Kennesaw Mountain
Administrative History
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The National Park Service's efforts to interpret the Kennesaw Mountain battlefield began shortly after the site came under its administration in 1933. Money made available through the Civil Works Administration program made it possible to hire one Historical Foreman, two skilled employees and two semi-skilled employees to begin work at the battlefield site, which at that time consisted only of Cheatham Hill. The majority of their time was spent in providing educational service to the public. In 1935, B. C. Yates began his long association with the park when he was hired as the Historical Foreman. [71]

After researching the battle and its role in the Atlanta Campaign and the Civil War, the guides developed a story that could be told from Cheatham's Hill but would include all the action that took place in the surrounding area. The next step was a publicity campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the park and the interpretive opportunities that existed. An exhibition of relics and pictures in one of Marietta's leading hotels attracted much attention. Another display was put in one of the department store windows.

Information about the park was distributed in a number of ways. Material was supplied to the hotels, radio stations, newspapers, tour agencies, and schools. As a result, some tour groups and school groups ventured out the then primitive Dallas Road to Cheatham Hill to attend lectures and guided walking tours. [72]

Such was interpretation at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Site during its first years in the national park system. But in the late 1930s, the NPS began efforts to upgrade the interpretive activities at all of its historic areas. Improvements were made in various types of field exhibits and field historians began to give public lectures on a more frequent basis. At Kennesaw Mountain this resulted in the announcement in December 1934 that four guides would begin regularly providing tours of the Cheatham Hill area on weekends. These guides (W. L. Benson, S. W. McCoy, P. O. Sawyer, and G. W. Dowell) were under the supervision of Historical Technician H. C. Landrau of Chickamauga and Chattanooga NMP. Through the week they could be reached at the Georgian or Marietta hotels in Marietta. [73]

To support the guides in their efforts, a display board was erected which featured canister, cannon balls, shrapnel, bayonets, and other miscellaneous artifacts that had been found on the field. Later, a local artist, L. L. Kelly, produced a large oil painting depicting the Union assault that was placed on display in the administration building on U. S. Highway 41. Plans were also made to build a relief model of the battlefield site, complete with topographic features. [74]

By 1938, plans were being made for the expansion of the interpretive program at Kennesaw Mountain. One proposal called for developing three distinct areas with their own specific emphasis so that when taken together they would present a full and complete view of the battle and the field. The museum at the administration building was to present the background information for the battle. Here, the visitor would receive an introduction to the park and, hopefully, obtain, through the exhibits, an historical context within which to place the battle of Kennesaw Mountain. From the crest of Big Kennesaw, the visitor would be able to orient himself to the field. An observation station (possibly a circular building with a parapet wall), relief maps, directional arrows, and binoculars would be provided to help the visitor locate the major scenes of action. Finally, the story of the battle would be interpreted on the battlefield itself at Cheatham Hill, Pigeon Hill, the entrenchments, and at selected artillery positions.

To support the interpretive story, extensive research work was begun. A historical base map was to include all areas that played any role in the campaign as well as features such as woodlands, cultivated fields, pastures, roads, fences, and buildings. [75]

Another attempt to advance the interpretive program was a proposal by Superintendent Yates, in 1939, to restore a period house in order to illustrate the "fundamental differences between North and South in the 1860s" with a "demonstration of the independent self-sufficient Southern farm home as contrasted with the industrial North." [76] But the Regional Office did not approve of his idea. In addition to citing NPS policy against restoration, it was turned down because the "... main object of the Kennesaw Mountain area is to commemorate a military engagement... and is not primarily concerned with demonstrating the social conditions existing in the South prior to the 1860s . . . ." [77]

The establishment of the CCC program at Kennesaw in 1938 brought further development of the interpretive program. In August 1939, trained CCC guides began duty at the administration building from 8: 00 am to 4: 00 pm on weekdays and 1 :00 pm to 4: 00 pm on Sundays. [78] The training for these guides was comprehensive and intensive. Not only were they expected to have a general knowledge of American and Civil War history, but they were also trained in clerical work, tree planting, engineering, use of quarrying equipment, building construction, mechanics, and road construction. [79]

The use of non-personal interpretation devices expanded during this period as well. With the establishment of headquarters in the Hyde House, plans were made for development of museum exhibits. The first was installed in June 1939. Others, consisting primarily of maps, soon followed. Lithographs and paintings were also displayed. In addition, trailside exhibits were prepared for Cheatham Hill and Little Kennesaw Mountain. Most of these consisted of enlarged portions of the historical base map illustrating troop positions and movements and supplemented with explanatory text. Additional exhibits were planned for Big Kennesaw Mountain. For a time, Yates headed an effort to acquire the locomotive, the "General," famed for its role in the Andrews Raid of April 1862. The effort, however, was unsuccessful. [80]

