Personal recollections of Sherman's campaigns in Georgia and the Carolinas
by Capt. George W. Pepper

Chapter Seven The Campaign in Georgia

Kenesaw Mountain

Kenesaw Mountain, two miles and a half North-west of Marietta, is a double hill, the higher peak rising to the height of one thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight feet above the level of the sea. Lost Mountain is directly West from Kenesaw, West of the railroad, between Marietta and Dallas. Between Kennesaw Kenesaw and Lost Mountain, is Piney Mountain, a lesser elevation. The base of Kennesaw Kenesaw is about four miles, from East to West. The physical appearance is varied. Girt by thick forests, whose deep shadows rest upon the plains below, clothed with lofty and magnificent boulders, or, projecting rock, rising abruptly in savage grandeur.

I do not know a more striking example of the power of moral association to elevate and perpetuate the fame and interest of a region naturally sterile or relatively unimportant, than that which is furnished by the case of Kenesaw. How little is interest awakened in the souls of poets, of moralists, of scholars, of artists, by the mention of the mountains of any part of the country. They have no stirring associations, nothing in martial achievement, nothing in moral grandeur, to come home to the heart and wake its musings. How different is Kenesaw Mountain, the very name of which fires the souls of all loyal Americans.

How is this? Marathon as the battle-field of freedom; Iona as the cradle of British Christianity; Runnymede as the scene of the triumph of British patriotism. These are imperishable in their interests, and so is Kenesaw mountain. Amid its bold and rugged scenery, one of the most desperate battles of the war was fought. It was the theatre of a bright and resplendent heroism. If the mountains of Virginia are memorable on account of Grant's splendid battles, what deathless recollections entwine themselves around Kenesaw, on whose slopes many a brave patriot passed to immortal fame, and each spot of which, we may almost say every inch of which has, some idea of vivid and overwhelming interest connected with the personal courage of dauntless men. Go where you will, you tread in their steps. You occupy ground consecrated by their precious blood.


On the day of the 25th, the rebel line was as follows: Their right was stationed in the rear of Brush Mountain, East of Kenesaw. The Federal army occupied a huge semi-circle running parallel with that of the enemy, and was very compactly disposed along the rebel lines, and in such view from Kenesaw, that the houses in Marietta could be counted.

Schofield was on the extreme right of our line, Blair who had joined us at Kingston, with the Seventeenth Corps, on the extreme left, Howard and Palmer were at the centre.

Hood's Corps, twenty thousand, was on the rebel left, Hardee, with the same number of men, was in the centre, and Loring and French, with fifteen thousand, on the right. In addition to these corps, were between thirty and forty thousand conscripts, making the entire rebel force about eighty thousand.


The morning of the 27th, the sun rose beautifully. All was calm and serene; beneath the softened beams of sun-rise, all was tranquility, shedding its soothing influence over the soul, and charming into unison and sympathy with the whole panorama.


The following troops, of Logan's Corps, were furnished as the assaulting force: Lightburn's, Giles A. Smith's, with Walcutt's Brigade, of Harrison's Division, and detachments commanded by General Charles R. Woods, from Osterhaus' Division, all under command of Morgan L. Smith. Lightburn was to carry the Western slope of the hill, Giles A. Smith to charge it from the front, and Walcutt, with the aid of General Woods, to reach the top, through the gorge that separates Little, from Big Kenesaw. Promptly at eight o'clock, these brigades moved out, under the vigilant eye of Logan. A dense growth of underbrush impeded the advance. The rebel skirmish line proving stubborn, the 40th Illinois and 46th Ohio went to the front. The rebels, with a number of guns from Big and Little Kennesaw Kenesaw, maintained a decimating cross-fire as our brave fellows debouched into an open field.

Nothing daunted, the gallant fellows dashed ahead, clearing two lines of abates and palisades, which the rebels had constructed, dislodged the enemy from a line of rifle pits, and planted the flag almost on the summit. It was here, while thus charging them, that the gallant Barnhill was struck by a Minnie ball and killed. The rebels threw at our line massive rocks, stones, and showers of balls; but amid all the tempest, the troops gallantly improvised defenses of logs and rocks. The three brigades lost over five hundred, including officers. General Logan rode up and down his lines, bravely inspiring his men, by his own personal courage and heroism.

