Department of The Geographer
Army of the United States 1777-1783
The purpose of the Department of the Geographer is to accurately portray a working interpretation of the Department during the period from 1777 to 1783 with the express goal of portraying the world of the Continental Army staff officer better than has been
achieved to date.
Head Quarters, Ramapough, Friday, June 30, 1780.
The Department of the Geographer to the Army is the recreated mapmaking unit of General Washington’s Continental Army Staff. While a number of the unit’s members have expertise in military engineering, and may be called upon at various events to use that expertise, the Geographers should not be confused with military engineers. Engineers were trained in the construction and reduction of fortifications, while Geographers (cartographers, surveyors, or topographical engineers) specialized in reconnaissance, mapmaking, and surveying distances. In the Continental Army, military engineers were generally recruited from Europe, whereas the geographers were generally able to find skilled surveyors in the colonies.
It is the goal of this unit to give an accurate, authentic representation of a Continental Army staff department, including proper clothing, equipment & instruments, and skills & knowledge of the geographers’ profession as well as the theatre of operations and campaigns within.
By the summer of 1777, George Washington had identified a definite weakness in the Army’s ability to produce adequate topographical data in order to plan and execute theater operations. In July of that year, Washington wrote to Congress
“A good geographer to Survey the Roads and take Sketches of the Country where the Army is to Act would be extremely useful… …I would beg leave to recommend Mr. Robt. Erskine…”