BATTLE OF KENNESAW MOUNTAIN
[National Park Service]
When Federal Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman moved from New Hope Church, Georgia, Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was compelled to follow on a parallel line. This shift put the Confederates in front of Marietta, in a battleline extending from Lost Mountain across Kennesaw Mountain to Brush Mountain, a distance of about 12 miles. Pine Mountain, an isolated eminence in front of this line, also was occupied. This position covered Marietta, the Western and Atlantic Railroad, which at this point passed between Kennesaw and Brush Mountains, and the bridges across the Chattahoochee River which would be indispensable if the Confederates were compelled to withdraw. Proceeding east from New Hope Church, Lost Mountain
is approximately 71/2 miles, Kennesaw Mountain 14 miles, and Brush Mountain 17 miles distant.
|Gen. Leonidas Polk|
Library of Congress
Several days of rainy weather checked military operations. By June 14, however, a portion of the Federal Army had worked close to the Confederates on Pine Mountain. Generals Johnston, William Hardee, and Leonidas Polk rode to the summit of Pine Mountain that day to observe the enemy's line, and while there a battery of Federal guns, three-quarters of a mile distant, fired, one of the shots killing Polk instantly. The Confederate line of 10 miles or more was too long for the
number of available troops, and Johnston soon concentrated them on Kennesaw Mountain.
The main Federal force now advanced toward Kennesaw Mountain, and as the Confederate position was neared, Sherman's men spread out on a line paralleling it and extending south. There was continuous skirmishing, but the operations were hindered by heavy rains which converted streams into torrents and roads into ribbons of mud.
Discerning that the Federals were attempting to envelop his flank by the movement to the south, Johnston moved Hood from the right to the left of his line in an effort to strike the Federals as they maneuvered for position. On the morning of June 22, Federal troops advanced toward Marietta along the Powder Springs Road. By noon they had reached the intersection of the Macland and Powder Springs Roads, situated on a ridge which offered a strong defensive
The Federal troops were massed in the woods around the road intersection, only a portion of them intrenching. During the morning, Hood had concentrated his troops on the Powder Springs Road, and in the afternoon they were ordered to attack. From Confederate prisoners it had been learned that such a movement was intended, and the Federals had a little time to prepare for the assault. It began at 5:30 p. m., the Federal skirmish line being quickly engulfed, but failed to reach the main line owing to heavy artillery fire.
Prior to the Confederate assault, Hooker, in command of the Federal column, established his headquarters in the home of Valentine Kolb, which stands on the Powder Springs Road, 4.5 miles southwest of Marietta. Many of the fortifications erected during this engagement are also still in existence.
Indecisive skirmishing continued for several days. Sherman had the choice of making a frontal assault, or attempting another turning movement. The heavy rains and the all but impassable roads would make the turning movement especially difficult. Furthermore, the troops were tired of marching and wanted to fight. Lincoln, running for reelection, needed a Federal victory to bolster his policy of continuing the war. If the frontal assault succeeded, all military resistance in north Georgia might be ended ; if it failed, the flanking movement still could be attempted. These
considerations determined Sherman to risk a frontal attack.
The assault was made at two separate points against the Confederate center on the morning of June 27. One column struck south of Kennesaw Mountain along the Burnt Hickory Road. Another was hurled against a salient south of the Dallas Road, defended by General Benjamin F. Cheatham, and known now as Cheatham's Hill. Eight thousand troops were sent against the Confederates at Cheatham's Hill, and 5,300 at the point south of Kennesaw Mountain. At Cheatham's Hill the Federals lost 1,580 men in killed, wounded, and captured, against slightly over 200 in Confederate losses; in the attack south of Kennesaw Mountain, the Federals lost about 600 men, including 30 officers, against about half that number of Confederates. The attack thus failed with heavy losses. Military critics charge Sherman with having made one of his few mistakes in ordering the frontal attack.
Realizing that the Confederate position could be carried only by a tremendous sacrifice of men, Sherman resumed the flanking tactics which he had employed so often. A Federal column was extended far beyond the Confederate left, and Johnston's line of communications to Atlanta was threatened. Consequently, on the night of July 2, the Confederates withdrew, thus ending the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.