Simultaneously with the assault of Logan, the center column moved against the rebel works. The troops engaged in the centre were the Divisions of Davis, Newton, Woods, Baird and Stanley. Davis' two assaulting columns were composed of Colonel John G. Mitchell's and Colonel Dan. McCook's Brigades; forming in column by division, they marched out on the Dallas and Marietta road. General James D. Morgan's Brigade was held in reserve. Major General Newton's Division was formed in three columns; Harker's Brigade forming one, Wagner's, another, Kimball's, a third.

The gallant brigade of Wagner was composed of the 40th Indiana, 57th Indiana, 97th Ohio, 26th Ohio, 100th Illinois and 28th Kentucky; these regiments were formed in column by division. The splendid advance of this brigade was truly magnificent, and to the eye embraced a picture such as falls to the lot of few men to look upon in this age. Immediately a rebel battery opened upon it, enveloping it in a terrible hurricane of missiles. The scene defies all description. The fearful storm of lead and iron could not check, however, the gallantry of some of the men, for a few daring spirits of the 100th Illinois planted their flag a short time over the enemy's ramparts. Bravery could do no more. For one hour, enfiladed by rebel batteries, Wagner's Brigade fought with the greatest spirit and enthusiasm.

Harker's Brigade had the left of Newton's Division, the 125th Ohio, the 51st Illinois and 27th Illinois being the advance regiments. Everything gave way before them. Harker was an unloosed tornado, astride his horse. He rode amid the storm as though he ruled it. Dashing at the head of his fearless brigade, taking off his hat, he waved it, and called upon his braves to follow. Inspirited by the voice of their gifted leader, fifteen dauntless soldiers sprang up and rushed after him. Alas, brave fellows, all of them fell. The men of the brigade never behaved more magnificently. Cool, confident and brave, they fought with glorious energy. Harker, the fearless and high-hearted, was mortally wounded. He was a genial and noble spirit. He had a presentiment of his death. He said to a friend just as he went into the fight: "I shall be killed, send this package home."

Davis' assaulting column was composed of Colonel Dan. McCook's and Mitchell's Brigades. Palmer's Division, of the same Corps, and Division of the Twentieth Corps supported him. McCook's Brigade occupied the left, with the 85th Illinois in advance as skirmishers; while Mitchell's Brigade was on the right with the 36th Illinois. The battle here was perfectly fearful. It was a terribly exciting scene. The contestants engaged each other at short range, and for hours the crash of musketry was incessant. The enemy would bring up fresh columns only to be shattered by the fiery brigades of Davis. Our brave soldiers covered themselves with glory. It was absolutely, in many places, a hand to hand engagement, in its literal sense, in which superhuman energy was displayed in vain against the overwhelming column of the enemy. Colonel McCook fell mortally wounded while leading his men to a charge. He was a gallant soldier and perfect gentleman.

Mitchell's and Kimball's Brigades engaged the enemy, charging with great spirit and determination. The regiments composing these splendid Brigades, dashed against the rebels so rapidly, loading and firing as they went, that the rebels were surprised and discomfited. The assault is said to have been ferocious. Great clouds of yellow dust and blue smoke from the guns and burning woods enveloped the field and struggling combatants, and ascending from the plains settled upon the crest of the hills in festoons of fantastic shape; but deep as was the gloom there were flashing eyes that saw through it all, and followed the path which led to danger and to death. The loss of these brigades was heavy. Ten officers of the 113th Ohio, the advance regiment, were shot down. The gallant Warner lost his right arm. Lieutenant Colonel Shane, of the 98th Ohio, was severely wounded. In this terrible battle no body of troops fought more gallantly, nor won more honor than Kimball's and Mitchell's Brigades.

