Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cheatham Hill Walk

In my post of 20-May 2009, regarding the Pickett’s Mill Battlefield site, I explained that after all the years of living close to historical sites we decided to explore those in our neighborhood. Some of the blogs I read are located close to the beach, or beautiful gardens or lakes, or vibrant cities, but we live surrounded by Civil War history – or as it is called in the South, the War between the States. Just down our road is Kennesaw National Battlefield Park with 2,882 acres and 16 miles of hiking trails. On the main road to town, a bit south of us, is another historical site called Cheatham Hill. I drove by the side of it every day for decades coming back from work and finally last June my husband and I decided to walk the trails where a fierce battle took place.

I drove in front of this clearing for years –

We first drove to Kolb’s Farm, about 2 miles south of Cheatham Hill, where on 22 June 1864 a costly Confederate attack stopped the Union army (the Union army lost 350 men and the Confederates 1,000.) This farm house was built by Peter Valentine Kolb in 1836. In 1964 the National Park Service restored it to its 1864 condition. This farm house cannot be visited, but there are interpretative markers near the graves of the Kolb family. (Click on photos to enlarge them.)

We drove back and parked close to the Cheatham Hill trails. Here on 27 June 1864 a terrible battle took place when General Sherman decided to change his tactics and made a direct assault on General Johnston’s line. If this assault had been successful it would have resulted in a great victory.

We started walking down the trail –

We kept walking down to a creek, then the trail started to climb up toward a wooded ridge and hill top where the Confederate troops had been dug in. This was a formidable position with solid earthworks of banked dirt.

General Sherman had decided to send 8000 soldiers up this hill toward two of General Johnston’s finest commanders. Defending this sector where two of the toughest Rebels in the whole Confederacy, Maj. Gens. Patrick R. Cleburne and Benjamin F. Cheatham. Originally a farmer, Cheatham was a very capable commander in the Confederate Army of Tennessee. He was a hard-fighting, hard-swearing and hard-drinking leader who inspired his tough Tennesseans. The hill where this assault took place would later be known as Cheatham Hill.

Portrait of Benjamin F. Cheatham (1820-1886.)

One of the Union brigades planned to assault the Confederate stronghold was the 52nd Ohio headed by Colonel Daniel McCook. To inspire his men before the attack, he calmly began to recite verses from Thomas Macauley’s 1842 poem on the Roman warrior Horatius as he faced a battle:

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late,
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods.

We arrived upon an open field and walked up the ridge which is where the bloody battle took place. An interpretative marker explains this battle – the blue designates the Union troops and the red the Confederates. (Click on pictures to enlarge them.)

Wave after wave of Union troops charged the hill and were repulsed by the Confederate defenders. Cannons which had been masked by them started to fire at point-blank range breaking line after line of the assault. William J. Worsham of the 19th Tennessee related: “The cannons bellowed like so many mad bulls, sent shot and shell plowing the ground, scattering rocks, dirt and everything moveable, cutting down trees and felling limbs…The air was so full of sulphurous smoke we could not see, and the roar of musketry so continuous we could not distinguish our guns…” Later both sides would refer to this entrenchment as “The Dead Angle.”

Union Col. Dan McCook slashing his dress sword at Confederates trying to bayonet him bellowed “Forward the Flag!” but a few seconds later was felled with a bullet in his chest. Another Union commander, Brig. Gen. Charles J. Harker fell from his horse, mortally wounded. Here are the two markers on these men.

As we came closer to the hill, we saw a small tunnel. It has been dug feverishly by the Union men with sticks, sword points, bayonets and even tin cups and plates. They were trying to tunnel under the Confederates’ position intending to blow it up.

As the Union troops disengaged and headed toward the rear they left many dead and injured men. A fire started in the woods and threatened to burn alive the many wounded. A Confederate colonel, Arkansas Lt. Col. William Martin shouted for his regiment to stop fighting and the two enemies, side by side, went out to drag their wounded and dead out of the fire. See the marker below.

The Confederate Army had won the battle of Cheatham Hill. There were 3,000 Union soldiers’ casualties and 800 Confederates in addition to uncounted wounded men. We continued up the hill and came upon a large monument. On 27 June 1914, Union veterans and the State of Illinois had unveiled a marble statue in observance of the 50th anniversary of the battle. The unveiling was attended by the Governor of Illinois and many survivors of the battle.

This morning I drove back to Cheatham Hill but entered from the main road entrance.

I discovered two more cannons which I have never seen from the road. They were silent with flowers growing next to them.

The area was peaceful with no one around – or was no one around?

There have been many reports of psychic phenomena as well as ghost sightings and unusual sounds close to the battlefield area. I walked to the monument. Everything was quiet. Then I went down the trail for a while and sat on a bench to reflect. Then I left.


claude said...

Que ce post est intéressant !
Une rude bataille comme il y en a eu beaucoup au cours de cette guerre que je nommerais de stupide, mais est-ce que toute les guerres ne le sont elles pas.
L'autre jour on a vu à la télé le film Glory.
L'année dernière nous sommes aller livrer des meubles (oui mon Chéri est ébéniste - voir dans mes liens le blog du boulot) dans le nord, près de Lille et en avons profité pour aller à Laon chez un copain d'armée de mon Chéri. NOus avons fait aussi un pélerinage sur le Chemin des Dames, haut lieu d'une grande bataille durant la première guerre mondiale.

Friko said...

Very interesting and extremely well researched and written. Through you I am learning a lot about a war and a period in the American history of which I knew little before.
Could you say if there are still remnants of the old enmity between the states to be found today?

Darlene said...

So much blood spilled in such a beautiful setting. The Civil War was the most tragic one in our history.

Great post; very well done.

DJan said...

