b. 20/01/1884 Florence, Wisconsin. d. 26/11/1921 at sea.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 02-07/10/1918 Charlevaux, France.
Whittlesey was born in Florence, Wisconsin, where his father worked as a logger, and he attended school in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He moved with his family in 1894 to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he graduated from Pittsfield High School in the class of 1901. He enrolled at Williams College, where he was a member of St. Anthony Hall, graduating in 1905. He was voted the "third-brightest man" in his class, and because of his aristocratic manner was nicknamed "Count." He earned a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1908. Soon after graduating he formed a law partnership with his Williams classmate J. Bayard Pruyn in New York City. Influenced by his friend and roommate at Williams, Max Eastman, Whittlesey spent several years as a member of the American Socialist Party before resigning his membership in disgust over what he viewed as the movement's increasing extremism.
As a major in the 77th division 308th battalion in October 1918 he and his men were surrounded by the Germans. Without supplies or food they held on against overwhelming odds refusing surrender. His reply to the Germans demand was "Go to Hell." At the end of the ordeal out of 550 men only 194 were left alive and unwounded. In recognition of his valour he was made a Lt. Colonel and along with his captains McMurtry and Holderman awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. After the war he returned to law practice (he was a graduate of Harvard Law School). On 24 November, 1921 he booked passage on the S.S. Taloa a steamer bound for Havana. On 26 Nov. he stayed up late drinking, went to the rail and jumped overboard. He left no explanation, but he had written his will in New York, leaving his property to his mother, before embarking on the journey. He also left several letters in his cabin addressed to family and friends. In addition to being named on the family monument Charles also has a Medal of Honor marker in the lot. It is a 'In Memory Only' marker (IMO) as the actual body was never recovered.
Although cut off for five days from the remainder of his division, Major Whittlesey maintained his position, which he had reached under orders received for an advance, and held his command, consisting originally of 46 officers and men of the 308th Infantry and of Company K of the 307th Infantry, together in the face of superior numbers of the enemy during the five days. Major Whittlesey and his command were thus cut off, and no rations or other supplies reached him, in spite of determined efforts which were made by his division. On the 4th day Major Whittlesey received from the enemy a written proposition to surrender, which he treated with contempt, although he was at the time out of rations and had suffered a loss of about 50 percent in killed and wounded of his command and was surrounded by the enemy.
BURIAL LOCATION: PITTSFIELD CEMETERY, PITTSFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS.
MEMORIAL AT Lot #1 in Walnut Hill Section
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