Simultaneous with this movement in front of the enemy, Schofield and Hooker were engaged on the right, and Dodge and Blair on the left. Hooker made a demonstration on the right of Davis. Butterfield's and Geary's Divisions were in line of battle, the latter gallantly taking an important ridge, where he remained.

Schofield fought and drove the enemy wherever he met him. The Second Division of his Corps advanced within three hundred yards of the rebel fortifications. Hascall lost a hundred men while sustaining a heavy skirmish with the enemy.

Reilly's Brigade, of General Cox's Division, boldly advanced down the Sandtown road, crossing Olley Creek eight miles south of Marietta, taking possession of some works, and drove the rebels. Fifty of the rebel cavalry, commanded by Jackson, were captured by Cox.

In the bloody charge led by General Hooker against Kenesaw, the 27th Illinois regiment was pressing upon the rebel works, and when they approached near them, Michael Delaney, the color bearer, rushed some ten paces forward, ahead of his regiment, and holding aloft the starry banner of his country, shouted to his comrades to follow. Just then a ball struck his left arm, inflicting a flesh wound, fresh from which the blood trickled in profuse currents. Still grasping the flag, and keeping it to the breeze, he drew his revolver, and rushing forward, leaped upon the enemy's works, waving his flag, and firing his pistol upon the foe. Thus standing upon the enemy's works, tearing away the abatis with his left hand, and his colors streaming over his head, two rebels approached him, one on each side, and thrust their bayonets into the sides of the hero martyr. He felt the cold steel pierce to the very quick of his young life, yet he did not falter. With the blood gushing from his wounds, he clasped the flag to his breast, and bore it back in safety to his comrades, calling out: "Boys, save the colors." The noble fellow soon bled to death. Though no "star" or "eagle" decorated his shoulders, he is one of the country's heroes; his name is stamped among theirs, high on the Roll of Honor. Though no sculptured marble may mark the spot of his lonely grave, among the melancholy pines of Northern Georgia, his intrepid bravery entitles him to the homage of the flag he so bravely bore and laid down his life to save.

Among the prisoners whom we took, all nationalities were represented. Some of them were fierce-looking, heavily-bearded cut-throats, while many of them were smooth-faced boys. A majority of them express great satisfaction that they are now prisoners of war, and declare they were conscripted and have no heart to fight. A somewhat matured son of the Emerald Isle, whose head is sprinkled with gray, upon being asked where he was from, promptly replied: "Ireland, by-Jasus! and would to God that I were there to-day."

The Sixteenth Corps, Major-General Dodge, made formidable demonstrations on the enemy's front, doing considerable damage. The following regiments of this Corps, the 9th and 66th Illinois, Colonel Burke of General Sweeney's Division, and the 64th Illinois, of Veatch's Division, constituted the assailing party.

This attack was sustained by an assault in which General Gresham, of Blair's Corps, with the 21st Indiana and 45th Ohio, moved upon the enemy.

Dodge's entire loss was not more than a hundred and fifty men.


General Harker was born in New Jersey, and when the war broke out was a Captain in the Regular Army. For a time he served as Colonel of an Ohio regiment. Ever ready to imperil himself and his fortune for the good of his country, or for the protection of the oppressed, he was always alive to the calls of duty. He had a genial heart for his friends; he had a genial home for them; he was theirs in sunshine and shade, and when you make up the elements of a true man, you need go no further than his character. There was no pretence, no disguise about him; he was a modest, high toned, chivalric gentleman, cast in the mould of honor. He had a bright dawn, the star of his early days culminating in splendor. The graces of his mind and manner modified the natural rudeness of camp life, and in the absence of less exciting topics, the stores of his beautifully enriched and well governed mind, often served to recreate and instruct. A contemplative student in arms, he brought a heart full of exquisite sympathies and harmonies into the rough and fierce scenes of warfare; and with this a mature nature, which, whilst it even refused to take delight, or much less acquiesce in what was boisterous, vulgar, ungenerous or the least untruthful, was ever prompt with its recognition and worship of whatever is good, though it might have been obscure, and what was sterling, though it might have been neither brilliant or cultured. Would that I could this evening, in this superb Summer, strew his grave with the purple flowers which Anchises dedicated in the Elysian fields to the young Marcellus, and that these flowers remained of perpetual bloom and fragrance.