One of the more successful non-personal devices was an experimental registration desk at Cheatham Hill. Mounted at the beginning of the trail, it featured literature displayed under glass with registration sheets kept inside. It proved to be so successful that a national interpretive conference at Gettysburg recommended that the idea be adopted at other battlefield sites. [81]

Herbert Kahler, Chief of the Historic Sites Division, commenting on Kennesaw's interpretive program in 1941, was generally impressed. Three cannons from Chickamauga and Chattanooga NMP had been placed in the fort at Cheatham Hill and temporary trailside exhibits had been installed. He did recommend that the orientation lecture emphasize more the park's role as part of the national park system and suggested that the guides place the battle within a broader historical context. [82]

With the start of World War II, park funding was reduced and expansion of the interpretive program was scaled back. But while limited, efforts did continue. Park staff continued to distribute literature to public visitation points in Marietta, such as the post office, where a poster was placed. Two posters were also placed in the Service Men's center in the Marietta office of the National Housing Agency. Exhibits were taken to high school carnivals and downtown businesses. As a result of these efforts, and the large number of war workers who had moved to the area, visitation increased. [83]

By 1945, there were more plans for developing the program. An interpretive tour was to use the museum for orientation with its relief maps and exhibits and include trails on the crest of Big Kennesaw and Little Kennesaw, each with maps; an overlook in front of the Federal trenches at Pigeon Hill; interpretive signs at an overlook on the Federal line opposite Cheatham Hill; and an interpretive sign at Kolb House.

In 1948, the Kennesaw Mountain Historical Association was organized to assist the park in its interpretive efforts. Through its operation of selling books and other educational materials, the association raised money that could be used to enhance the park's interpretation and to purchase additional books and museum objects. [84]


In the mid-1950s, planning began for Kennesaw's participation in the Mission 66 program. There were several goals for interpretation. First, the need for more research was recognized. This program was " . . . necessary to obtain and evaluate information essential for the interpretive program." Accordingly, topics for which research was needed were identified.

To present this information to the visitor, a new visitor center was envisioned as the nucleus of the program. The museum, library, literature and lectures there were to be supported by audio-visual devices and information service provided by personnel.

To provide maximum service for the increasing number of visitors, with a limited staff, self-guiding facilities were necessarily the heart of the program. A self-guiding tour with special route markers and a guide sheet was already in use. Roadside exhibits and interpretive signs placed at key points were also utilized. But park management believed there was a need for more orientation devices, such as maps and panoramic sketches, to adequately interpret the battlefield. [85]

During the 1960s staffing continued to be a problem. In 1965, the entire interpretation division consisted of one historian, one park guide, and one seasonal ranger. [86] As a result, there was further development of non-personal interpretive media, with many notable accomplishments.

By 1960, two tours of the battlefield area had been marked for visitors. Both began at the visitor center and ended at Cheatham Hill. One tour went via Marietta and one by way of the Little Kennesaw area. New exhibits included a Sidney King painting of the Federal bombardment of Kennesaw Mountain and a museum case displaying shoulder arms and a battlefield log with shells embedded in it. Temporary exhibits were also considered for the crest of Little Kennesaw, the Federal positions on Burnt Hickory and Dallas roads, and the Federal skirmish line near the Kolb House. A leaflet and a tour guide were available. [87]

Another Sidney King painting, "The Crest of Kennesaw" was positioned on the crest trail of Big Kennesaw in 1963. It depicted a birdseye view of the mountain and activities that occurred there in June 1864. A review of the park's interpretive signs and exhibits revealed that most of the outdoor exhibits needed some kind of work. Subsequently, a number of these were refurbished or replaced and some selective vista clearing was done. Four new aluminum interpretive markers were also installed. [88]

Two new monuments were erected on the battlefield in 1963 and 1964. The first was donated by the state of Georgia to honor its soldiers who had fought at Kennesaw and was placed near the new visitor center. The second was donated by the state of Texas and was erected near Cheatham Hill. Also, in 1964, the Georgia Hall of Fame Committee interpretive memorial overlook was erected and dedicated in June, complete with a taped message repeater. [89]

