The reason as to why Sherman attacked at the Kennesaw line.

Joined
Jun 24, 2015
Location
Talladega, Alabama
I guess the best answer is from Sherman himself. In his memoirs this is his statement as to why to attack Johnston fortified line on June 27th, 1864

‘I had consulted Generals Thomas, McPherson, and Schofield, and we all agreed that we could not with prudence stretch out any more, and therefore there was no alternative but to attack "fortified lines," a thing carefully avoided up to that time. I reasoned, if we could make a breach anywhere near the rebel centre, and thrust in a strong head of column, that with the one moiety of our army we could hold in check the corresponding wing of the enemy, and with the other sweep in flank and overwhelm the other half.”

I have studied this particular battle over many times and I still can’t come to terms as this being the number one sole reason. I write this because Sherman even after this battle, was intending to move McPherson from his right to the left and move toward the Chattahoochee River. Thus forcing Johnston from the Kennesaw line. Sherman had already on the 27th, sent Stoneman’s cavalry down toward Sweetwater (which is now Austell/Lithia Springs Ga.) to show some force in that area. So, In my thinking here, Sherman was already contemplating this move in the southward direction. Sherman had telegraphed Hallack to the fact he was going to supply the troops with ten days ration from having wagons full of supply go with them.
Of course on July 3rd, Sherman found out Johnston had retreated from this line and was moving south himself to cover the Smyrna and part of what is called Mableton now. Then move cross the Chattahoochee River with the outskirts of Atlanta at his back.
Sherman well could have avoided the attack on the 27th and the losses he took mainly at Cheatham Hill with losses amounting to around 2,000 and two very good generals that died from this battle. Sherman had the intentions of moving but he made a bold but tragic attempt to move a entrench and well fortified line.
im under the impression Sherman like many others that wrote afterwards kind of made the statement listed above as a somewhat reason to attempt to justify something he really should have avoided and gave a simple reason as to it. But reading his memoirs after the battle you will see very quickly how he reverted to just move toward Sweetwater. I’m a firm believer this was his intent anyways but something is amiss in his writing that shows somebody, or something made him change his mind to force an offensive move that up until then he had avoided and still gained ground. Sherman even mentions that every day on his right Schofield was gaining ground. He also knew that on the 22nd, Hood had done alll he was going to do at Kolb’s Farm.
I look forward to any suggestions or comments you may have.
 

Dead Parrott

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 30, 2019
In fairness the Kennesaw position was in essence a salient, and as such theoretically a vulnerable position that if overrun could threaten much of Johnson's army. In my opinion it was essentially a calculated risk that Sherman decided was worth taking.

Agreed. In most flanking campaigns, there comes a time when the flanking army either probes & gets drawn into a bigger frontal assault, or decides to try its luck at a perceived gap, mis-deployment, or exhaustion-point of its opponent.

I think Sherman took a shot and lost soundly.
 

Rhea Cole

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
It is interesting to consider what happened at Missionary Ridge as motivation for the Kennesaw attack. Had the Kennesaw attack struck on a thinly defended point, the entire Confederate position would have unraveled.

IMG_0127.jpg

Johnston's message intercepted at Kennesaw Mountain. CIA Museum

It is also useful to know that Sherman was reading Johnston's visual signals. Union Signal Corps stations of observation led by Captain Cole intercepted & cracked Confederate signals. Every evening when he returned to his HQ, a stack of Johnston's messages awaited Sherman's study. There is no evidence that Southern signalists were sending "chicken feed" false messages that were intended to misinform. U.S. signalists, when they became aware that the Confederate's had one of their codes, would continue to send chicken feed messages in that code to confuse the enemy. It is possible that Sherman knew that Johnston intended to thin out his forces on Kennesaw in anticipation of a move. Thomas, who took a dim view of that assault, clearly would not have made that move. In any case, generals have to accept that sometimes you win, sometimes you don't & get on with it.
 
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Joined
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Location
Talladega, Alabama
I agree a break through of the Confederate line would have been a chance to destroy Johnston's army right there for all intense purposes.
But, why then would Sherman direct his movement in a fashion to move his army further south toward the Austell/Lithia Springs area. He was already preparing his wagons to take the necessary equipment and supplies to make this move.
To make a frontal assault which Sherman at this times had not done before but yet gained ground everyday is what puzzles me on this. Reading his memoirs gives little light as to what he was thinking in terms of what happens next. Yes Marriott was a prize to obtain but with a breakthrough Marietta would have been north of his troops then. McPherson was bearing down on the city and more than likely to get to the city in a week or so.
Thanks for your thoughts on this, I look forward to reading more from you all.
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
Sherman's attack at Kennesaw seems reminiscent of Grant's attack at Cold Harbor. In both cases, the 2 commanders "lost patience" or were frustrated with the effectiveness of their flanking movements. Both Sherman and Grant were able to leap frog their opponents (ANV and AOT), until they were almost at the outskirts of their respective objectives of Atlanta and Richmond. So a change in tactics to directly confront enemy fortified positions was an alternative that Sherman and Grant believed might lead to a decisive victory over their opponents.
 