"Farewell gallant Harker! Thou art clothed in light;
God speed thee to Heaven, lost star of our night."

The huge stories about immense losses to Sherman which would compel him to fall back, which were so industriously circulated by the rebel Generals and their sympathizers in the North, were cut suddenly short by Sherman's order for an advance movement towards Atlanta, on the day succeeding the repulse. The retreat of Johnston from Kenesaw Mountain and Marietta evinces that although he repulsed Sherman on the 27th, he was in no condition to continue his resistance. It does not appear probable that the rebel commander will risk another fight short of the Chattahoochie. And Sherman's movements to the Nickajack and Sandtown, indicates that it is his intention to get to the South side of that stream as soon as his adversary.

The mouth of the Nickajack is eight, and Sandtown, ten, miles from Atlanta--the latter being directly West of that place. This indicates that Sherman is determined to drive his antagonist towards Decatur, on the Augusta Railroad. The town of Marietta is an important one. It is not only a handsome place, but it is a great manufacturing town. Nearly all the paper used in the Gulf States is manufactured at the mills at this place. Before the war a great amount of business was done here; it was the first place on the railroad beyond the mountain region of North Georgia, and consequently was a great resort for the mountaineers.


During the first day's skirmish on our right, two soldiers, one from Ohio, the other from Texas, posted themselves each behind a tree, and indulged in sundry shots, without effect on either side, at the same time keeping up a lively chat. Finally that getting a little tedious, Texas calls out to Ohio: "Give me a show," meaning, step out and give me an opportunity to hit, Ohio, in response, pokes out his head a few inches and Texas cracks away and misses. "Too high," says Ohio. "Now give me a show." Texas pokes out his head and Ohio blazes away. "Too low," sings Texas. In this way the two alternated several times without hitting. Finally Ohio sends a ball so as to graze the tree within an inch or two of the ear of Texas. "Cease firing," shouts Texas. "Look here" says one, "we have carried on this business for one day, 'spose we adjourn for rations." "Agreed," says the other. And so the two marched away in different directions, one whistling "Yankee Doodle," the other "Dixie."

General Sherman despised, or affected to despise, the newspaper reporters. The news which their correspondence was liable to give to the enemy, although of the deepest and most profound interest to the country, the same intelligence might reach the enemy, when it is of infinite moment to keep them in ignorance of the movements and disposition of our troops. Another reason assigned for Sherman's hostility to the Press, was the merciless criticism of the newspapers on his celebrated declaration, that it would take two hundred thousand soldiers to drive the rebels out of Kentucky. Subsequent results proved that this calculation was founded in correct judgment. profound forethought and the purest patriotism. Sherman had a righteous horror for a set of itinerant, flattering, spongy sycophants, who made it their business to inflate brainless staff officers, while the field and line officers, with the brave rank and file are seldom heard of outside of their commands.

Sherman found a safety-valve for his wrath against the correspondents, by issuing the following order:"

Kingston, Ga., May 20, 1864.

Inasmuch, as an impression is afloat, that the Commanding General has prohibited the mails to and from the army, he takes this method of assuring all officers and men, on the contrary, that, he encourages them by his influence and authority to keep up the most unreserved correspondence with their families and friends. All Chaplains. Staff Officers, Captains of companies, should assist the soldiers in communicating with their families. What the Commanding General does discourage is the existence of that class of men who will not take up a musket and fight, but who follow our army to pick up news for sale, and who are more used to bolster up idle and worthless officers, than to notice the hard working and meritorious, whose modesty is equal to their courage, and who scorn to seek the flattery of the Press.
W. T. Sherman,
Maj. Gen.

