They’ll be greeted with opening and closing ceremonies, ‘round-the-clock cannon and musket firing, lectures, music, a Civil War fashion show and “real-time” battlefield tours.
“We’re all very excited,” park Superintendent Nancy Walther said. “It gives us an opportunity to interpret exactly what happened here and how important it is to preserve this battlefield. But this is an opportunity for us to market this commemoration to all of Atlanta and all of the state and to all of the surrounding states.”
Events kick off this evening with a 7:30 p.m. opening ceremony at the Visitor Center with author Richard McMurry as keynote speaker, followed at about 9 with an outdoor Jumbotron showing of the park’s “Kennesaw: One Last Mountain” movie that opened last fall. It also will be shown continuously throughout the weekend in a large tent on the lawn.
Friday will begin with a 9 a.m. “real-time tour” of Sherman’s attack route against Cheatham Hill, where the bloodiest fighting of the day took place.
“I imagine we’ll be busing people to the site as early as 7:30 a.m., and I can see us having 3,000-4,000 people taking part,” Walther said.
Activities will culminate with an evening concert by The Claire Lynch Band with musical historian and composer Bobby Horton opening. The International Bluegrass Music Association’s current Female Vocalist of the Year, Lynch has recorded the best-known version of Don Oja-Dunaway’s song “Kennesaw Line,” based on a battle incident recounted in Sam Watkins’ autobiography “Company Aytch.”
There will be more music Saturday afternoon when the 97th Regimental String Band plays at the main stage. A steady stream of reenactment and educational activities will feature some 250 re-enactors and living historians. The site of 24-gun Union battery on Gilbert Road will be showcased and interpreted for the first time. A just-completed 1.7-mile trail from the Visitor Center leads to the less-visited site.
The park had planned to station four cannon atop Kennesaw Mountain and some in the Gilbert Road battery and have them “duel” throughout the weekend. That plan was downsized, due to space and safety considerations, to one cannon on the mountain and two at Gilbert Road. Two other cannons will fire during the weekend at Cheatham Hill. Meanwhile, infantry demonstrations will employ mass volleys by some 40 re-enactors at a time, Walther said.
Saturday activities will be capped with the invitation-only evening rededication of the Illinois Monument atop Cheatham Hill. It was erected by aging Illinois veterans on the 1914 battle anniversary at the site of what they considered their hardest-fought battle of the war. Their regimental association purchased land for the monument that became the nucleus of what is now a 3,000-acre park that for the past three years has been the most heavily visited battlefield park in the country, with 1.9 million visitors.
A combined 4,200 men died in the fighting around the mountain, with about 3,100 of them killed during the Cheatham Hill assault. Saturday evening, 3,100 luminaries will be lighted. Gordon Jones, Atlanta History Center senior military historian and curator, will be keynote speaker.
Sunday activities will include the reading of the names of those who died, followed by closing ceremonies with historian Rebecca Burns as keynote speaker and vocal performances.
The City of Marietta has a heavy slate of events planned as well in connection with its “Bleeding Gray and Blue” sesquicentennial commemoration that has been under way for much of the year, and the City of Kennesaw and its Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History has been capitalizing on the anniversary as well.
The War Between the States was one of the key events in this country’s history and the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was one of the most notable episodes of one of the most crucial chapters in that war, Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. The park and cities have done an outstanding job of preparing events to educate and entertain their visitors, and we would encourage our readers to make the most of them. There’ll never be another 150th, after all.