Blog #5: Digital Maps

For this week we were given the task of designing freehand and digital maps. Upon getting permission to do “what-if” maps for the digital one, I set about recreating the maps from one of my favorite book series: the Southern Victory (or Timeline-191) series of books by Harry Turtledove. The premise of the books is: Lee’s Special Orders 191, historically found by the Union leading to the Battle of Antietam, are instead found by the Confederates, leading Lee to trounce McClellan in the coming battle, allowing Britain and France to come in and negotiate a peace on Confederate terms. In the 1880s, the CSA purchases two provinces from the Empire of Mexico, giving them a port on the Pacific Ocean, prompting the Second Mexican War with the US, where Britain again intervenes on the Confederate side. Following their second defeat, the US allies with Prussia, determined to win the next time the two powers come to blows. The 1914 assassination of a Austro-Hungarian archduke provides the spark that ignites the world, as the Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and the United States go to war with the Entente of Great Britain, France, Russia, and the United States.

This brings me to my first of three maps: North America in 1915:


This is a national map, not one of the battle lines. I lack the space to describe the maps in detail so I’ll give a quick overview. This map shows the state of North America in 1915, as the United States against the Confederacy and their puppet in the Empire of Mexico, as well as England’s Canadian dominion. As if things were not bad enough, Mormon rebels have risen up against decades of maltreatment and discrimination in Utah, proclaiming their state of Deseret.

The Second Map shows the aftermath of the war:


After brutal struggle, the United States managed to triumph at last over its Confederate nemesis, and showed no mercy in peacetime. Many areas where U.S. troops advanced were lobbed off the CSA and added to U.S. territory, such as the tip of Virginia and a chunk of Texas (now the state of Houston), as well as the states of Kentucky and Sequoya (Oklahoma). The victory over Great Britain allowed the U.S. to occupy Canada, though it is governed by martial law and much of it simmers in rebellion. To aid in governing their new territory the U.S. has given ‘independence’ to the French-speaking Republic of Quebec, a puppet in anything but name. Utah, meanwhile, continues under military occupation, but a lack of (much) violence has led some in the government to reconsider statehood and dwindle down the occupation. Meanwhile, violence continues through much of the former confederate territories as the populations chafe under the rule of the United States, and argue to be allowed to return to the Confederacy.


At the end of the 1930s the United States finally succumbed to diplomatic pressure and violence and allowed a plebiscite in some of the former Confederate territories, allowing for the return of Houston (west Texas) and Kentucky to the CSA. But in spite of further pressure, the U.S. has hardened on further territorial concessions, fearing the Freedom Party, which in 1934 overturned generations of Whig domination of Confederate politics and took control of the Confederate government, means to pressure as many concessions out of the United States not as a means of ensuring peace but gaining a foothold for future war. Meanwhile, Utah has returned as a full-fledged state, but many in there remember well the generations of oppression under U.S. rule and hold no love for the United States. The stage is set for a second Great War.

I learned quite a bit from these projects, in particular how time-consuming and at times frustrating making a map digitally can be, particularly when it came to coastlines, which I eventually wound up giving up at following precisely. Still, I learned a lot about the wonderful things I can do with digital map-making tools, which makes me somewhat more confident for the future. I can’t wait to see where we go from here!


4 thoughts on “Blog #5: Digital Maps

  1. Bravo! I myself am also a fan of Turtledove’s work so these maps were a treat for me to look at. Your color scheme is very well done and I love the beveling on the edges which gives the map a three dimensional look. I understand your frustration with coastlines, but you did a very good job with the pen tool keeping an accurate shape for North America. Again, very well done.

  2. I like that you included a series of maps to show the changes in the storyline over time. The map title and legends are nicely worked in to available white space and I appreciate the consistent format and easily identifiable legend and color schemes. One aspect of your maps I really applaud is your ability to seamlessly marry borders between the empires. I found the process of creating boundaries in different layers incredibly challenging. One question about your process: did you make each map as a separate entity or did you create a base outline layer and then shift internal borders by using different layers?

    • The way I did it was lock the underlying map as a base layer and every empire was its own layer, with the text its own later on top. One thing I found useful was to position the layers atop one another so I didn’t have to adjust each country every single time. For example, the changes in borders between the US and CS, were changed by adjusting the US layer and placing it atop the CS layer, cutting down greatly on the amount of editing I had to do!

  3. Pingback: Antebellum Infrastructure and Communication – Experimenting with Mapping Techniques | The Journey to Enlightenment: Making the Leap to the Digital Age

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