Kennesaw Mountain
Administrative History
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A Brief History of the Kennesaw Mountain Area


The first human inhabitants of north Georgia were the Mound Builders, who moved into the area about A. D. 900. The largest site of these ancient people was at Etowah in Bartow County, but the presence of numerous small rock mounds around Kennesaw Mountain indicate they may have lived in this area as well. For unexplained reasons the Mound Builders' civilization eventually ceased to exist. Their descendants, though, became known as the Creek Indians and continued to inhabit north Georgia until about A. D. 1700.

The Creeks were gradually pushed south by the Cherokees. The Cherokees lived in small scattered farm communities north of the Chattahoochee River and had villages in what is now Cobb County. One of these, Kennesaw town, was at the base of Kennesaw Mountain.

Following the American Revolution, white traders and settlers began moving into north Georgia and onto Cherokee lands. With the discovery of gold in the area, the Georgians called for the Indians' removal. In 1838, U. S. troops began rounding up the Cherokees to move them west.

Once the Indians were gone, the pioneers began organizing the new territory. In 1832, Cobb County was established and named for Thomas Welch Cobb of Lexington and Greensboro, Georgia, who had been a distinguished lawyer, congressman, senator, and judge. In 1834, Marietta was incorporated and made the county seat. In 1842, the Western and Atlantic Railroad, coming south from Chattanooga, passed through Marietta and Cobb County and into what is now Atlanta. Increasing development of agricultural and industrial production had transformed the area into one of some significance by the time of the Civil War, with the result that it became a prime target of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's campaign in 1864.


In the spring of 1864, Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, recently promoted to military commander-in-chief, ordered a concerted offensive by all Union armies. In the west, he ordered Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, then at Chattanooga, Tennessee, to march into Georgia, crush the Confederate Army of Tennessee and take Atlanta, the railroad hub and manufacturing and storage center for the southeastern Confederacy.

Opposing Sherman and his 100,000 men was a Confederate army of 65,000, commanded by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. Throughout the month of May the two armies fought each other in engagements at Resaca, New Hope Church, Pickett's Mill, and Dallas. In each instance the Confederates were forced to retreat in the face of Sherman's relentless drive. Using his superior forces to maximum advantage, Sherman was repeatedly able to outflank Johnston.

By mid-June, the two armies faced each other at Kennesaw Mountain where the Confederates had erected a formidable line of entrenchments. Sherman extended his lines to the south to get around the Confederate flank, but Johnston countered by shifting 11,000 men under Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood to meet the threat. At Kolb's Farm on June 22, Hood struck the Federals in a fierce but futile attack. At the end of the day the Union army held the line, but their southward move had been temporarily halted.

Despite the strong Confederate lines, Sherman suspected that they were thinly held and that one forceful drive would break through and enable him to destroy the Southern army. Accordingly, he ordered attacks against Little Kennesaw and Pigeon Hill and the Confederate left to divert attention from what he planned to be his main assault against Johnston's center. At dawn on June 27, the battle opened with a massive Federal bombardment of the Confederate positions. Following this the diversionary attack began. It quickly failed. Sheets of fire pinned the Union brigades down in the rugged terrain below the crest of Pigeon Hill and Little Kennesaw Mountain, With no hope of success, the attack was called off.

Meanwhile, south of Dallas Road, 8000 Union infantrymen in five brigades attacked two Confederate divisions commanded by Maj. Gens. Patrick R. Cleburne and Benjamin Franklin Cheatham. Most of the Northern soldiers were cut down by withering gunfire but some got close enough that savage hand-to-hand fighting took place among the earthworks. Ultimately, the strength of the position and the ferocity of the defenders were too much and this attack failed as well. The Northerners lost more than 2000 men, the Confederates more than 500.

Sherman declined to renew the battle and resumed his maneuvering. By July 2, he had again outflanked Johnston and forced him to abandon his lines. A week later the Union army was across the Chattahoochee River.

The campaign continued until September with heavy fighting at Peachtree Creek, Atlanta, Ezra Church, and Jonesboro. Hood replaced Johnston as commander of the Confederate army, but his aggressive attacks proved as ineffective as Johnston's maneuverings against Sherman's superior forces. Finally, on September 2, Hood was forced to abandon Atlanta and the Union army triumphantly marched in. The fall of Atlanta was a crippling blow to the Confederacy. Coupled with Union victories elsewhere, it was enough to win Abraham Lincoln's re-election in November. The war's outcome had been decided; it had become a mere matter of time.

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Last Updated: 01-Sep-2001