Friday, June 27, 2014

150 Years Ago Today - Kennesaw Mountain

When Sherman attacked at Kennesaw Mountain on the morning of June 27, 1864, a major focus of the assault was a salient in the Confederate line on the brow of a ridge that was manned by Benjamin F. Cheatham's Division. This part of the line became known as the "Dead Angle" due the massive casualties inflicted on the attackers.

One of those making the assault was Private S. M. Canterbury of the 86th Illinois Infantry Regiment, which was included in Colonel Daniel McCook's Brigade (pictured). During the attack McCook was grievously wounded and died a couple of weeks later. Canterbury, though, somehow made his way up to the Confederate earthworks. He wrote:

"At the creek at the foot of the hill I was in the rear, but got to the works as soon as any of the boys. I caught up to the front line as we reached the works. I found the brigade all mixed up in one line. In the space I was in I could not tell what was being done very far on the right or left of me. The rebel musketry fire was terrific; to stand still was death.

I realized the safest place was at the works. Col. Dan was in the lead. He said, "Forward with the colors!" When I first reached the works I fell or laid down, and hugged the works as close as I could for protection and to rest, as in running the distance we did, combined with the intense heat, I was about played out. Col. Dan climbed up the works. For a moment my attention was taken with a rebel on the opposite side from me who was trying to fire under the headlog. When I looked up, Col. Dan was standing on the headlog above me. I heard him say, "Bring up those colors!" I don't know whose colors they were. He grabbed the colors in his left hand, holding them aloft and using his saber in his right hand, parrying the rebels on the other side of the breastworks who were trying to bayonet him. I reached up and took hold of the skirt of his uniform coat and said to him, "Colonel Dan, for God's sake get down, they will shoot you!" He turned partly around stooping a little, and said to me, " G-d d--n you, attend to your own business." Then the gun was fired; they put the gun almost against him. I know the gun was not more than one foot from his hip when they shot him. I could not tell where he was shot. Had I not pulled on his coat I believe he would have fallen inside the rebel works. Some comrades took him back to the rear; that was the last I saw him."

McCook retrieved a promotion to general on July 16, the day before he died of his wounds received on the Confederate earthworks at Kennesaw Mountain.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congess.

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