Research to support the growing interpretive program continued in the 1960s. Location of artillery positions on the crest of Big Kennesaw were mapped out and troop movement maps were prepared. Museum labels were corrected. Artifacts were collected for new exhibits. Books and historic photographs were added to the park library. [90]

Reflecting a new trend in interpretation, there was also an increase in the use of audio-visual devices at Kennesaw. An a/ v script was written and a contract photographer hired for the development of a temporary slide show, which was used, despite numerous maintenance problems, until the permanent program was completed in 1967. Remote audio stations were installed at several locations around the park including the crest of Big Kennesaw, at Kolb Farm, and at Cheatham Hill. Generally, these devices were very successful but, as park staff discovered, the message repeaters often became the target of vandalism. [91]

In 1965, a new temporary park folder was developed to reflect changes caused by the opening of the new visitor center. In March 1967 a mountain historical-nature trail was opened up and a "Mountainside Trail Folder," financed by the Kennesaw Mountain Historical Association, was produced. This folder was redone and illustrated by the Harpers Ferry Jobs Corps in 1969. A contract was also signed for the production of an Historical Handbook. [92]


By the late 1960s Kennesaw's interpretive program reflected changes indicative of those taking place throughout the NPS. Increases in staffing made more personal interpretation possible. In August 1966, guided tours of Cheatham Hill and Big Kennesaw began on a limited basis. These proved to be popular but unfortunately those on the mountain had to eventually be discontinued because of traffic congestion at the top. As an alternative, roving interpretation was used. [93]

The biggest change in Kennesaw's interpretive program came about in 1968. In that year, NPS began working with Mario Menesini, director of the Educational Consulting Service, on National Environmental Education Development (NEED) materials for schools. NEED was intended to develop environmental awareness and values through the application of five "strands": variety and similarities; patterns; interrelation and interdependence; continuity and change; and adaption and evolution. These strands were to be woven into all subjects taught in schools and into all park interpretive programs. Parks were encouraged to establish Environmental Study Areas (ESAs) to be visited by school classes using NEED materials. By 1970, 63 parks had ESAs. [94]

Kennesaw Mountain developed its ESA on John Ward Creek in 1968. In April 1969, the first teachers' workshop was held there. Difficulty staffing the site was partially solved when a seasonal teacher was hired through the Regional Environmental Education Coordinator's office. By 1970, the park's ESA program was one of the largest in the country. Students were taken along trails to study the environment, steps in reforestation, and ecology of forests and streams. [95]

The success of Kennesaw's environmental education program in the Cobb County schools stimulated interest throughout Georgia and surrounding states and the park began receiving numerous requests for assistance in training teachers as ESA leaders, helping schools establish their own ESAs, and giving high level leadership to the state and regional school systems. [96]

Several activities were part of this expansion effort. A meeting of the Interagency Environmental Action committee met in February 1971. Represented at the meeting was the U. S. Forest Service, the Soil Conservation Service, the Georgia Forestry Commission, the Cobb County Youth Museum, the Cobb County school system, the Georgia Conservancy, the Cobb County Water and Sewer System, Georgia State University, Kennesaw Junior College, and the National Park Service. The purpose of the committee was to increase the number of environmental study areas on local campuses. The park also made plans for participating in the Summer in the Parks program in which the Marietta Parks and Recreation Department would transport 12 groups of 30 children each to the park where they would participate in a group activity that included a trip to Cheatham Hill that combined history with environmental education and recreation. The Atlanta Parks and Recreation Department expressed an interest as well and even agreed to help finance the project by paying up to 20% of the salary for nine Atlanta Urban Corps workers to help it out. [97]

One of the groups that expressed an interest in Kennesaw's assistance was the Girl Scouts. In 1971, the Northwest Georgia Council approached the park for help in establishing an "Environmental Teaching Center" at Camp Timber Ridge, a 175 acre camp north of the Chattahoochee River. In September, park staff made a visit to the site and selected 30 acres for development as an ESA. Superintendent Jack Ogle committed to the development of the 30 acres, the training of ESA leaders, the presence of a uniformed NPS interpreter, the furnishing of materials through donation and sales by the Kennesaw Mountain Historical Association, and the contacting and scheduling of schools. [98]

The park's ESA program continued for six years until the energy crisis of the early 1970s forced the curtailment of school field trips. The ESA remained unused for four years.