I look forward to discovering more about my country's history through your insightful and well researched posts. I also wonder about psychic phenomena. So many souls were wrenched out of their bodies too soon: what might be left behind? Thank you for sharing this with me. I am grateful.

Ruth said...

Yes, even before you talked about ghosts, it was feeling eerie, looking at those fields and woods, thinking about the battles.

I was hearing James Taylor's song "Belfast to Boston" in my head while I read your excellent post.

"There are rifles buried in the countryside by the rising of the moon
May they lie there long forgotten till they rust away into the ground
Who will bend this ancient hatred, will the killing to an end
Who will swallow long injustice, take the devil for a country man
Who will say "this far no further, oh lord, if I die today"

Send no weapons no more money. Send no vengeance across the seas
Just the blessing of forgiveness for my new countryman and me

Missing brothers, martyred fellows, silent children in the ground
Could we but hear them could they not tell us
"Time to lay God's rifle down"

Who will say this far no further, oh Lord, if I die today."

dot said...

Nice post! I've seen some of those markers. My favorite place to go in your area is Kennesaw Mountain.

Marguerite said...

Being a history buff, I really appreciated this post. I enjoyed your excellent tour of this historical site and your photos were fabulous, as usual. Have a great weekend!

BJM said...

Yes, these places often have an atmosphere about them.

Ratty said...

How interesting it must be to walk through such a historic site. There are places like that here, but they have been left to ruin. I do love reading your account of this old battle. It's better than the history books that I used to read in school, and I am a person that actually liked reading them.

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Bonjour Vagabonde ! ***

C'est avec plaisir que j'ai découvert votre blog.
Je trouve que l'on ne parle pas assez d'Histoire de nos jours, on oublie un peu trop rapidement le passé, on ne veut pas en parler, je ne sais pas pourquoi. Et pourtant le passé et ses événements font ce que nous sommes aujourd'hui.
Merci de nous expliquer tout cela, voir ces photos qui évoque cette bataille, c'est très émouvant.
Vos photos sont belles et donnent envie de s'intéresser de plus près à l'histoire de l'Amérique.
Vous avez de la chance d'être là-bas !!!! Merci de nous en faire profiter !

Je vous envoie plein de bisous d'un autre continent ! :-)

A bientôt ! :-)


Frances said...

Hello Vagabonde,

Thank you so much for your kind comments. I envy you that upcoming trip to France!

Having grown up in Virginia with a father who was truly devoted to Virginia history, I remember being driven round many, many former battlegrounds. When I was young, it was still fairly unusual to have a family automobile, and a typical Sunday afternoon treat was to take the family for a drive, making sure to pull over to the side of the road whenever one of those historical markers was spotted.

I fear that I was not such a willing pupil, and did not easily appreciate the glory of that War Between the States. Our school history classes also focussed heavily on early American history, with an emphasis on Virginia.

Imagine my challenge in my first year at university, when I was presented with a huge volume that covered European history. All those eras and conflicts were quite new to me. I barely passed the course. It was just to much for me to absorb quickly.

Now, I am a bit of a news junkie, and do try to keep up with the history of our own time as it marches on day by day.

Thank you for your post. It has got me thinking about ghosts from many times and causes.


Celeste Maia said...

What a fascinating entry, I enjoyed coming along to this historic site and learning from all your research. Beautiful photos too.
Living life in the fast lane, what a pleasure it is to follow your always interesting wonderings. Your blog is like a magic bottle full of captured spirits.
I have been up in the mountains where there was no connection and it was pure bliss.

Kenza said...

Bonjour Vagabonde,
Je vous remercie pour vos gentils commentaires que j’apprécie énormément!
Je suis un peu débordée en ce moment,(les préparatifs...) mais prendrai plus le temps à mon retour de voyage pour faire plus ample connaissance avec vous!
Très amicalement, Kenza

Reader Wil said...

Very interesting Vagabonde! I don't know much about the Americain history. I know that the abolition of slave trade caused a lot of fighting and I still don't know what caused the Civil war.It was not the war that started with the Boston tea party in order to get independent from Great Britain. Well I can Google it of course.
Thanks for your comment. I think the fox photo was a trick, but nevertheless funny.

Celeste Maia said...

Chere Vagabonde, thank you for your great comment. Yes, I have Cesaria Evora's CDs and have seen her in concert. Being from Cabo Verde, her Portuguese is very colorful and her "mornas" wonderful.

Jenn Jilks said...

Thanks for visiting my cats! We are having much trouble in My Muskoka with drownings! Nice to see lovely photos.

Vagabonde said...

To Frido, Darlene, DJan, Ruth, Dot, Marguerite, BJM, Ratty, Frances, Celeste Maia, Reader Wil and Jen Jilks – thank you so much for coming and reading my posts – I am very happy that you do come back. I enjoy making these posts but it is even nicer to see that you come and read them. Life is so hectic and time is precious so I am very grateful for your jotting down your thoughts about the posts.

Claude, Nancy et Kenza - Merci de me rendre visite. J’aime bien écrire ces posts mais j’aime encore mieux lire vos commentaires. La vie est mouvementée et le temps est précieux alors je suis reconnaissante que vous voulez bien prendre un peu de temps et le passer avec moi.

Fennie said...

Just read this Vagabonde (et je vois que vous écrivez également bien en Francais) and it's another wonderful story. Were you a history guide in another world? With all the pictures I felt as though I were there with you. What a terrible war and so many lives ruined. But good to see such heroic preservation of the site.

Enjoy your trip to France. We shall be returning there in October.

sablonneuse said...

Hello, I've just 'popped in' to say thank you for your comments on my blog. Your latest post is most interesting and I'll be back to read more.

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Best Psychics said...

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Anonymous said...

General Benajmin Franklin Cheatham is my ancestor:) I love reading about him and Cheatham Hill:)


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