We flew out on the red eye from Seattle on Thursday, June 7, and arrived at the Atlanta airport about 6:50 am on Friday, June 8. The flight was smooth and completely uneventful, and we were both able to get some sleep. Jon had taken a couple of Xanax that his doctor prescribed because he is nervous about flying, and when we got off the plane, he was like a zombie. Walking… really… slow… It was a little bit annoying actually, because I was ready to start our vacation and get our tourist on! We got Jon a tea to wake up and went and picked up our rental car. We got a Dodge Avenger – I’ve never driven one of those before – kind of sporty! At this point, Jon thought he was ok to drive. Um… NO!
I got behind the wheel and we headed out and plugged our first destination into the GPS – Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. Along the way, we got some breakfast at one of my favorite chain restaurants on the road – Cracker Barrel. Jon had his first taste of grits, and I had some of their delicious baked apples.
Kennesaw Mountain is 20 miles from Atlanta and was the last big mountain (more like a hill for us West coast natives) that the Union had to either assault or go around in order to capture Atlanta. General Sherman tried to outflank the Confederates and maneuver around the mountain first. When that didn’t work, he planned a direct assault up the mountain, with his 100,000 men against the Confederates 50,000. Due to the Confederates dug in position at the top of the mountain, the assault meant heavy casualties for Sherman, 3,000 casualties to the Confederates 1,000. After the direct assault didn’t work, Sherman moved around the mountain and got the Confederates to engage on the route to Atlanta.
Even though the battle took place on June 27, 1864, Atlanta wasn’t captured until September 2, so clearly the Confederates still had plenty of fighting left in them. We hiked up the mountain (hill) and pondered the horror of what happened there (at least I pondered – I think Jon was mostly wondering why I was going so slowly – he had woken up by now!). It is a very peaceful place now. The hike was about a mile up to the top of the hill, but it felt longer because it was steep and humid. I can’t imagine trying to climb up under cannon and rifle fire! It is interesting to see the photos of the battlefield online and see how different it looks now, with the trees grown back and the ravaged land healed.
The Visitor’s Center has a great 20 minute movie on the battle, which I hadn’t studied much prior to our trip. It was very informative, and had historical photos and quotes from soldier’s intermixed with the narrative. There is also a small museum documenting the battle and the players involved, and showing some of the artifacts that have been recovered from the battlefield. One thing I thought was really interesting was a section of a tree with several cannonballs embedded in it! Plus I got a stamp for my National Parks Passport. I know it’s kind of nerdy, but I got a passport that the National Park Service sells, where you can get a stamp at each National Park and National Historic Site that you visit. A neat souvenir of our travels! I got my passport a couple of years ago, so I didn’t have any Southeast stamps yet. Until now!
From the top of the hill, you can see Atlanta in the distance, and imagine what the soldiers went through, fighting battle after battle in an attempt to make it to Atlanta, 20 miles away. It gives me an appreciation for how easy things are for us now, as we walked back down the hill.
After our Civil War foray, we drove a short distance away to the Etowah Indian Mounds for a step further back in history.