Sunday, June 22, 2014

150 Years Ago Today - Kolb's Farm

On June 22, 1864, Sherman's attempt to flank the Confederates off of Kennesaw Mountain caused an engagement at Kolb's Farm. Johnston ordered Kentuckian Gen. John Bell Hood to block 20th Corps division commander Alpheus S. Williams (pictured) troops' movement. Hood, apparently seeking a smashing defeat, instead attacked, which resulted in great Confederate loss. Williams wrote about the day's fighting:

"We had just begun to pile rails when the heavy skirmish line of the enemy poured out of the woods all along the open and advanced at a run. Three columns, massed, followed close and deployed in three and four lines. The infantry columns opposite of Knipe and Ruger's left moved forward, but as they reached the brow of a ravine which ran parallel to our front, the whole line opened with a withering volley. Some Rebs. went back, some scrambled down into the deep ravine, but none ever passed beyond it. One heavy column got hold of the woods in front of Knipe's left and upon it I turned twelve pieces of artillery, sweeping it with canister and case shot until the devils found sufficient employment in covering themselves behind trees and logs.

Farther toward our left a huge mass of Rebels moved out to attack Robinson's brigade, but three rounds from the rifled guns set the whole mass flying in the greatest disorder. They never reached the fire of our infantry. The attack was kept up from 4 P.M. until near dark. The numbers were formidable, but the attack was indeed feeble. The Rebs. had been badly shaken by our artillery fire before they left the woods. All the prisoners say this. Indeed, after the first half-hour the men considered the whole affair great sport. They would call out to the Rebels who had taken shelter in the woods and in the deep ravines in our front, 'Come up here, Johnny Reb. here is a weak place!' 'Come up and take this battery; we are Hooker's paper collar boys.' 'We've only got two rounds of ammunition, come and take us.' 'What do you think of Joe Hooker's Iron Clads?' and the like. . . .

Altogether, I have never had an engagement in which success was won so completely and with so little sacrifice of life. Considering the number of the enemy sent against my single division, the result is indeed most wonderful and gratifying. Dory Davis (T.R.) has been here making a sketch of the ground for Harper's [Weekly]; but he says that Harper's don't put in half he sends and those are bunglingly and incorrectly copied. He sketches beautifully and the pictures he has sent give a most correct idea of the filed of fight, so far as landscape is concerned. We are now lying in the woods and have possession of the ground the enemy charged over. They have strong works not a mile in our front and our pickets keep up the usual popping of small arms."

In less than a week the tide would turn in the Confederates' favor when Sherman decided to attack them on Kennesaw Mountain on June 27. The Confederate defenders had the advantage of breastworks and the high ground to inflict terrible causalities on the attackers. It would be a lesson Sherman would remember. Hood, however, apparently did not take away much from the tough lesson of Kolb's Farm. He would go on to make the same mistakes in the July and August battles around Atlanta, and at Franklin, Tennessee, in November.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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