Kennesaw Mountain

Having yesterday navigated my way from Vicksburg in Mississippi to Georgia today I ventured out to explore Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park. To understand the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain you need to consider it as part of Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign which effectively started after Grant’s victory Chattanooga until Atlanta was captured. As such it would have been ideal to have started in Chattanooga and travelled south. However, travel logistics for me didn’t allow for such an itinerary.

Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park is sprawling and unfortunately is not contiguous, at least from a driving perspective. To move from one driving tour spot to another you need to drive on some busy roads and drive some distance.

My visit started at the Visitor Centre where an excellent film will remind the visitor of some of the pertinent points of the campaign and battle. Afterward, I drove to the top of Kennesaw Mountain. From here you quickly gain an appreciation of the commanding location that Big Kennesaw Mountain is, as well as the barrier the successive hills provides.

Above, a view from Big Kennesaw Mountain towards Little Kennesaw Mountain. Below, a view from Big Kennesaw Mountain looking generally northwest to provide an impression of its dominating position.

Below, Confederate artillery on Big Kennesaw Mountain positioned to engage Union forces. From here, according to the interpretation boards, Lumsden’s Alabama artillery hit a railroad water tower “scattering both water and nearby Yankees”.

Soon Union rifled artillery was positioned to counter the Confederate artillery and both duelled day and night for a week. Confederate artillery, some nine guns, were also dragged up Little Kennesaw Mountain.

Much of the battlefield is well covered in trees today making it difficult to understand the battle. Historical photos show less trees, at least in places. Visiting the park in winter would have been more rewarding I suspect. The advantage of the increased number of trees however is to reduce erosion.

Below, a view from Union artillery positions on a low ridge that generally faces Kennesaw Mountain. From here some 24 guns, half 10-pounder Parrots and half 12-pounder Napoleons, bombarded Confederates on Little Kennesaw Mountain and Pigeon Hill. I spent some time trying to confirm the location using my phone, with limited success.

Continuing the tour we now move down Old Mountain Road towards Pigeon Hill, the location of a main attack on the 27th of June, rather than a feint.

This part of the field is easily accessible. Below, a view of Pigeon Hill looking northeast. Directly in front can be seen Burnt Hickory Road, which also marks the left flank of Cockrell’s position.

Now a view from the Confederate positions on Pigeon Hill looking west. These are the positions held Cockrell’s Brigade. I have included both a period photo and one taken today for comparison.

Note the three rocks in the foreground of both photos. The period photo provides details on defences and visibility. A field can be seen some distance in advance of the Pigeon Hill slopes.

Staying in the area below we look to the area south of Cockrell’s position.

We are now looking east over the ground that Williamson’s and Lightburn’s Brigades attacked. In the woods beyond Mercer’s Confederate Brigade was entrenched. To the left is Cockrell’s position and we can see cars travelling west on Burnt Hickory Road.

Moving south from Pigeon Hill we come to Cheatham Hill.

I approached the position from Sherman and Thomas Headquarters. Parking my car I walked across the park heading east, generally following the advance of Union troops as they advanced on the Confederate positions on Cheatham Hill.

From the Headquarters I advanced to a ridge line and then down into a valley. Crossing a deep creek, above, I then moved out of the woods and into a clearing, below. Here, the Illinois Monument is just visible in the upper centre which is just below the “Dead Angle”.

A steep and open field took me now towards the Confederate trenches to my front. There were a number of dips in the field that troops could perhaps gain a degree of cover if stationary. However, apart from this the ground was open with no cover. The last 20 or so metres were very steep and at the top a Rebel trench line the remains of which are very visible.

A view from just in front of the Rebel lines which partly captures the slope over which the Illinois troops advanced.

Below, the remains of Confederate entrenchments at the Dead Angle, looking generally south. The “Angle” is on the far side. Historically these entrenchments were significant with head logs and parapets, but 160 years has taken a toll.

It generally extended south, with a slight inclination to the west, until on Confederate left it makes a sharp change in direction, east. In doing so it followed the contour of the hill. The result is the “Dead Angle”. At the angle the southern side is protected by an even steeper hillside.

Below, the Illinois Monument that marks where the Union forces, specifically Dan McCook’s Brigade was forced back to and where they dug their own entrenchments, some 30 metres from Confederate positions. The remains of the Union tunnel is just to the left, which I foolishly failed to photograph.

The Confederate positions are just beyond the monument. Even today, and despite erosion, the Rebel entrenchments are perhaps 1.5m above the monument base, that is 1.5m from the top of the monument steps.

Moving back to the Rebel lines the entrenchments continue north and south. Below, the position of two Confederate 12-pounders which were kept camouflaged until the Union attack on the 27th of June when they fired at point blank range and, according to one Confederate officer, “did great execution”.

The final position I visited was in the area of Kolb’s Farm. Here Hood pushed two divisions of his 13,000 strong corps forward in an attempt to stop Union forces flanking of the Kennesaw Mountain position on the 22nd of June. The main axis of the attack went through the woods behind the cottage.

While the house remains, and is now restored to its original form, the area of the battle is cut by a very busy road that unfortunately makes exploring and understanding this portion of the battle difficult.

This completed my visit to Kennesaw Mountain.

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