CHARLES WHITTLESEY AND THE NORTHERN KENTUCKY CIVIL WAR FORTIFICATION SYSTEM
Whittlesey was graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. In 1837 he shifted careers and became an assistant geologist of Ohio and participated in a geological survey of the state conducted in the late 1830s. Whittlesey spent the next several decades continuing his geological work for the federal and state governments, as well as for private business.
Whittlesey enlisted in the Union Army early in 1861. In April 1861, Whittlesey became the assistant quartermaster-general for Ohio troops. He also participated in the western Virginia campaign of 1861, serving as the chief engineer for Ohio's military units.
General George McClellan sent Lieutenant Orlando Poe, of the US Army Topographical Engineers, to Cincinnati in May 1861 to begin mapping the area for defensive purposes. By September Brigadier General Ormsby M. Mitchel assigned Colonel Charles Whittlesey to begin construction on a system of defenses on the south side of Cincinnati. Whittlesey arrived on September 23, 1861, finding Poe’s map, but no defensive plan.
Whittlesey’s carefully chose the locations of his first series of fortifications. The fortifications are spaced across the Northern Kentucky ridge tops from what is now Ludlow to Fort Thomas where they focused on vulnerable roads and valleys. Whittlesey stated in a November 1861 report: The line I have selected...was found after close examination to possess great natural strength. It occupies the mountain crests along which good roads can be easily made from battery to battery.” He was so confident in his defensive fortification design that he stated: “When they shall have been strengthened in the manner I propose, I am confident that no opposing general would think of approaching them with less than 100,000 men and a siege train.” This presentation describes Whittlesey’s design and layout of the fortification system, the search for and recovery of his long-lost 1861 map and report of the successful implementation of his design.