Joint 56th Annual North-Central/ 71st Annual Southeastern Section Meeting - 2022

Paper No. 45-3
Presentation Time: 3:50 PM


HANNIBAL, Joseph, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, 1 Wade Oval Drive, Cleveland, OH 44106

Charles Whittlesey (1806–1886) was a polymath whose career included military training at West Point that had a complex influence on his geological and archaeological investigations. He is typically referred to as a geologist as he was part of the first Ohio Geological Survey and did both theoretical and applied work in the field. He was also an archaeologist at a time when that field was just developing, including the short time when surveys of ancient earthworks were still under the purview of geological surveys.

Whittlesey interpreted hilltop prehistoric earthen structures with accompanying ditches in Ohio as fortifications (a view no longer held). During the Civil War Whittlesey designed hilltop forts and batteries in defense of Cincinnati. Today many of the archaeological sites Whittlesey surveyed, including the hilltop “forts,” are partially or mostly destroyed or at least somewhat degraded, as are the Cincinnati and northern Kentucky Civil War defenses that he designed. The prehistoric sites that Whittlesey surveyed have been heavily damaged by plowing and development, and ill-advised archaeological investigations, making his maps of those sites all the more important. Whittlesey’s name can be found today on outdoor signage related to both these prehistoric structures and his Civil War defenses.

Whittlesey plotted military features on a geological map of Ohio published in his copy of an 1868 Ohio atlas and so appears to have implicitly explored the relationship of geology to warfare. These features included routes of Euroamerican military incursions into Ohio, and locations of battlefields and French, English, and American forts and stockades. He identified and noted the dates of most of these. Whittlesey may have been the first geologist to plot historic military movements on a geological map, but he did not seem to follow this up with a published version of the map with his annotations.

Whittlesey defended Euroamerican suppression of Native Americans (he grew up on land that was Indian territory not long before, and he was a veteran of the Black Hawk War) as opposed to von Humboldt and Maximilian, Prince of Wied, who decried such treatment. However, Whittlesey’s carefully surveyed maps of archaeological sites have served to help preserve the memory and now-missing details of these important structures.