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Jun. 27: Fire breaks out on Cheatham Hill

Confederates won the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia.
Confederates won the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia.
Image by Zik Armstrong

Here’s what happened.

The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain on June 27, 1864 was an important episode in the Atlanta Campaign during the USA’s Civil War. It ended with the heroic evacuation of Cheatham Hill.

Here’s why it matters.

After victory in Chattanooga, Union forces commanded by General William Tecumseh Sherman marched into Georgia with the goals of capturing Atlanta and Savannah. Sherman maintained a strategic advantage against the Confederate forces under General Joseph Eggleston Johnston by outflanking them and forcing them farther south. Sherman also gained a brief morale advantage after his cannons killed a beloved Confederate general, Leonidas Polk.

But on June 27, Sherman abandoned the flanking approaches. He ordered heavy cannon bombardment of Confederate entrenched positions and then direct infantry assaults on them at Pigeon Hill and Cheatham Hill.

The scene was tragically reminiscent of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, except on hilly ground. But this time, it was Union troops retreating with enormous casualties. Confederate rifles actually set trees on Cheatham Hill ablaze. Sources like this one report that Lieutenant Colonel William H. Martin from Arkansas ordered fighting to stop. For a brief period, Blue and Gray worked together to move wounded soldiers down the hill so they wouldn’t be burned alive.

Here’s an interesting fact!

Sherman returned to his flanking strategy. Ultimately, Atlanta and Savannah fell. Johnston surrendered to Sherman in North Carolina on April 26, 1965. Perhaps Sherman was remembering the incident at Cheatham Hill when he offered Johnston’s vanquished troops ten days’ worth of rations.