Location: Kennesaw, Georgia
Webpage: National Park
General Description: Following the breaking of the siege of Chattanooga over the winter of 1863-64, General Grant was promoted to General in Chief of the Union Army in March. He devised a multiple strategy to destroy the two main Confederate armies under General Lee in Richmond and General Johnston in northern Georgia. In addition to defeating these two armies, his strategy called for the destruction of the ability of the South to wage war. The cities of Richmond and Atlanta became the prime targets. While Grant oversaw the operations at Richmond and Petersburg, General Sherman was assigned the task of the destruction of Atlanta and continuing as deep into the south as possible destroying factories, farms, and railroads along the way. Thus began Sherman’s “March to the Sea”. The first objective was destroying General Johnston’s Confederate army of 50,000 in northern Georgia with his force of about 100,000 men. From early May through mid-June was a series of battles from Chattanooga to Atlanta with Johnston establishing a battle line and Sherman outflanking Johnston to threaten the Western and Atlantic Railroad, which was the lifeline for both armies. After a brief encounter, Johnston would be forced to retreat along the railroad towards Atlanta to establish a new line. Beginning with Rocky Face on May 9 and Resaca on May13-15, the maneuvering continued through New Hope Church, PIckett’s Mill, and Dallas on May 25, 27, and 28, respectively. Johnston retreated further to a very good defensive position anchored on the heights of Kennesaw Mountain. Once again Sherman attempted to outflank this position, however, General Hood met the threat on June 22 at Kolb’s Farm and led an unsuccessful attack with heavy losses. It was successful in the sense that it stopped the flanking maneuver and caused Sherman to rethink his strategy. Along with the heavy rains over the past couple of weeks, making flanking very difficult and slow and suspecting that although Johnston held a strong defensive position, that it was thin. He therefore, decided on a direct assault for June 27. Beginning with an artillery barrage before dawn, the attack was to be a two-prong attack on the Confederate center after a diversionary attack on the extreme Confederate left. Shortly after 8 am three Union brigades of 5500 men along Burnt Hickory Road advanced over steep, rocky and heavily wooded terrain towards the Confederate earthworks on Pebble Hill. Firing from their positions on Pigeon Hill and Little Kennesaw Mountains, the Union advance was soon stopped after heavy losses. Meanwhile, on a hill south of Dallas Road, today known as Cheatham Hill for the Confederate General defended the position, about 8,000 Union soldiers attacked two entrenched divisions of Johnston’s army advancing to within close quarters. However, after a few minutes of fierce hand-to-hand combat the Union soldiers withdrew back to a small fold in the land where they dug in. Both sides grimly nicknamed the area as the “Dead Angle”. The only Union success of the day came further to the south where General Schofield was to make a feint against the extreme left flank of the Confederates. He was able to position two brigades across Olley’s Creek without resistance that threatened the Confederate rear. After an uneasy standoff for the next few days, Johnston had to once again abandoned his position on Kennesaw Mountain to the very strong defenses around Atlanta on July 2. This was the last straw for President Davis and General Johnston was replaced by General Hood who unsuccessfully tried to destry the army of General Thomas as it crossed Peachtree Creek on July 20. Two days later at the Battle of Atlanta, Hood struck at General McPherson’s army and was repulsed with heavy losses. When Sherman again tried to outflank the Confederate positions around Atlanta, General Hood once again lashed out with another attack at Ezro Church on July 28, but was again defeated. In August, Sherman placed Atlanta under siege and began to cut all the railroad links into the city, the last one being seized on August 31. After losing a two day battle near Jonesboro, Hood ordered all public property destroyed and evacuated the city. Sherman entered Atlanta on September 2 and began the process of destroying the city after evacuating all the citizens. A week later, Sherman left Atlanta continuing his wave of destruction on his “March to the Sea”.
1) The Visitor Center is located at the extreme north end of the Confederate line on Kennesaw Mountain and therefore saw very little action during the battle. There is a nice film about the battle that gives a very good accounting of the battle with some great battle scenes reenacted with reconstructed earthworks. There is also a very good, small museum about the events leading up to the battle, the battle itself, and the taking of Atlanta following the battle.
2) At the Visitor Center there is a nice loop trail with interpretive signs about the natural forest. It is a very level and pleasant walk through the north Georgia woods. Since this Battlefield Park is surrounded by urban sprawl of Marietta, extending out of Atlanta, this is also a favorite location for joggers and hikers. The parking lot is full most of the day, even during the week, and there are a number of hikers on all the trails. Unless you are interested in the long hike along the spine of Kennesaw south to the end of the park, there is not much that can be easily accessed. What access there is, is along busy urban roads.
3) There is a trial and road to the summit of Kennesaw Mountain where you get a nice panoramic view of Atlanta in the distance the Marietta up close. As this was the anchor of the Confederate line, there are also a number of cannon platforms along with a few cannon on the summit.
4) The hike up to the ridge at Pigeon Hill is steep, but only about a 1/4 mile. At the ridge you can still see the Confederate earthworks behind which they repulsed the Union attack.
5) Cheatham Hill is worth seeing as there is a very nice loop trail that runs along the Confederate earthworks to the Dead Angle and Illinois monument. Be sure to take the short walk to the front of the monument as you can see the opening of a Union tunnel they had started to dig to undermine the Confederate trenches before the Confederates withdrew on July 2. There is a nice trail through the Georgia woods that loops back to the parking lot.