From the top of Kennesaw Mountain, the Confederates could easily observe the movements of the Union Army. In a report to General Grant, General Sherman noted that “the whole country is one vast fort, Johnston must have at least fifty miles of connected trenches with abatis and finished batteries.” Sherman goes on to note that fighting is going on all the time and Union and Confederate lines are in “close contact and the fighting incessant, with a good deal of artillery. As fast as we gain one position the enemy has another all ready.” Sherman closes his report by noting that Kennesaw “is the key to the whole country.”
On June 27, 1864, General Sherman decided to break the stalemate by directly attacking Confederate positions on Kennesaw Mountain. The assaults cost the Union army about 3,000 casualties and the Confederates about 1,000. Most of the heavy fighting occurred on June 27. On July 2, Sherman sent part of his army around the Confederate left, forcing Johnston to fall back to a previously prepared position where he could again block Sherman’s path to Atlanta.
At Kennesaw, General Sherman again learned the cost of directly assaulting an enemy behind earthworks. General Johnston learned that earthworks can delay, but not defeat a determined enemy with the ability to maneuver. As the Atlanta campaign moved farther south, it became a chess match of offensive and defensive maneuver. Sherman had the greater numbers and was mobile. He managed to out-flank or threaten each of Johnston’s defensive positions. Johnston, despite being outnumbered, was able to keep his army together and positioned between the Union army and Atlanta.
One thing is evident from the Atlanta campaign, General Sherman was a genius in logistics as he moved reinforcements and supplies forward over great distances in hostile territory against a skilled opponent, even though his objective (Atlanta) was known and he was dependent on one railroad to move men and supplies. Throughout the war, the North had greater resources in supplies and men than the South. Sherman’s organizational ability brought those resources together in the Atlanta campaign.