Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia; June 27, 1864

KENNESAW Mountain, GA
June 27TH, 1864

Kennesaw Mountain, GA., June 27, 1864.

Armies of the Cumberland, Tennessee and Ohio. When Gen. Sherman transferred
his line of operations from Pumpkin Vine creek to Allatoona
and Acworth on June 4th, he rebuilt the railroad bridge over
the Etowah River, established a base of supplies at Allatoona,
and on the 9th occupied Big Shanty, the next railroad station
south of Acworth. By that time Gen. Johnston, commanding the
Confederate forces, had formed A New Line Along Brush, Pine
and Lost Mountains, across the railroad in front of Marietta
Near Kennesaw Mountain. Sherman Began the investment of this
position on the 1Oth with McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee on
the left, moving toward Brush mountain and Marietta Thomas,
with the Army of the Cumberland occupied the center, moving
against Pine and Kennesaw mountains; and Schofield, with the
Army of the Ohio was on the right, operating against Lost
mountain. Stoneman’s cavalry covered the right flank and
Garrard’s the left, while McCook’s cavalry division guarded
the communications in the rear and the base at Allatoona.
After two weeks of almost constant skirmishing, in which
Johnston was forced to abandon Pine and Lost mountains and
contract his lines about Kennesaw, Sherman determined to
assault the Confederate position. In his report he says:
“Upon studying the ground I had no alternative in my turn but
to assault his lines or turn his position. Either course had
its difficulties and dangers, and I perceived that the enemy
and our own officers had settled down to a conviction that I
would not assault fortified lines. All looked to me to
outflank. An army to be efficient must not settle down to a
single mode of offense, but must be prepared to execute any
plan which promises success. I wanted, therefore, for the
moral effect to make a successful assault against the enemy
behind his breastworks, and resolved to attempt it at the
point where success would give the largest fruits of victory.
The general point selected was the left center, because if I
could thrust A Strong Head of column through that point by
pushing it boldly and rapidly two and one-Half Miles, it would
reach the railroad Below Marietta, Cut Off the enemy’s right
and center from its line of retreat, and then by turning on
either part it could be overwhelmed and destroyed. Therefore,
on the 24th of June, I ordered that an assault should be made
at two points south of Kennesaw on the 27th, giving three
days, notice for preparation and reconnaissance, one to be
made near Little Kennesaw by General McPherson’s troops, and
the other about a mile farther south by General Thomas’
troops.”

The plan of assault was for Schofield on the right to
threaten the enemy’s extreme flank and at the same time make
an attack at some point near the Powder Springs Road.
McPherson was to make a demonstration on his extreme left,
then attack on the south and West of Kennesaw, while strong
skirmish lines were to be ready to push forward and seize the
crest if opportunity offered. In the Center Thomas was to
choose some point for his assault and mask his purpose by
suitable demonstrations. The real points of attack, where
Sherman hoped to break through the lines, were in front of
Thomas and McPherson, Schofield movements being more for the
purpose of inducing Johnston to weaken his right and center by
sending troops to his left, as the action of Reilly’s and
Byrd’s brigades along Olley’s creek (q. v.) the Day before had
caused Johnston Much concern, and it was believed that a
vigorous demonstration on that part of his line would cause
him to reinforce it at the expense of other portions.
Accordingly at daybreak on the 27th Schofield Sent Cameron’s
brigade of Cox’s division across the bridge built by Byrd the
preceding Day, While Reilly deployed a portion of his brigade
as skirmishers along the Sandtown road, planted a battery on
the Confederate flank and under its Fire Forded the stream.
Just as he pushed up the bank on one flank of the Confederate
intrenchments Cameron came up on the other and after a brief
skirmish the enemy broke and fled.

While these movements were in progress on the Right
Thomas and McPherson were perfecting their arrangements for
the general assault. McPherson’s batteries opened a rapid
fire on the works at the south end of the ridge known as
Little Kennesaw, and Thomas’ artillery along the Burnt Hickory
and Marietta Road Began sending in a storm of shot and shell
against the intrenchments on Kennesaw. About 9 a.m. M. L.
Smith’s division of Logan’s Corps moved forward from
McPherson’s lines to the attack. Almost at the same instant
Newton’s division of Howard’s Corps and Davis’ division of
Palmer’s also advanced on the Confederate Works. Smith was
met by a galling fire from three batteries and a line of
infantry, but his men moved steadily forward and carried two
lines of rifle-pits in the face of all opposition. The main
line of works was found to be located along the crest of a
rocky declivity that it was impossible to scale and the
division fell back to the first line of rifle-pits taken,
which position was strengthened and held.

Newton’s division was formed in two columns, Harker’s
brigade on the right, Wagner’s and Kimball’s on the left, and
preceded by a strong line of skirmishers advanced, driving in
the enemy’s pickets, through a tangled mass of undergrowth and
fallen trees up to the very foot of the Confederate works, but
were unable to carry them. Harker rallied his men and made a
second assault, but fell mortally wounded. Wagner’s brigade
met with no better success and Kimball was then ordered to
assault. His command moved forward gallantly to the foot of
the works, but was met with such a stubborn resistance that it
was compelled to fall back with heavy loss. Newton’s pickets
continued to hold the captured rifle-pits, where they were
afterward relieved by Stanley S division.

Davis massed his troops in an open field in the rear of
the Federal breastworks and about 600 yards from the line of
works to be assaulted. The intervening ground was exceedingly
rough, a good portion of it being covered with a dense
undergrowth. Morgan’s brigade was held in the Union trenches
as a reserve and at the given signal the brigades of McCook
and Mitchell Sprang Forward over their own works and dashed
across the rough ground in the face of the enemy’s fire. They
reached the enemy’s works, but, owing to the intense heat and
the strenuous exertions in crossing the broken ground, were
too much exhausted to mount the parapet to which their
impetuous valor had carried them. McCook Fell, dangerously
wounded, and Col. Harmon of the 125th Ill assumed command of
the brigade, but fell almost immediately. Col. Dilworth, of
the 85th Ill., then took command and heroically led the
brigade against the enemy, many of the men falling in the
trenches on the threshold of Victory. Mitchell’s brigade
moved in column parallel with McCook’s and in its front a
similar drama was being enacted. A problem now presented
itself. To withdraw the troops was to receive the full effect
of the enemy’s unrestrained fire; to attempt a renewal of the
assault was equally hazardous. Under the circumstances Davis
recommended to Thomas that the position be held and the troops
intrenched where they were. Thomas ordered this to be done
and tools were immediately sent forward to the men. That
night stronger works were thrown up and the division occupied
a line of trenches only a few yards from those of the enemy.
The Union losses in the attacks on Kennesaw mountain numbered
about 2,500 in killed and wounded. Johnston admitted a loss
of “over 500.” The assault had failed of its purpose, but at
every point of attack the Federal lines had been advanced and
made permanent, proving a constant menace to the Confederate
position. On the night of the 29th an attempt was made to
drive Davis from his position, which was the closest to the
enemy’s lines, but it was repulsed. Under the circumstances
Johnston had his engineer prepare A New Line Along the north
side of the Chattahoochee river, crossing the railroad Near
Smyrna. On the night of the 28th he began the removal of his
trains and on the night of July 2 the entire Confederate army
evacuated Kennesaw mountain.

Source: The Union Army, vol. 6

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