Located in Cobb County, Georgia between the towns of Marietta and Kennesaw, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park commemorates the site of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, a seminal 1864 battle of the American Civil War. Prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America, the Cobb County area was the traditional home of the Cherokee indigenous people, who occupied a wide area of territory in the Southeastern United States until their forced removal in the mid 19th century.
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The area’s name is taken from the Cherokee word gah-nee-sah, which translates to “cemetery” or “burial ground,” as the Kennesaw Mountain area was traditionally used as a burial ground by mound builder indigenous peoples. Cobb County was established in December of 1832 and quickly became a diverse community of white merchants, farmers, and free and enslaved African-American populations.
On June 27, 1864, Kennesaw Mountain was the site of a major battle of the American Civil War. As part of the Atlanta Campaign, the battle was the largest frontal assault commanded by General William Tecumseh Sherman and the Union Army, fought against Confederate soldiers under the command of General Joseph E. Johnston. 100,000 soldiers armed with 254 cannons and 35,000 horses fought under Sherman’s command, armed against a Confederate force of 50,000 soldiers. Though the battle is named for Kennesaw Mountain, most of the fighting took place on the nearby Pigeon Hill spur of Little Kennesaw Mountain and the surrounding Cheatham Hill area. More than 5,350 soldiers were lost during the battle, which ended in an immediate victory for the Confederacy, although its outcome was of overall benefit to the Union, who continued to advance toward Atlanta under Sherman’s command.
In 1917, the battle site was established as a National Battlefield Site under the supervision of the United States War Department. Care of the battlefield site was transferred to the National Park Service in 1935, and in 1966, the site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Permanent Attractions and Exhibits
Today, the National Battlefield Park preserves 2,923 acres, focusing on three major battlefield areas near Kennesaw Mountain. A Visitor Center at the entrance to the park shows an 18-minute orientation film about the events of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain and features a small museum with exhibits on the area’s cultural and military history, including preserved Civil War uniforms and weapons. A bookstore inside the Center sells books, gifts, and memorabilia related to Civil War topics. Brochures for self-guided tours are provided at the Center’s information desk, and a shuttle bus providing service to the top of Kennesaw Mountain embarks from the Center on weekends. Visitors may also hike to the top of the mountain’s 664-foot elevation from the Visitor Center along a 1.4-mile road.
The park is divided into three battlefield areas, located near the Visitor Center, off of Burnt Hickory Road, and at the Dead Angle area near Cheatham Hill. 17.3 miles of hiking trails are contained within the park, with displays commemorating cannon emplacements and other battle remnants. Three monuments throughout the park commemorate soldiers from Illinois, Georgia, and Texas who fought during the battle, and a farmhouse that once belonged to Peter Valentine Kolb, the site of a minor battle during the campaign, has been restored to its original Civil War appearance and may be explored.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Field trips of the National Battlefield Park are offered for elementary and secondary students and tailored to national curriculum standards. Self-guided tour opportunities are available throughout the week, with docent-led guided tours offered on Wednesdays through Fridays throughout the school year. Tour programs focus on battle events and cultural topics, including the impact of the Civil War on Georgia’s children. A traveling trunk program allows educators to bring historical materials related to the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain directly into the classroom, and a Junior Civil War Historian program offers young park visitors a chance to earn badges in exchange for completion of educational activities.
A number of public special events are held at the park throughout the year, including living history cannon firing and artillery demonstrations. Educational events are held as part of the Every Kid in a Park program, focusing on Civil-War-era culture and industry topics. Free Butterfly Walks are presented at the park by the Georgia Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association, offering opportunities to see migrating giant swallowtail and monarch butterflies. Monthly volunteer park cleanup days are hosted by the Kennesaw Mountain Trail Club Work Day, and rotating special exhibits are presented periodically at the Visitor Center’s museum.
900 Kennesaw Mountain Dr, Kennesaw, GA 30188, Phone: 770-427-4686