Coast Surveyors assumed important combat roles during the Civil War, serving as topographers, reconnaissance specialists, scouts, intelligence officers, and combat hydrographers.

For a contemporary record of combat mapping during the Civil War, see the war record of Frederick Dorr and John Donn.

Browse biographical vignettes of Coast Surveyors, listed below.
Bache, Alexander Dallas

Middle Initial: D

Rank: Superintendent

Branch: Army, Navy

Theater: Eastern

Related: DC, VA

Bio: Alexander Dallas Bache (1806-1867) was the Second Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey and led the organization through the turmoil of the Civil War. Bache graduated from West Point in 1825. He was an Army engineer for a few short years. He was also a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He assumed the superintendency of the U.S. Coast Survey in 1843 upon Hassler's death. During his tenure, the Survey greatly expanded and initiated simultaneous expeditions all along the East Coast. Under his direction, Coast Survey commenced the exploration of the Gulf Stream; projected a series of observations on the tides, the magnetism of the earth, and the direction of the winds at different seasons of the year; researched the ocean floor; and utilized new technology, such as the telegraph, photography, and electrotyping, for more efficient and accurate reproductions of maps. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Bache served on the Blockade Board to help plan the Union's strategy in strangling the South. His Notes on the Coast also provided valuable information for Union officers navigating the southern coast. Bache also made the critical decision to send Coast Survey staff to Union field officers, where they proved to be invaluable help for field mapping, scouting and hydrographic surveys. He detailed these activities in his reports to Congress.

 


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