geology and wildlife of the new American territory, as well as of the habits and customs of its native residents. Abert then went to Washington to submit his report to Congress.


Scattered light foxing to text and first plate else a very good to fine copy. Provenance: The Estate of David Spinney.

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