Book Review: Kennesaw Mountain: Sherman, Johnston, and the Atlanta Campaign


by Earl J. Hess

Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2013. Pp. xviii, 322. Illus., maps, diagr., appends., notes, biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN: 1469602113

The case for Joe Johnston's Stand at Kennesaw Mountain

In this work, Prof. Hess (Lincoln Memorial University) argues effectively that Joe Johnston’s stand at Kennesaw Mountain in June - July 1864 “might have been the Confederates’ best chance to halt the Federal drive toward Atlanta.”  Hess opens with a concise introductory chapter covering events from early May through mid-June.  This is followed by a chapter on the opening clash in the Battle of Kolb’s Farm (June 22), which Hess views as critical in shaping all subsequent events.  In the seven chapters that follow, he examines the events that culminated in Sherman’s ouster, at considerable cost, of Johnston’s army from its positions though a combination of fighting and maneuver by the end of June 27th.  Despite Sherman’s heavier casualties (c. 3,000 to c. 1,000), Hess views the battle as Union strategic victory, albeit a tactical defeat,

Hess examines the thought processes of both generals to help explain their decisions during these operations, the condition of their troops, which was generally good on both sides, and then discusses how the events shaped subsequent developments in the theatre.  As he does so, Hess often gives us interesting little portraits of some of the men involved, and a number of very good battle pieces.  He ends the work with a look at what can be learned by an examination of the current state of the battle site. 

A volume in the UNC Press series “Civil War America,” Kennesaw Mountain makes a valuable contribution to the history of the war in the West and will also be of use to anyone interested in the problem of generalship in the Civil War.

Note: Kennesaw Mountain is also available as an e-book, ISBN 978-1-4696-0212-7

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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