RobertP

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Nov 11, 2009
Location
Dallas
Sherman's attack at Kennesaw seems reminiscent of Grant's attack at Cold Harbor. In both cases, the 2 commanders "lost patience" or were frustrated with the effectiveness of their flanking movements. Both Sherman and Grant were able to leap frog their opponents (ANV and AOT), until they were almost at the outskirts of their respective objectives of Atlanta and Richmond. So a change in tactics to directly confront enemy fortified positions was an alternative that Sherman and Grant believed might lead to a decisive victory over their opponents.
Actually it seems more reminiscent of his disaster at Chickasaw Bayou when he said, “we’re going to lose 5,000 men taking Vicksburg, we might as well lose them here.”
 

rbasin

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jan 31, 2013
Location
Tampa, Fl
Sherman's attack at Kennesaw seems reminiscent of Grant's attack at Cold Harbor. In both cases, the 2 commanders "lost patience" or were frustrated with the effectiveness of their flanking movements. Both Sherman and Grant were able to leap frog their opponents (ANV and AOT), until they were almost at the outskirts of their respective objectives of Atlanta and Richmond. So a change in tactics to directly confront enemy fortified positions was an alternative that Sherman and Grant believed might lead to a decisive victory over their opponents.
Except Sherman knew when to stop it.
 
Joined
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Location
Talladega, Alabama
Sherman made errors in this campaign, it wasn’t that everything he did worked. Frustration well could have lead to a planning of this assault but the actual assault is something that was discussed with all his commanders before hand. I think with, McPherson, Thomas and Schofield they could not all have seen a breakthrough and rapid deterioration of he Confederate army.
I just keep going back to Sherman’s own words and his thinking and that was to prepare for a swing of the right southward to once again have Johnston fall back...which of course had work most every time during this campaign.
I understand is lack of confidence in part of Schofield army..mainly Hooker. After Hooker sent messages that he was facing the entire Confederate army, Sherman pretty much washed his hands of him and what confidence that he may have had in him. You also have to remember that Sherman did not wish to move far away from the W&A but here we find Sherman was willing to do it and shift to the right.
maybe I’m not seeing the part where Sherman decided that a frontal assault was his“ feint” and the move right was the main objective. Or could it have been his feint was the moving right and then attacking as he did on the 27th? But why all the supplies being routed to wagons for only a feint?
I’m sure after all is said and done, Thomas wasn’t to happy with the results on the 27th.
 

treebie2000

Corporal
Joined
Jul 19, 2018
Location
Lima, OH
From: https://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=457

"By June 19, 1864, Johnston had withdrawn the Army of Tennessee to a defensive position astride Kennesaw Mountain near Marietta, Georgia. Initially, Sherman decided that Johnston's new line was too strong to risk a frontal attack. Instead, he attempted to extend the Union line west and turn Johnston's left flank. Anticipating Sherman's plan, Johnston countered by sending reinforcements to bolster his left flank. On June 22, Sherman's troops defeated the Rebel defenders at the Battle of Kolb's Farm, but they were unsuccessful in achieving their objective of turning the Confederate flank.

After the Battle of Kolb's Farm, Sherman was convinced that Johnston's center was vulnerable, believing that the Confederate commander had stretched his line too thin by committing too many soldiers to protect his left flank. Thus, Sherman ordered a major frontal assault on Johnston's army on June 27. Following an artillery barrage, the Army of the Tennessee attacked Johnston's right flank while the Army of the Cumberland attacked the center and the Army of the Ohio attacked the left. All of the attacks against the well-entrenched Confederates proved futile and resulted in heavy Yankee losses."
 

Rhea Cole

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
When you walk the ground at Kennesaw, the remains of a sap is present. The attack would have taken on another aspect if they had blown the corner off the rebel line. Of course, when you go to blowing stuff up there is no telling what might happen. Saint Barbara the only comfort.
 

rbasin

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jan 31, 2013
Location
Tampa, Fl
Just looking around and and I noticed in Sherman's report to Grant, he wasn't very nice to the AoC. Reads like why Hood assaulted at Franklin.
 

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