Following the reversals and twists of fate that took place at the Battles of Chikamauga and Chatanooga, by June of 1864 the Union army in the west was on the move again, this time under the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman. Opposing him was Confederate General Joe Johnston, who was charged with the defense of Georgia and especially, Atlanta. Though much of the campaign was marked by a series of flanking maneuvers where-in Sherman moved his forces around Johnston’s to one side or the other, forcing the Confederates to retreat again and again, at Kennesaw Mountain, Johnston made a stand, and Sherman took him up on it.
The physical location of Kennesaw Mountain, dominating as it did the railroad Sherman needed to use to supply his army, made driving the Confederates off it important, but once the battle was joined, the uphill fight proved deadly, and the Union forces were driven off with heavy losses. However, the failure of the main assault still allowed a number of Union troops to get around the Confederate lines, which in turn gave Sherman the space for another flanking maneuver that forced Johnston to retreat once again.
This retreat would cost Johnston his command. Never on good terms with President Jefferson Davis, this last retreat combined with the prodding by General John Bell Hood gave Davis enough cause to fire Johnston and appoint Hood in his place. Hood would take his ascension as a sign that all out aggression was called for, and the attacks he launched on Sherman’s army would ultimately cost the South the city of Atlanta.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park has the facilites one would expect from a National Battlefield. It has a vistor’s center with artifacts and information about the battle, as well as the ability to drive parts of the battlefield. A nice feature that has appeared at some of the parks, including Kennesaw Mountain, is the ability to take a self guided cell phone tour. In it, visitors drive to each spot along the tour and call the number posted. A pre-recorded message then describes what happened at that spot as well as its significance to the battle at large.
Food and lodging are available in nearby Marietta, Georgia.
Unlike many National Battlefields, entrance to Kennesaw Mountain is free of charge. However, the road up the mountain is closed on the weekend, and the only way up is the Shuttle Bus. The bus is free for children under 6, $1.00 for children 6 to 11, and $2.00 for those 12 and up.
A map to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.