Near Kennesaw Mountain June 22, 1864 Estimated casualties: 1350 (Union: 350, Confederates 1,000)
From the beginning of the Atlanta campaign, Lieutenant General Joseph E. Johnston faced in reality, two adversaries. The first adversary was Union General William Tecumseh Sherman who had over twice the amount of troops that Johnston had under his command. The second adversary was one of his own corps commanders, John Bell Hood.
Johnston, knowing Sherman's strength and his tactics, preferred to delay Sherman rather than to confront him with a headlong assault that surely would result with heavy casualties. Hood, up to the time of his transfer to the West, was influenced by the teachings of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. He did not believe in delay tactics. He did not believe in entrenchments. His school of thought was, you can win if you attack continuously, no matter what the cost may be. During The Atlanta Campaign, he continuously wrote Braxton Bragg and Jefferson Davis without Johnston knowing, complaining about Johnston's tactics. Yet several times during the campaign, Hood procrastinated in obeying Johnston's orders to attack. In fact, his behavior at times was close to being insubordinate. Johnston on the other hand, believed in entrenching, delaying, and only attacking when the advantage was definitely his. He believed that real estate could be lost and retaken later, but that when a soldier dies, he cannot be brought back to life to fight again. Lee's campaign in Virginia started around the same time that the Atlanta Campaign started. Lee in a three month campaign, lost no less than forty thousand men, while during the same period of time, Johnston lost about ten thousand killed and wounded, while inflicting twice that number of casualties on the enemy.
Johnston, in his wisdom, seemed to be reading Sherman's mind. Sherman thought that Johnston's weak point was his left flank, as long as Johnston acted on the defensive. However, Sherman also thought that if he weakened part of his line for the purpose of obtaining additional troops to attack the Union lines would be wise on Johnston's part, and presumed that was Johnston's object. Also, Sherman was concerned about the ability to receive supplies and to protect the railroad and the depots, thus he had McPherson's Army of the Tennessee strengthen his left flank, all the way across Noonday Creek whereas his right flank extended across Nose's Creek. For nineteen days, the area received rain, yet Sherman was determined to press on with his operations. Early in the morning of the 22nd of June, Sherman rode the extent of his lines. He ordered Thomas to advance his extreme right corps, Hooker's 20th Corps, and instructed Schofield to keep his 23rd Corps as a strong right flank in support of Hooker's deployed line.
Following Johnston's instructions, on the 20th of June, Hood had Stevenson's Division march east to the extreme left of the army and was to be held in reserve; about three miles from Marietta. They camped near the Powder Springs Road and for two days, although they could hear the cannonading and fighting to the northwest, they were able to enjoy two days rest, despite the rain. Hood also had Hindman's Division march and were placed to Stevenson's right.
On the 22nd of June, Hood received word that the Union forces were driving back Confederate cavalry and decided to attack. Hood assumed that Sherman's forces would be the strongest on his center and left flank, and that only part of Schofield's corps would be on his right. Without informing Johnston of his plans; without knowing the enemy's strength or position, blinded by eagerness and once again following the school of thought of Lee and Jackson, ordered his troops forward. His plan, it is assumed, was to turn Sherman's weak right flank, and circle behind Sherman, thus having Johnston's other two corps on Sherman's front, and he, with his corps at the rear, trapping Sherman.
If Hood had the information sent to the headquarters of Jackson's Calvary Division by Brigadier General Ross of Ross's Cavalry Brigade at 3:30 P.M., he might have not been so hasty in advancing to attack. He stated in his communiqué, "My impression is that there is a considerable force of infantry advancing in my front, but I have not yet felt them, and have no means of judging except from the statements of the colonel commanding force from Humes' division, who was driven from Cheney's before I came out. Two regiments Federal cavalry have moved past my position on the road from Cheney's to Powder Springs. I gave notice of their move to General Armstrong, and have just received a courier informing me that he is moving to meet them. If he attacks vigorously on that road we shall compel the force at Cheney's to develop itself. Their skirmish line is slowly and cautiously advancing upon my position."
In a later communiqué, Ross informed Jackson's headquarters the following, "You (made a) mistake when you suppose(d) the force here to be cavalry; it is infantry. Three regiments of cavalry passed toward the bridge on the Powder Springs road, but did not halt here."
Even with all this information, Stevenson ordered Brown's Brigade commanded by Colonel Edward Cook of the 32nd Tennessee and supported by Reynold's Brigade commanded by Colonel R. C. Trigg to move southeast from Powder Springs Road towards Kolb's Farm. At the same time, Cumming's Georgia Brigade commanded by Colonel E. P. Watkins of the 56th Georgia. (Cumming's Brigade consisted of four Georgia regiments, the 34th, 36th, 39th, and the 56th), supported by Pettus' Brigade with Colonel C. M. Shelly commanding, moved southeast from the south side of the Powder Springs Road towards Kolb's Farm. (Kulp's Farm in Union Dispatches)
Upon reaching the farm house area they came head to head with two Union regiments, the 14th Kentucky of Hascall's Brigade of Schofield's Army of the Ohio and the 123rd New York of Williams 1st Division of Hooker's XXth Corps. Heavy fighting ensued, both by musketry and Federal cannonading. Cumming's and Pettus' Brigades were repulsed from the massive firepower of the Federals. Hood ordered them to re-form and attack again. They were again repulsed with heavy losses, but he rallied them and ordered them forward yet again, with the same result. The ground that these two brigades had moved over and fought on, was in reality a quagmire of mud from the rain it had received the two previous weeks. Footing was difficult; movement of trains and batteries, a near impossibility in their march to the farmhouse.
The two left brigades, Brown's and Reynold's, were a little luckier. They fought primarily against the 123rd New York a little north of Powder Springs Road. Here they had dense undergrowth and footing was a little better. They were successful in driving the enemy in confusion and disorder through the woods.
Darkness finally ended what became known as the Battle of Kolb's Farm with Brown's and Reynold's Brigades laying in a swampy ravine, and Cumming's and Pettus's Brigades holding the road to the left.
Hood claimed a victory in driving back the Union troops to their reserve line and was on the verge of routing Hooker's whole corps, and was only stopped by darkness and the arrival of Federal reinforcements. The fact is, the Confederate forces only opposed and drove back two Union regiments to their main line. Confederate losses were in excess of 1000 men, with Stevenson's Division alone losing 870 men. The Federals suffered losses of only 350.
In the words of Lieutenant General Joseph E. Johnston about Hood and the Battle of Kolb's Farm, "Hood had his moment of glory and reclaimed his reputation as an aggressive commander, but at a cost the Confederacy could ill afford."
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