previous next

[225] as soon as possible, will be able to appreciate fully the worthy self-denial spoken of above.

The assault on Kenesaw.

Sherman's operations in Georgia, Atlantaward, have just been marked by one of those desperate assaults upon the enemy in an intrenched position, which have been tried so often by both armies, and with such uniform bad success. This one was short, sharp, and bitter, and so far as the objects to be attained were concerned, an unbroken failure. Ten brigades formed into storming columns, assaulted and were repulsed, leaving two thousand men hors de combat. Several of the brigades fell back to their works, close at hand, occupied in the morning; the majority retired but a short distance and fortified a line in advance of all others. All displayed supreme gallantry and struggled after struggling was hopeless, and then accepted failure, as all good soldiers do, without loss of determination or cheerfulness.

While the lessons of this war seem to render the expediency of storming heavy earthworks doubtful under all circumstances, there are periods reached in active operations, where the advantages to be gained may well counterbalance the scruples of the most cautious General, or one as careful of the lives of his men as Sherman has proven. It would have been the delirium of folly to assault the works of Johnston previous to the time his lines were enveloped as they now are, for if we had been fortunate enough to secure the slender chance of success, our mangled army would have been confronted by another chain of earthworks equally strong. The guerdon of Malakoff and its sister forts, was Sebastopol; we should only have gained a scarred and narrow belt of forest and field in a Southern wilderness. But we had pushed Johnston from several heavy parallels by the mighty momentum of our army. Long lines of his fortifications, guarded by the science of the engineer against enfilading, were enfiladed and gained. Cross-fires robbed them of the bold hill where their centre first confronted us near Kenesaw. The weight of our army on the left gave us a high mountain on the right. Their flanks were pushed back until Kenesaw Mountain became the apex of their lines, forming almost a right angle. Marietta, in the rear of their centre two or three miles, was threatened from the west and south by our right. Johnston, already constricted, could yield no more ground without placing his centre in deadly peril, and as he seems determined to hold his present position in spite of the dangers which the present circumscribed disposition of his forces entails, he erected the heaviest works we have yet encountered, and settled himself down to see how we would unravel the toils. That his' position was cramped before the assault of the twenty-seventh (and became even more so through that, since on some portions of the line we advanced our trenches), his occasional assaults to retake commanding positions clearly evince.

For two or three days preceding the assault, but little firing occurred along the lines. We had forced our way some distance up the eastern slope of Kenesaw. and reached its northern and eastern bases. The rebel wings, posted on advantageous ridges, behind heavy works, with frequent lunettes, and almost impracticable abatis, were closely invested by ours, in trenches quite equal to any attack the enemy could make. The salients of the hostile works were within a few hundred yards of each other in some places, and at such points no skirmisher could advance from his parapet without being pinned, as long as daylight lasted, to the tree or rock behind which he sought refuge. At such a juncture, when the opposing lines confront each other so closely, an advance of any kind must take the shape of an assault. It was necessary, if we wished to advance further directly in front, to pierce the enemy's fortifications at some point, hold it and by enfilading adjacent works, or imperilling some portion of his lines, compel him to retreat, or assault in return for its recapture. As to the practicability of flank movements, that is a question still undecided; and one upon which any speculations would be foolish or harmful — absurd if bungling and on false premises; and dangerous if built upon correct grounds and sanctioned by the conditions of military success.

The assault of the twenty-seventh was intended to cripple Johnston beyond the hope of recovery; and his complete destruction, if it succeeded, was not impossible. If the assault made by the Fourth and Fourteenth corps had succeeded, the troops comprising the centre of the enemy at Kenesaw Mountain would have been cut off from retreat; and a position obtained in the midst of the rebel lines must have wrought fatal confusion among them, and enforced a retreat which a vigorous pursuit would have rendered an overwhelming disaster. If Logan's brigades had carried Little Kenesaw, the precipitate withdrawal of Johnston beyond the Chattahoochee was equally well assured; for, from that knob, Marietta and miles of the rebel intrenchments would be at the mercy of our guns. Such could be the result of a successful assault; and I fancy, few men of military propensities will deny that the game was worth the candle.

Our army was very compactly disposed along the rebel lines, and in such plain view from the towering Kenesaw, that I have a higher regard for the discipline of the rebel gunners since they refrained for so many days from tearing the tompions from the muzzles of their guns, and, in spite of orders, firing every round they could lay hands on. For two or three days however, preceding the assault, they opened from the crest of the mountain with eight guns, hurling grape and shrapnel in the valley below, filled with our army and its material.

Quiet, pastoral Kenesaw was transformed into

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Joe Johnston (5)
W. T. Sherman (2)
John A. Logan (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: