Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield, Georgia

James N.

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Part I - Big Kennesaw Mountain Area
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One of the Napoleon 12-Pounder cannon atop Big Kennesaw Mountain.

I hadn't visited Kennesaw since May, 1989, while working on the Battle of Antietam sequences of Glory, filmed outside and south of Atlanta; on one of our days off, I drove to Marietta and visited both here and the then-new museum at Kennesaw ( Big Shanty ), home of the engine General. At that time, urban sprawl had begun to encroach upon the battlefield, noticeable since my previous visits in 1964 and 1968. Today, the National Battlefield Park is engulfed by development, especially "Yuppie"-style housing additions with their McMansions. This is better overall than the Levittown-type developments pre- and- post WWII like those that have obliterated sites within the Atlanta city limits, because their relatively large individual properties are less dense population-wise.

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The view of Little Kennesaw from Big Kennesaw deceptively belies the problem of urban sprawl that has engulfed the entire region surrounding the park and indeed all of the Atlanta Metro area.

The worst problem for visitors now is automobile traffic - There remains NO central park road connecting the several important battle sites, and it's necessary to play "dodge ball" with the local traffic, much like the better-known but no less a nightmare of that at Manassas. When the park was acquired and laid out, this was all well outside the Atlanta metro area in sleepy DeKalb County, so obviously little thought was given to access. Unfortunately, though the park has grown a tiny bit since then, its layout encompassing the Confederate lines on the twin peaks of wooded Kennesaw Mountain and its adjacent knobs do not allow for a park isolated from its surroundings. Only at the Visitor Center and the road from there to the summit is one free from area traffic.

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Confederate artillery placed here on the mountain enjoyed a definite advantage over the Federal batteries on lower ground and also assisted in repulsing the Union assaults on other parts of the line.

Even here well within the confines of the park, however, another form of traffic rears its ugly head: local pedestrians have appropriated what should remain as Hallowed Ground for their hiking, jogging, and ( ignoring signs forbidding it ) sunbathing. it has gotten SO bad that on weekends, the road to the summit is closed to visitor traffic, except those on the NPS shuttle bus! I visited on a weekday, and had to be VERY careful on the narrow road, especially on curves, as the locals "travel in packs" and resist giving way for automobiles. I might add they have absolutely NO interest in the park as a historic site or for any purpose other than their own recreation and amusement.

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Another view of the 12-Pounder Napoleon in its gun pit.

The view from Kennesaw remains stunning and demonstrates how it dominates the terrain around. Joseph Johnston's Confederate Army of Tennessee moved here from nearby Pine Mountain and Lost Mountain, covering both the small town of Marietta and the Western & Atlantic Railroad leading to Atlanta over the Chattahoochee River to the immediate south. The Confederates were able to resist Sherman's flanking movements and probes here, prompting the impatient Sherman to commit to a series of fatal, flawed head-on assaults similar to those tried unsuccessfully at New Hope Church and Pickett's Mill, but on an even grander scale. Following the predictable result, covered below, Sherman returned to flanking movements which eventually proved successful, necessitating the actions detailed on the park marker below.

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Barrycdog

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You can see the Atlanta Skyline from there. Always a little smoggy. The other side you can see Plant Bowen in Euharlee. Quite a view and a walk up.
 

JeffBrooks

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I visited the park last year. The traffic was very bad and it made it difficult to drive slowly enough to follow the park map because I was always being tailgated and honked at. It took me forever to find Pigeon Hill.

I also agree about the people in the park. While the good citizens of Atlanta are as entitled to green space as much as people in any other city, it was a shame to find that more than nine-tenths of everyone we encountered seemed completely disinterested in the historical aspects of the park. When my wife and I were at the Dead Angle discussing how events unfolded, several joggers gave us odd looks, as though we were the ones acting strangely. Imagine: people talking about a Civil War battle on the battlefield where it took place!

Two days later, I visited Vicksburg, which is an example of exactly how a battlefield should be done. The difference really stuck in my mind and it has bothered me ever since.

Incidentally, I have noticed the same trouble with people treating other battlefields as simple city parks in which to jog and walk their dogs. Murfreesboro seemed to have the same problem last time I visited. The Revolutionary War battlefield at Guilford Court House in Greensboro, NC, is another example.
 

James N.

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I visited the park last year. The traffic was very bad and it made it difficult to drive slowly enough to follow the park map because I was always being tailgated and honked at. It took me forever to find Pigeon Hill.

Exactly, Anaxagoras, and thank you for providing the perfect lead in to:

Part II - Pigeon Hill Area

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The Pigeon Hill area is accessed solely by the hiking trail that is the only means of connecting the sprawling areas of the park without taking your life in your hands to negotiate the road network. Driving, one must park in the designated area ( seemingly set aside for the convenience of the "forbidden" sunbathers! ) and walk a distance up the somewhat steep bluff that is part of the "saddle" that connects Little and Big Kennesaw with the Cheatham Hill area to the south. Doing so, one is rewarded with a view of some surprisingly pristine Confederate earthworks, seen above and below. The sign reproduces one of George Barnard's famous Mountain Views in Georgia that was, from the rock formations included in the picture, obviously taken on this very spot!

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The photos above and below are looking down sections of the Confederate trenches, here near the center of Johnston's line. Due to the rugged ground and the Confederate position upon the side of the ridge, there was no assault made here, but no doubt this area saw the incessant artillery shelling and picket firing that characterized the entire Atlanta Campaign.

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ExNavyPilot

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...Incidentally, I have noticed the same trouble with people treating other battlefields as simple city parks in which to jog and walk their dogs. Murfreesboro seemed to have the same problem last time I visited. The Revolutionary War battlefield at Guilford Court House in Greensboro, NC, is another example.

Most of the battlefield parks I've visited have been rather isolated, or at least separated from the surrounding sprawl, and visited mainly by those interested in the Civil War history. However, Belle Isle in Richmond--site of a rather nasty POW camp--is a state park that gets mostly bike riders, runners, etc, as its visitors. The city has done a pretty good job of interpreting the site and worked with my SUVCW camp to put a memorial to the Union POWs there, but it still promotes the place as a multi-use park. Yeah, it kinda hurts to see young folks playing frisbee football over a field within the dead line but I'm sure they don't mean any disrespect. Maybe they'll read some of the plaques around the area and get interested in the history. If it weren't for the multi-use aspect of the park, I'll bet the park wouldn't have been established and the site put to much more disrespectful use.
 

James N.

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Part III - Cheatham Hill Area
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A group talk at the Illinois Monument in front of the Dead Angle at Cheatham Hill.

The Cheatham Hill area saw the heaviest fighting here at Kennesaw Mountain when Sherman attacked it frontally on June 27, 1864. Named for Maj. Gen. Benjamin "Bluff Ben" Cheatham of Tennessee, commanding the division that bore the brunt of the attacks, this area was of most interest to me, since those notable Confederate recorders-of-the-scene, Sam Watkins of the 1st Tenn. and Samuel Foster of the 24th Tex. Cav. ( Dismounted ) were both here, plus my own Great-Great-Grandfather Jasper Blair, who according to his pension application was lightly wounded in the left hip.

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This battery of Confederate Parrotts was constructed by men of Granbury's Texas Brigade of Cleburne's Division before the Union assaults of June 27, and guns here helped repel the attacks though there was no fighting at this spot. Capt. Foster says in his diary: At 9 AM the canon opened on our right and left from both Armies and about 10 AM the Yanks charg our works on our left. Our men drove them back, capturing a good many of them. Lowreys Brigd took 40 Polks Brigd 50 Cheathams Division took 600... Below, the Texas Monument looking along the Confederate line along the park road.

