KENNESAW, Ga. – On a pleasant Sunday afternoon, it’s hard to imagine the chaos and utter hell that occurred here nearly a century and a half ago. The trails up the side of Kennesaw Mountain are steep, but relatively quiet, the silence broken by passing hikers or their dogs or the occasional whistle of an approaching freight train.
Turn back the clock 145 years, and the setting would have been very different.
By June 1864, the Civil War had raged on for three years, and Union Gen. William T. Sherman was marching through Georgia. His path through North Georgia was comprised of a series of flanking moves, which his opponent, Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, responded to by retreating.
Sherman approached Kennesaw Mountain to find Johnson’s 63,000 troops entrenched. In addition to his 100,000 men, Sherman had 254 guns and 35,000 horses. Johnston only had 63,000 men and 187 guns.
While Sherman tried to pass to the south, Johnston in turn sent Lt. Gen. John B. Hood to counter. Hood attacked on June 22, 1864, in what is known as the Battle of Kolb’s Farm. By the end of the fighting, 1,000 Confederates were killed to the Union’s 350. While Sherman won the battle, he decided he had to attack the Confederates head on – a decision he made in part because muddy roads slowed his movement.
Five days later, on June 27, 1864, Sherman attacked Johnston head-on, believing that the Confederate general’s line was stretched thin. Union soldiers initially succeeded and overran Confederate positions south of Burnt Hickory Road. But the Confederates entrenched position proved to be too difficult to defeat.
Fighting occurred on and around the mountain from June 19, 1864, until July 2, 1864. On July 1, Sherman began to again flank Johnston, who watching the movements from atop Kennesaw Mountain, opted to retreat once again. When all was said and done, a total of 5,350 soldiers were killed. Though technically a Confederate victory, Johnston ultimately retreated from Kennesaw Mountain to nearby Smyrna, and Sherman made it through to Atlanta and later marched to the sea.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park offers the opportunity to connect with an important time in American history and a free outdoor experience. Located between Marietta and Kennesaw, the 2,923-acre national park offers visitors the chance to learn about an important time in history and also enjoy the great outdoors. The national park features 18 miles of walking trails, some rather steep as they approach the top of the mountain.
The park features three battlefield areas – one located in front of the Visitor Center, another off Burnt Hickory Road and the main site at Cheatham Hill, which during the Civil War was called the Dead Angle. The visitor center is a logical place to start because it provides an abundance of information about what happened during the battle.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park: http://www.nps.gov/kemo/.