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Charles Whittlesey

From Ohio History Central
Whittlesey, Charles.jpg

Charles Whittlesey was a prominent soldier, attorney and scholar in nineteenth century Ohio.

Whittlesey was born on October 4, 1808, in Southington, Connecticut. Whittlesey graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, and served in the United States Army during the Black Hawk War in 1832. Shortly after the end of this conflict, Whittlesey resigned his commission. He studied the law and became an attorney in Cleveland, Ohio, during the 1830s. He also served as an editor of the Cleveland Herald, newspaper in 1836 and 1837.

While at West Point, Whittlesey had studied geology. Because of this training, Whittlesey became an assistant geologist of Ohio in 1837. He participated in the geological survey of the state conducted in the late 1830s. During the survey, he discovered numerous American Indian earthworks. The people who constructed these earthworks became known as the Whittlesey Focus, in honor of the man who discovered the physical remains of their civilization. Whittlesey spent the next several decades continuing his geological work for the federal and state governments, as well as for private businesses.

Whittlesey was part of the escort of President-elect Abraham Lincoln from his home in Illinois to Washington, DC. With the outbreak of the American Civil War, he immediately enlisted in the Union Army. 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. Following this campaign, Whittlesey helped design the defenses of Cincinnati, and he became the colonel in command of the 20th Ohio Infantry. He participated in the Battles of Fort Donelson and Shiloh. Ill health caused him to resign from the military in April 1862.

Upon resigning his commission, Whittlesey returned to his geological studies. In 1867, he helped establish the Western Reserve Historical Society and served as the organization's president until his death on October 18, 1886. Whittlesey authored approximately two hundred books and articles, mostly on geology and Ohio's early history.

See Also


  1. Whittlesey, Charles. "Descriptions of Ancient Works in Ohio." Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge 3 (1850).
  2. Whittlesey, Charles. Geological Papers. Cleveland, OH:  n.p., 1876.
  3. Whittlesey, Charles. Outline Sketch of the Geology of Ohio. N.p.: n.p.,1848.