Military Panoramic Sketching: Reconsideration in the Digital Age

Authors: William Doe*, University of Colorado, Boulder
Topics: Military Geography
Keywords: Military landscape, panoramic sketching, terrain, Seth Eastman
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: 8222, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In military operations a picture or image is worth a thousand words – that maxim has remained constant from the days of early warfare to modern-day operations in the digital age. The ability of military tacticians to see the landscape, at various scales and from various perspectives, is critical to the successful conduct of military operations. In 21st century warfare, the use of readily accessible digital terrain data and location (positioning) data, from sources such as satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles, to depict and navigate the 3-dimensional landscape, has become common place. However, in GPS-denied environments and other situations the availability of such data may be unreliable, and dependence on these terrain information sources may be a distinct disadvantage. The reliance on traditional and waning military skills such as panoramic sketching, paper map reading and navigation by terrain association, should be reconsidered. This paper addresses the history and use of military panoramic sketching in previous U.S. conflicts from the westward expansion thru WWII. Examples of sketching from the annals of Captain Seth Eastman, a West Point graduate, frontier Infantryman on the Mississippi River and Professor of topographical drawing in the mid 1800’s, are illustrated and discussed. His skills later translated into a series of famous paintings of American landscapes and forts, associated with the Hudson River School. Other panoramic sketching texts from WWI and instructional methods used at West Point in the 1980’s are discussed. A case is made for resurrecting these lost skills among modern day tacticians.

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