Illinois Regiments at Kenesaw Mountain
(near Marietta, Georgia)
(June 27, 1864)


After slugging it out at Dallas, New Hope Church, Pickett's Mill, Lost Mountain, and Gilgal Church, the Union army under Sherman and the Army of Tennessee under Johnston were facing each other along a six-mile line in the vicinity of Marietta, Georgia. The north end of the line was anchored on two large ridges (Big and Little Kenesaw Mountains) and stretched south in well-entrenched lines with numerous supporting artillery positions.

Johnston had moved Hood's Corps from the north of the line to the south on June 21. Hood (usually very aggressive) had attacked the Union forces on the south of the line at Kolb Farm. This movement convinced Sherman that while the defensive lines were strong, they might be weak enough to be pierced by a strong frontal assault in the center of the line.

On June 27, 1864, Sherman had demonstrations planned along the line with two principal points of attack. At the north end of the Union line, troops attacked to create a diversion. Farther south, the Division of Morgan Smith (2nd Div., 15th Army Corps) attacked the Confederate lines at Pigeon Hill. The troops moved forward but were unable to dislodge the Confederate defenders in the thick woods on the slope.

The main assault was made at what would become know as Cheatham Hill. Newton's Division (2nd Div, 4th Army Corps and Davis' Division (2nd Div., 14th Army Corps) were chosen for the assault. The Union and Confederate lines were closest at this point and a large assembly area on the Union side was screened from view by trees. Union troops in column (one regiment behind another) marched at the double quick with fixed bayonets up the hill. The intention was to charge up the hill and punch though the thin defensive line.

Unfortunately, the attack started late and there was a delay between the preceding artillery bombardment and the infantry assault. In addition, the defenders at the point of assault were among the toughest fighters in Johnston's army (the divisions of Cleburne and Cheatham). Union troops fought their way up the hill but were repulsed at the crest by artillery positions that had been hidden. Brigade Commanders Harker and McCook (of Illinois) were killed in the attack that cost 3000 casualties in less than an hour with no penetration of the defenses.

While the assault at Cheatham Hill failed to break the Confederate line, a diversionary attack farther south at the end of the Union line captured a key road junction, placing the Union troops closer to the vital railroad than some of Johnston's army. Johnston felt forced to withdraw to defensive positions closer to Atlanta.

After the war, Illinois Veterans from McCook's Brigade purchased land on Cheatham Hill and erected a monument to their fallen comrades. The monument was built at the "Dead Angle" which was the focus of the main attack.

(Note: In the battle reports of both Union and Confederate commanders, the mountain and nearby town were spelled Kenesaw. Sometime after 1900, the spelling of both the mountain and town was changed to Kennesaw, which it remains today. A recent publication has suggested that it was always spelled with two n's, but apparently that spelling didn't make it to the Confederates of the time.)

The Illinois regiments which took part in the assault of Kenesaw Mountain are listed below. The links will take you to the regimental pages.




Source: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Dyer's Compendium

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