Marietta was formerly a splendid city, distinguished by the grandeur and magnificence of its architecture, and the wealth and splendor of its inhabitants. The chivalry had a famous military school here, which is a grand structure. Its halls once resounded with joy, and reflected all the pomp of Southern aristocracy; but, both have alike departed. A son of the Methodist Bishop Capers, was the President of the Institution when our troops took possession of the place. The town is now desolation.

Our forces are no more entangled in hills; aside from the banks of the Chattahoochie, which are not very high, the whole country is either a plain or gently undulating. The Chattahoochie river takes its rise in the Blue Ridge. It flows in a South-westerly direction, uniting with Flint river, and thus forming the Appalachicola. It is small and muddy, rushing through regions which are often unrelieved by verdure or fertility. It floats no wealth on its bosom; it rolls not amid enchanting and unbroken loveliness, or overwhelming sublimity. It is distinguished by nothing magnificent, either in itself or the scenery amid which it wanders.

The name of the lion-hearted Dan. McCook, is one which should not be forgotten in the list of the heroes who fell on bloody Kenesaw. He was the hero of many battles and skirmishes. He was distinguished for decision, grand soldierly bearing, and glorious courage. It is said that he was on the enemy's works, calling and beckoning to his fiery brigade, when he was torn to pieces by the bullets he had so splendidly defied.

Conspicuous in the charge was the scholarly and heroic Clason, of the 121st Ohio, who was killed while gallantly leading his splendid company of Ohioans. He advanced within a few yards of the rebels, firing at them with a deadly aim; but so deadly and thick were their cross-fires, that he and many of his brave associates were stricken down and killed.

Among all the daring spirits in that fighting brigade of Mitchell's, no one was more fearless than Captain Neighborn, of the 52d Ohio. His was no doubting or hesitating courage. Having from the first, made up his mind what course to pursue, what was the goal to be won, he bent all his energies to that one object. In the bivouac, and on the march, in the charge and deadly conflict, so lively and hopeful was his enthusiasm, that it reminded one forcibly of the song of the Cavalier: 

Then mount! Then mount, brave gallants all,
And don your helmets amain,
Death's couriers Fame and Honor call
Us to the field again.
Let piping swain and craven wight,
Thus weep, and puling, cry,
Our business is like men to fight,
And hero-like to die.

And Captain Neighborn did die--died where the brave love to die-mortally wounded in a charge at the head of his company, and in the arms of victory.

The brave and noble Yeager, Major of the 121st Ohio, was also killed. The last sounds that he heard, were the jubilant shouts of his victorious comrades; the last ray of light that flickered on his expiring gaze, showed him the hosts of the hated foe, gradually yielding. In no more fitting place, with no more glorious associations, from no more sacred altar, could an ardent, patriotic spirit take its flight.

Among the brave men whose blood was poured out on the slaughter field of Kenesaw was one whose dying words will long be remembered by his comrades in arms. Colonel McShane, of the 98th Ohio, who fell near the breast-works of the enemy, died, exclaiming: "Turn my face to the foe." Peace to his ashes. If the country ever forgets such heroes, her name should perish. The courageous Harmon and Barnhill, of Illinois--they died in the blaze of battle. In their lives they gave evidence of their faith in, and in their glorious death they illustrated the truth of the beautiful maxim Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. It is sweet and glorious to die for one's country. The undistinguished braves who leaped into the deadly breach, and dying made no sign--their beautiful memories will always be green. The blood shed, the lives that they gave, were just as noble and valuable, as the greatest General in the land, worthy of a nation's gratitude and a nation's tears alike.

The following is an estimate of our losses:

The brigades of Harker, Mitchell and McCook, 420 each. 420 each.
Total 1,260
Wagner and Kimball's Brigades, 250 each 500
The three brigades of Logan's Corps, 500
Dodge's, those portions of it engaged 150
General Blair's Corps 150
General Schofield's Corps 200
Hooker's Corps 50

Making a grand total of three thousand eight hundred and ten.

These estimates are correct. As the rebels fought behind fortifications, their killed and wounded would not be more than one-third of ours. Including the prisoners, the entire rebel loss will number 2,500.