On one of our days off last week, Tom, Judy (our fellow RV volunteer) and I went to Kennesaw Mountain, the most visited National Military Park in the United States. Why is it the most visited? Not because of the importance of the battle fought there, although it was the last battle fought before Atlanta was taken over by the Union. Not because there were heavy casualties or because the battle was particularly strategic. The Union didn’t even win the battle.
So why is Kennesaw Mountain the most visited National Military Park in the United States? Because it is the largest green space in the Atlanta Metro area. Last year 2.4 million people visited the park, most of them to exercise, hike, bike, and enjoy the recreational opportunities on the mountain.
We went to Kennesaw Mountain on a Tuesday and arrived close to 11 a.m. The large parking lot by the Visitors Center was full, so we headed to the overflow parking lot, which was twice the size and almost full. We figured there must be a hundred people at the Visitors Center. But when we went in there were only three other people and a school group in the Visitors Center. Everyone else was out hiking, jogging, or riding their bike.
Nevertheless, we were there to learn about the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, so we spent time in the Visitors Center (heading first to the restrooms) talking to the volunteers at the desk, looking through the exhibits, and watching the movie.
Then we headed up Kennesaw Mountain. It was only a mile and half each direction, but there were some serious ups. Usually we have these kinds of trails largely to ourselves but not at Kennesaw. There were dozens of people on the trail most of them with dogs. I mention the dogs because Sam, Judy’s dog, was with us. Sam is usually laid-back and fun-loving. He gets along great with people. But he was attacked by a pit bull a year ago and now, when he sees another dog, he wants to attack it before it attacks him. Since Sam is a collie/something mix, he is a large dog and can be difficult to hold back. Judy handles him very well but by the time we reached the top, she was worn out.
Tom and I took Sam and walked on the trail over the summit and down to a view on the other side. From the top of Kennesaw Mountain you can see Atlanta, Stone Mountain, Lookout Mountain, and into Alabama. It was a pretty spectacular view.
The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain is worth a mention. Sherman was driving the Confederate troops into Georgia. There were several small battles along the way and the Confederates kept retreating. When they got close to Atlanta, the Confederates knew they had to make a stand to protect this important railroad hub. So they positioned their troops along the ridges that protect Atlanta, including batteries and entrenched troops on Kennesaw Mountain.
Sherman had his focus on taking Atlanta and didn’t seem to care how many Union soldiers were killed doing it. So he had his troops attack in several places: the top of the mountain, at a place called “the dead angle,” and at Kolb’s Farm. The battle at the dead angle was particularly bad for the Union troops. Wave after wave of soldiers were mowed down by the deadly fire coming from the entrenched Confederate troops. After a week of fighting, the Union troops finally broke through at a place farther down the line and the Confederates retreated and gave up Atlanta.
Tom and I were amazed that Sherman kept throwing troops into battle in this horrible position. Why didn’t he just go around the mountain? Were the lives of his soldiers of so little value to him? This is another example where the Union army lost the battle but won the strategic objective, so the huge losses were written off as a cost of the war.
It was good to visit Kennesaw Mountain but there were so many people and the paths were crowded everywhere we went. We were glad to come back to our less-visited park.