Map of Portsmouth, Virginia


This pen-and-ink manuscript map shows Portsmouth, Virginia, at the time of the American Revolution. Portsmouth served as a primary British post and naval base. On July 4, 1781, British general Charles Cornwallis (1738–1805) left Williamsburg, Virginia in order to cross the James River at Jamestown and reach Portsmouth. Once at Portsmouth, the British army loaded onto transports. Cornwallis and his men then sailed to Yorktown, where their defeat at the Siege of Yorktown would conclude the American Revolution. The map shows forts, bridges, country homes, marshes, a windmill, and Scott’s Creek. It also shows the Portsmouth waterfront, along the Elizabeth River, as well as roads leading into town and the adjacent area of Gosport. It lists property sites named for owners called Davis, Samuel Veals, Captain Badson, and Tucker. Portsmouth was founded in 1752, but dates back even further as a notable shipbuilding site. Scale is indicated in perches, an old unit measuring more than three meters. The map is from the Rochambeau Collection at the Library of Congress, which consists of 40 manuscript maps, 26 printed maps, and a manuscript atlas that belonged to Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau (1725‒1807), commander in chief of the French expeditionary army (1780‒82) during the American Revolution. Some of the maps were used by Rochambeau during the war. Dating from 1717 to 1795, the maps cover much of eastern North America, from Newfoundland and Labrador in the north to Haiti in the south. The collection includes maps of cities, maps showing Revolutionary War battles and military campaigns, and early state maps from the 1790s.

Last updated: January 8, 2018