The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was fought on June 27, 1864, during the Atlanta Campaign of the American Civil War. Despite its name, much of the battle was fought to the southwest of Kennesaw Mountain, near Marietta, Georgia. The main participants in the battle were the Union armies under the command of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman and the Army of Tennessee under the command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston.
All throughout north Georgia, Sherman had advanced his army southeast along the railroad from Chattanooga, Tennessee
, towards Atlanta, Georgia
. Johnston would take up defensive positions, only to retreat whenever Sherman marched his troops around the Confederate army to flank them. At Kennesaw Mountain, Johnston had a massive network of trenches and earthworks prepared to halt the Union advance. This time, when Sherman tried to march his army southwards around Kennesaw, he was met by an attack at Kolb's farm
from Confederate troops under the command of Lt. Gen. John B. Hood
. Although the Union soldiers turned back Hood's hastily prepared attack, Sherman's army could not flank the Rebel army any further. Muddy roads had become nearly impassable because of a series of June rainstorms. Sherman knew that in these conditions, a march further away from his supply line at the railroad would be too slow. Instead, Sherman believed that Hood's expansion of the southern end of the Confederate line had stretched Johnston's army too thin. The Union general drew up plans for an attack on the middle of the Confederate defenses.
The Union army began the attack early in the morning with a thunderous artillery barrage on the entrenched Confederates. This was followed up by an infantry attack in three parts: the Army of the Cumberland
under the command of Maj. Gen. George Henry Thomas
would lead the main attack on Maj. Gen. William J. Hardee
's soldiers in the center; to Thomas's left, the Army of the Tennessee
under the command of Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson
would lead a secondary attack aimed at the slopes of Little Kennesaw Mountain
; and to Thomas's right, the Army of the Ohio
under the command of Maj. Gen. John Schofield
would hold down Hood's corps at the southern end of the line. The fiercest fighting came at a bend near the center of the Confederate line, a place later known as the Dead Angle. Despite repeated attempts to overrun the Confederate defenses, the Union army could not dislodge Johnston's well "dug-in" army.
Estimated casualties were 3,000 for the Union side, and 1,000 for the Confederates. Among the casualties was Union Brig. Gen. Charles G. Harker, who was mortally wounded. Author Ambrose Bierce also fought at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, where he was wounded in the head. The first commissioner of Major League Baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was named for Kennesaw Mountain, but using a variant spelling. His father, a physician, fought on the Union side and reportedly nearly lost his leg in the battle.
Following the battle, both sides sat at a stalemate. By July 1
, the roads had dried out enough for Sherman to continue his flanking movements. Johnston, with the advantage of lookouts on top of Kennesaw Mountain, observed Sherman's movements and again retreated before the Union army could go around him. The next major battle would be the Battle of Peachtree Creek
Military historians have claimed that Sherman's attack was a needless waste of lives against a firmly entrenched opponent. Sherman, however, believed that his actions were justifiable, since they showed Johnston that he was not afraid to fight. Whatever the case, Kennesaw Mountain was one of the few victories for the Confederates during the Atlanta Campaign.
The site of the battleground is now part of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, where both Confederate deliberate trenches on top of the mountain and Union hasty rifle-pits are still easily identified by the casual inspection of any visitor.