Photo above: The Kolb farmhouse today at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield. Source: National Park Service. Right: The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain painting by Kurz and Allison, 1891. Image courtesy Library of Congress.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield
When General Ulysses S. Grant was made commander of all Federal armies in March 1864, he made two basic plans. To attack the Confederates in Virginia in relentless pursuit of Richmond and to send General William T. Sherman to take back northern Georgia and Atlanta with one hundred thousand troops at his disposal. Sherman would begin in May with flanking maneuvers at battles such as Reseca and point his men toward the mountain that rose into the sky north of Atlanta, providing protection and defense against an invader. The battlefield at Kennesaw Mountain is one of the few comprehensive sites where you can witness Sherman's march; the south after the Civil War didn't think defeat was something to preserve like those in the north did for their battlefields. But here, you'll get to hear the story of the Atlanta campaign and the battle of the mountain which took defeat to Sherman, but laid the plans for movement against Atlanta and that March to the Sea.
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- Then and Now
- Things You Should Not Miss
The deep southeast had been unscathed by much of the Civil War as the early months of 1864 approached. Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas had escaped the large rath of the Union Army, which had focused much of its attention of the defense of Washington and defeat of the Confederate Army in the western theatre. However, that was about to change. It would become a relentless push into that territory with the Battle for Kennesaw Mountain in a central position, a defensive position for the Confederate Army, its communications hub with connections to the rest of the south after those defeats in the west.
Timeline of the Atlanta Campaign
Battle of Rocky Face - May 7
Battle of Reseca - May 13-15
Battle of New Hope Church - May 25
Battle of Pickett's Mill - May 27
Battle of Dallas - May 28
Kolb's Farm - June 22
Kennesaw Mountain - June 27
Peachtree Creek - July 20
Battle for Atlanta - July 22 to September 2
Battle of Ezra Church - July 28
Battle of Jonesboro - August 31 to September 1
Photo above: Cannons and earthworks on the field. Source: National Park Service.
Kennesaw Mountain Then
Kennesaw Mountain Prior to the Civil War - It was the land of the Cherokee from times before 1,000 B.C., stretching from Kentucky to Alabama and Georgia through their original nomadic days to the days of farming, Indian schools, and settlements after European arrival. New Echota, just north of the mountain, was their capital. But attempting to adopt white ways would not be enough to keep their land. When gold and additional settlers came into the region in the early 1830's, the United States government would remove the sixteen thousand Cherokee to lands west of the Mississippi, the Trail of Tears, leaving the southwestern lands of the Cherokee tribe to the white settlements.
Battle of Kennesaw Mountain - General Sherman was marching south upon orders from new commander U.S. Grant when May of 1864 began. Battles at Rocky Face Ridge, Reseca, New Hope Church, Pickett's Mill, and Dallas would endure for six weeks, bringing Sherman and Confederate counterpart Joseph E. Johnston to the mountain. From June 19 to July 2, the battle at Kennesaw would rage from locations such as Kolb's Farm to the ascent on the mountain itself. Thirty-four thousand men would take part, almost equally divided between the two armies. It had been a steady gain, yet odd stalemate for the Union Army prior to June 24 when Sherman made a decision. He would attack Kennesaw Mountain in frontal assault at 8:00 a.m. three days later. It would become a tactical defeat for Sherman, with only one element of his Army making headway and eventually forcing Johnston's hand to leave the mountain in the weeks ahead.
Kennesaw Mountain Now
The battlefield was dedicated on February 18, 1917 to tell the story of the Atlanta Campaign in the Civil War. While many of the other battlefields in that campaign have not been preserved, with renewed efforts continuing at locations such as Reseca, Kennesaw Mountain has exhibits, ranger programs, a film, and an auto tour that tells the story of the June 27, 1864 battle for the mountain, as well as the story of the smaller battle at Kolb's Farm several days before.
Drawing above: General Sherman at Kennesaw Mountain, by Alfred R. Ward, circa June 27, 1864. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield
1. View the thirty-five minute film on the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain and the Atlanta campaign in the Visitor Center. The visitor center also has exhibits on the battle, plus ranger orientation.
2. Take a drive to the summit, on weekends in your own car, or on weekends and holidays by shuttle. You can also walk there, it's a 1.4 mile trek, up 664 feet from the Visitor Center.
3. If you have time, don't stop with just viewing the mountain. Head out on the full auto and its seven stops. From 24 Battery to Wallis House to Pigeon Hill, Cheatham Hill, the Sherman/Thomas Headquarters, and Kolb Farm, the tour covers the park from north to south. Along the way, there are numerous hiking tails that take you to more remote parts of the field. Hike to your capability and enjoyment.