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.
Peirce, Benjamin

Middle Initial:


Branch: Army, Navy

Theater: Eastern

Related: DC

Bio: Benjamin Peirce (1809-1880) was a Harvard mathematician, astronomer, and third Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey (1867-1874). He assumed the superintendency from A.D. Bache, who brought Coast Survey through the uncertainty of the Civil War. Peirce returned Coast Survey back to its pre-war activities, reinvigorated by new mapping practices and technology transformations that occurred during the war. Coast Survey had to account for war damages in rivers, harbors, and ports and the increasing industrialization, including the growth of the transcontinental railroad. Peirce's administration sent surveyors to the Pacific and up to Alaska with the purchase of the Alaskan Territory after the war. Peirce was also responsible for globalizing the agency, by creating a reputation in the international science community. He also hired his son, Charles Saunders Peirce, one of the great nineteenth century scientists and philosophers, to work for the survey.


Office of Coast Survey
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