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Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park stretches for 8 miles just west of Marietta, Georgia. With more than 1.3 million visitors per year (1997 estimate) the park is heavily used in the spring and summer. April is the month with highest visitation.
Creating a tour of the site is difficult because:
- A number of roads through the park are major east-west roads that serve Cobb County. These routes are heavily traveled at all times of day.
- The complex fighting that occured.
- The Visitor Center, the logical first stop, is located in an area that is chronologically the last area of fighting.
Nonetheless, here is our tour. Remember, we aren't interested in the shortest or fastest route. Our route highlights history and scenery.
From I-75 take exit 114: Go south on Canton Highway. This road turns into Church Street south of Kennestone Hospital. These large homes were built after the Civil War. During the spring, the gardens are a beauty to behold, lush with multi-colored azelias and dogwoods, typical of a Georgia spring. Stay in the right-hand lane, crossing Highway 120.
Immediately after the 120 loop turn right at Kennesaw Avenue: Antebellum homes along this road include "Fair Oaks," which General Joseph E. Johnston used as headquarters until forced to leave by Union artillery fire during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. Further north on the right side of Kennesaw Avenue are the remains of steam-powered grist mill in use after the war.
At the light, turn left on Old U.S. 41: This was U. S. 41 until the major north-south highway was re-routed to the north. You are now entering the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. On your left near the Visitor Center is the area attacked by The Army of the Tennessee during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. Called a demonstration by some and a feint by others, this was a probing action by General John McPherson to test the strength of the position on the mountain. The attack was easily repulsed.
Turn left on Stilesboro Road at the Visitors Center sign.
Turn left Kennesaw Mountain Road: The Visitor Center is on the left. The road widens and becomes the parking lot for Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park's Visitor Center. Even though the center is undergoing a major renovation at the present time a gift shop is still accessable in the trailer and is well worth the visit. This shop has a wide array of books on the battle, the Atlanta Campaign and The Civil War. Maps of the park and battle are also available.
The road to the top of the mountain can be driven during the open hours of the park, Monday thru Friday. On Saturday and Sunday only a park bus makes the trip, for a modest fee. You may walk up Kennesaw Mountain Road or Mountaintop Trail if you wish. On the right hand side of the road, near the bottom of the mountain is the impressive Georgia Monument, dedicated to all Georgians who fought in the war. As the road meanders up the mountainside there are some excellent views of the area to the south and west. Mountaintop Trail is interpreted.
At the parking lot at the top of the mountain is one of the best unobstructed views of the city of Atlanta, Sherman's prize. It was from this ridge that the men under General William Tecumseh Sherman got their first view of Atlanta. A short walk takes you to the geographic top of Kennesaw Mountain. If you rode up the hill in the bus, you may walk down the hill on the Kennesaw Mountain (Mountaintop) Trail. This is an interesting, although steep, hike.
Return down Kennesaw Mountain Road: Please remember that this is a heavily traveled road. Hikers and bikers may be (and usually are) present around any curve. Please drive slowly. Exit the Visitor's Center parking lot.
Left on Stilesboro Road: This road was between Federal and Confederate lines on June 27th, 1864, when the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was fought. Do not turn on Mountain Road at the sign for Cheatham Hill/Kolb's Farm. Continue on Stilesboro Road until Gilbert Road comes off to the left.
Left on Gilbert Road (dirt road): Go down Gilbert Road to a pulloff on the left and park. This area was the rear of Sherman's forward line. Due east is an embankment that held a 24-gun battery that pummelled Kennesaw Mountain on and off for 10 days but did little damage to the Confederate forces. Continue on Gilbert Road.
At Old Mountain Road make a right: This point is outside the national park, but as you drive south the park regains the road. Here and to the south was the secondary attack on Pigeon Hill, which rises to the left. The Army of the Tennessee swept across the field on the right and were turned back at the base of the mountain during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.
Turn left on Burnt Hickory Road: The field that opens in front of you was the area where the Georgia 63rd was overrun by the Federal attack on June 27, 1864 (see Battle of Kennesaw Mountain). The main Rebel line was in the area of the Cheatham Hill Connector Trail. This road comes out of the park and crosses Polk Ave., named for General Leonidas Polk who died shortly before the battle. Cross Polk Ave. and continue to Whitlock Ave.
Turn right on Whitlock Ave.: Whitlock Avenue becomes Dallas Highway and is one of the five roads that Sherman tried to control from the city of Dallas, Georgia. When this action failed he moved east to regain the Western and Atlantic Railroad in Ac(k)worth, Georgia. Continue down the road until the cemetery on the right and prepare to turn left. A large sign indicates the turn for Cheatham Hill.
Turn left on Cheatham Hill Drive: The next two miles witnessed the brunt of fighting on June 27, 1864. At the begining of the drive General Patrick Cleburne's men defended the ridge. This road has interpretive signs and monuments. They are:
- Interlocking defenses. An interesting explantion of the design of the fortifications at Kennesaw Mountain by Confederate engineers.
- The Texas Monument. A beautiful pink granite monument to the men from Texas who fought at Kennesaw Mountain in this general area.
- A sign describing a Confederate colonel from Arkansas permitting Union soldiers to rescue their wounded from a fire caused by the fighting.
- An embankment of cannon.
It is best to visit these stops on the way to Cheatham Hill.
Further south men under Benjamin Franklin Cheatham defended an area known as the "Dead Angle" by both sides. The rise was named for Cheatham after the battle. A parking area at the end of the road allows access to the impressive Illinois Monument and entrenchements. The Cheatham Hill Loop Trail also passes the grave of a soldier who died during the battle and was buried. It was uncovered in the 1930's when the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built or improved much of the park's infrastructure.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
This tomb, on the Cheatham Hill Loop Trail is a silent reminder of the men who died on both sides during our nation's bloodiest conflict.
Return to Dallas Highway on Cheatham Hill Drive.
Turn left on Dallas Highway. This is a major high-speed road with limited visibility. If traffic is heavy it is strongly suggested that you turn right, then left into the cemetery entrance and then return on Dallas Highway.
Turn left on John Ward Road, then left on Cheatham Hill Road (simply follow the signs to Kolb's Farm, the roads are well-marked): These roads connect The Dallas Highway and Powder Springs Road. About a mile down this road on the right is additional parking and access to the Kolb's Farm Loop Trail. After crossing Powder Springs Road, turn right into a small parking lot on the side of the road. The farmhouse of Peter Valentine Kolb stands in front of you. This house, built in 1836 has four chimneys, an unusual (and expensive) design for its day. To the north and west of the home Confederate forces under command of John Bell Hood attacked Joseph Hooker's XX Corps on June 22, 1864 during the Battle of Kolb's Farm. The farmhouse is the only building remaining in the park boundary from the time of the battle.
This is the end of the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park Tour. From this point turn right on Powder Springs Road and return to Whitlock Ave. Turn right. On your left is the vintage 1898 train depot that houses the Marietta Welcome Center. Next door is the Marietta History Museum, which has a number of permenant Civil War displays. Further down the road is our home, Marietta Square, with many unique shops and businesses.
Other things to do in Marietta