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.
Hinrichs, Oscar

Middle Initial:

Rank:

Branch: Navy

Theater: Eastern

Related: VA, NC

Bio: Oscar Hinrichs (1835-1893) served with the U.S. Coast Survey before the Civil War, but defected to the South during the war, taking valuable Coast Survey charts with him. Hinrichs was born in 1835 on the Baltic Coast. His father was an officer in the Swiss Guard and a diplomat in the U.S., representing Saxe Coburg. His stepmother was the daughter of an influential businessman in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Hinrichs worked for Coast Survey from 1855 to 1861, and spent most of that time surveying the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. He worked for Charles Pattison Bolles, who took all of his Coast Survey charts to the Confederacy and helped build the defenses of Wilmington. Hinrichs was unable to follow Bolles immediately after the fall of Fort Sumter, because Superintendent Bache transferred him to Maine and then St. Louis. However, Hinrichs had friends in Maryland who were Confederate sympathizers and smuggled him across the Potomac River into Virginia. Hinrichs first assignment was to help Joe Johnston plan his retreat from Centreville, Virginia. His next assignment was to go to Yorktown to help strengthen its defenses in preparation for McClellan's march up the Peninsula. After the Confederate retreat and the Battle of Williamsburg, Hinrichs returned to Richmond where he was reassigned to Thomas Jackson. He served with Jackson in his 1862 Valley Campaign, and assisted Jed Hotchkiss with mapmaking. After the Valley Campaign, Hinrichs served in the Second Corps for the rest of the war. He was wounded in action at the Battle of Mine Run in late 1863 and again at Farmville on April 7, 1865. Shortly after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, Hinrichs was arrested for playing a role in the Boothe Conspiracy; however the charges were later dropped. After the war, he worked as an engineer and architect in Washington, D.C. He committed suicide in 1893.

 


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