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This battery of 12-Pounder Napoleons below is on the part of the line held by Lucias Polk's and Mark Lowrey's brigades of Cleburne's Division. I had a great deal of trouble trying to figure out exactly where on the ground Lowrey's position had been during the battle, because it seemed every map of the action here showed things differently - hardly surprising, but enormously annoying. It wasn't until I finally saw one that showed his Alabama brigade in reserve that it made sense; unfortunately, since he was likely commited to the battle while it was going on it's now impossible to determine exactly where it was!

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The Illinois Monument stands in front of the Confederate works known as the Dead Angle, both because of the way it bends here, as well as what happened here.

This was the center of the maelstrom of shot and shell during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, and it was near here that two of the commanders of the attacking Federal brigades, Col. Daniel McCook and Brig. Gen. Charles Harker fell at the head of their troops. Sherman had adopted unwieldy brigade-sized formations that were intended to punch through what were believed and hoped to be a thin Confederate defense line; this tactic had already failed miserably at New Hope Church and Pickett's Mill - why Sherman thought it would have any better chance of success here against an entrenched and well-prepared foe is anybody's guess.

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Following the dismal failure to breach the Confederate lines here at Cheatham's Hill and a delayed truce to recover and bury his dead, Sherman again resorted to the flanking maneuvers that served him so well. The lines were held here a while longer, but soon Union forces again worked their way around Johnston's flank, threatening to cut him off from Atlanta.

Soon, quiet returned to the north Georgia countryside. Places like the Kolb Farmhouse below, which had previously served as headquarters for Maj. Gen. Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker's XX Corps of the Army of the Cumberland and scene of one of John Bell Hood's usual abortive attacks prior to the main battle, resumed their bucolic character. Unfortunately, turmoil has returned, as what I remember as a quiet oasis out in the woods now lies perilously near a major intersection of two of these undersized roadways!

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Robtweb1

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Great post! After Shiloh, this is my favorite. Thanks for the pics of Pigeon Hill. This is where my g-grandfather's unit came to support the Missourians. Walking along the entrenchments on Cheatham Hill is where I could feel the strongest vibes that I have ever experienced.
 

James N.

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This was the same McCook's cavalry that surprised Hood at Cassville.

Not if it was cavalry that "surprised Hood at Cassville" - Dan McCook commanded an infantry brigade in the Army of the Cumberland until his death at the Dead Angle. Col. Edward M. McCook commanded the First Cavalry Division in the same army. It hardly helps matters that they were only two of the fifteen "Fighting McCooks" from Ohio in the Civil War, four of them in the Army of the Cumberland!
 

Lee

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Apparently Sherman was a tad fed up and frustrated thinking enough of this unleash the dogs of war and break through the Confederate line right here right now. Hence we have another ACW example of strong attacks by veteran troops failing to pierce and win the day against veterans fighting behind equally strong works.
 

Barrycdog

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Not if it was cavalry that "surprised Hood at Cassville" - Dan McCook commanded an infantry brigade in the Army of the Cumberland until his death at the Dead Angle. Col. Edward M. McCook commanded the First Cavalry Division in the same army. It hardly helps matters that they were only two of the fifteen "Fighting McCooks" from Ohio in the Civil War, four of them in the Army of the Cumberland!


My mistake. I recognized the name and assumed it was cavalry attached to him like Phillips Legion
 

James N.

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Apparently Sherman was a tad fed up and frustrated thinking enough of this unleash the dogs of war and break through the Confederate line right here right now. Hence we have another ACW example of strong attacks by veteran troops failing to pierce and win the day against veterans fighting behind equally strong works.

Dare we say John Bell Hood?!
 

66TH Indiana

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" While they wait to advance, McCook's troops gaze at the hill ( Cheatham Hill ) they have just been
told they are to take. There is, later writes Major Holmes of the 52nd Ohio, an "ominous stillness" in
the ranks, for all know that "many must fall" getting there. Sensing their mood, McCook strides up
and down in front of them, reciting the stanzas of Thomas Babington Macaulay's "Horatius at the Bridge":

Then out spoke Horatius
The captain of the gate,
To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late;
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods?


Castel pg. 309

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