Impact Of Geology On The U.S. Civil War: War From The Ground Up





The connection between geology and the history of the Civil War has fascinated Robert Whisonant since his undergraduate days, and now Whisonant has teamed up with geomorphologist Judy Ehlen, both of Radford University, to take history, military history in particular, a step deeper -- into the geology beneath the soldiers' feet.

Whisonant and Ehlen examined the geomorphology of several battlefields and compared the terrain to known casualties for each day of fighting. The question, says Whisonant, is whether a correlation exists between the geology of the battlefield and casualties taken there. For some battles in the Civil War, the story told by the shape of the land is clear: soldiers were at greater risk in some areas because the underlying geology created a more dangerous terrain.

"Gettysburg is a good example where the Union had the high ground, but one disadvantage was the hard rock that forms that high ground is so close to the surface that the soldiers couldn't dig trenches." They were open targets for artillery assault by the Confederates. But the disadvantage didn't just go one way: "Those Confederate soldiers had to go up an open slope formed on more erodible rock with nothing to get behind when they finally had to attack." That's what Whisonant and Ehlen mean by their presentation title, "No Place to Run, No Place to Hide."


comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe to our mailing list