Following the success of the NEED program, the concept of environmental education was expanded into the SUM-NEED program. Children 8 to 12 years old, selected through neighborhood playgrounds by park and recreation department workers, were invited to an overnight camp at the park. After a tour of the museum, they hiked to a site in the fields off Cheatham Hill Road near the Kolb farm. Evening campfire programs were held and Civil War stew was prepared for supper. Twenty high school students, members of the Neighborhood Youth Corps, and nine Urban Corps college students, worked as counselors and environmental and recreational leaders. Officials of the Marietta Parks and Recreation Department and the Atlanta Parks Department provided additional assistance. Food was provided by a U. S. Department of Agriculture authorized project through the Special Food Services Program for Children. In its first two summers, the program served more than 2500 children. [99]

In 1977, the environmental education program was revived, although on a smaller scale, when the park hired an environmental education specialist. The ESA camp was relocated to the old CCC camp behind Kennesaw Mountain and weekend camps were conducted for Cobb County schools in the spring and fall. Weekday camps were held during the summer for disadvantaged kids. [100]

Although proud of their success with the program, the park staff soon realized that the demand for leadership had grown far beyond its ability to provide. In appeals for more personnel, park management warned that if the program was allowed to bog down, demand would decrease and a valuable opportunity would be missed. [101]


Shortage of personnel also led the park to initiate a Volunteer-in-Parks program in March 1972. It began with only three volunteers but by the end of the year, nine more had been recruited. Four of them were involved in living history; six assisted with environmental education activities; and two worked the information desk. Together, they contributed 2960 hours of work. [102]

Despite the demands of the environmental program, Kennesaw did expand its personal historical interpretation for the general public. Roving interpretation and guided tours at Cheatham Hill and Big Kennesaw took place as staffing allowed. In 1968, firearms demonstrations began and were quite popular until 1973 when they were discontinued for safety reasons. In 1970, the park became involved with the Neighborhood Youth Corps and hired two high school students to work part-time. With the hiring of additional seasonal interpreters, and more use of volunteers, there was a dramatic increase in the park's living history programs. [103]


An effort to combine environmental, education with theme interpretation led to the creation of living history programs stressing the Civil War soldiers' life. Lifestyles of the 19th and 20th centuries, with their consequent demands on the environment, were also compared. Major elements of the living history program were camp scenes and cannon and musket firing demonstrations. Purchase of new items, such as Union uniforms and equipment, allowed for portrayal of both armies. [104]

Initially, the living history programs were conducted in the field in front of the visitor center, with occasional weekend presentations on the mountain. But, by 1984, they were shifted to the Cheatham Hill area because it was considered a more historic setting. The move also alleviated overcrowding in the visitor center area and, it was hoped, the presence of park personnel or volunteers participating in living history demonstrations helped protect the earthworks at Cheatham Hill. [105]

The energy crisis of the early 1970s resulted in an increase in visitation for Kennesaw. People in the Atlanta area were less likely to travel long distances and decided to visit sites nearby, like Kennesaw Mountain, To accommodate the increase, park staff developed new programs that included guided tours, new talks, an expanded living history program, and roving interpretation. In the summer of 1974, the park offered, for the first time, seven days of interpretation each week. In addition to the regular activities, a number of special programs were developed in the 1970s and 1980s. As a Bicentennial project in 1976 a fife and drum corps, made up of volunteers, was organized. In 1980, the wives and children of the soldier volunteers began presenting programs in which they depicted wartime refugees. Also that year, a Special Labor Day program was inaugurated at Cheatham Hill in which four artillery pieces were assembled to demonstrate the operation of firing a Confederate four gun battery. [106]

In the 1980s more non-personal interpretive devices were developed. Major temporary exhibits with rustic shelters were installed at Burnt Hickory and Old Mountain roads and at the Kolb House to orient visitors to each location and explain the battle action that took place there. Smaller interpretive metal photo signs were installed elsewhere throughout the battlefield. Signs were also placed at historic home sites and several historic road traces were identified and marked. In 1988, two field exhibit Napoleon guns and carriages were mounted in the historic artillery emplacements at Cheatham Hill. [107]

As the interpretive program at Kennesaw continued to evolve the changes began to be embodied in planning and management documents. According to the General Management Plan of 1984, interpretation of the park's historic themes would occur at six locations. Overall park orientation would take place at the visitor center. Aside from the exhibits there, the interpretive opportunities available on the park trails would be emphasized. At Big Kennesaw Mountain, Pigeon Hill, Cheatham Hill, the 24-Gun Battery and the Kolb Farm, historic information about the battle would be provided through a variety of printed and graphic materials. A wayside exhibit plan, to be prepared by the Harpers Ferry Center, was to be developed as well. [108]

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Last Updated: 01-Sep-2001