Visiting The Past
July 4, 1864: (Editor's Note - The late B. C. Yates, former superintendent of the Kennesaw National
Park prepared an article for the Smyrna Herald newspaper for the 100 year anniversary of the
Battle of Smyrna Campground in 1964. The following was extracted from that article.
The complete article with a map of the area is on file at the Smyrna Museum.)
"Battles have reasons, although we might not always consider them good ones. The die was cast
for the Battle of Smyrna at Kennesaw, where on June 27, Sherman's major frontal attacks were
repulsed with heavy losses.
"If he could not drive through, then he must go around, reasoned
Sherman. He decided to move by his right flank, as that area had more and better roads, vital to his
rapid and successful operations. That led his troops toward Smyrna.
"Scholfield's Federal 23rd
Army Corps, already on Sherman's right, moved south on the Sandtown Road, followed closely by
unite of the Federal Army of the Tennessee. Johnson alive to the possibilities, and alert, devised
Sherman's strategy, and knew that if he sat still at Kennesaw, Sherman would get between the
Confederates and their base, Atlanta.
"And Atlanta had to be held at all costs – so on the night of
July 2, Johnson moved south. Next morning, Sherman closely followed, and the armies skirmished
as they moved.
"By nightfall Johnson was near Smyrna, and forming his troops on the east-west
ridge between Rottenwood and Nickajack Creeks. Again he had a good position, which might be
costly to attack.
"While attack could be costly, it could also be profitable. That night Sherman
messaged his lieutenants, directing that they probe the southern position, push hard, and attack
anywhere there was a possibility of gain.
"Sunday, July 4 dawned fair. Sherman, up early as usual,
aligned north of the town, and visited Howard's Fourth Corps suspecting that the Confederate line
was lightly held, encouraged Howard to test it by attack. He brought down a hornet's nest and the
"The rattle of musketry, and a heavy round of artillery fire, quickly convinced
Sherman that Johnson was in Smyrna, and in strength. Here, Sherman almost lost his hat."
(Editor's Note: Sherman mentioned in his memoirs that he almost lost his hat in Smyrna while "reposing in a
house on the second floor near the railroad track." A shot must have come too close.)
afternoon was to bring the Federals more luck. With the 15th and 23rd Corps in reserve, the 17th
Corps sent a flying column east along Turner's Road or the road to Mayson's and Turner Ferry,
which we now call the Bankhead Highway. He was stopped, but the bold move may have
encouraged Johnston to withdraw from his vulnerable position.
"But it was the 16th Corps, pushing
east toward Ruff's Mill that gained the most important ground. With a quick right about 4:00 p.m.
they crossed Nickajack Creek and running up the steep hillside, captured the Confederate advance
line with only moderate losses. It was here that Colonel E. F. Noyes lost his leg.
"By nightfall of July 4,
Johnston felt easier. His trains and artillery had moved south of the Chattahoochee, out of
Sherman's reach. Johnston at his rear had a stronger and shorter river line of fortifications ready for
occupancy, and during the night he skillfully withdrew to that position. This move ended the battle
and restored a measure of calm to Smyrna." (Editor's Note: There is a small display of War Between
the States relics at the Smyrna Museum. The most recent find (1998) is a 12 pound artillery shell that
was found by a plumber working on a sewer line at the apartments on Medlin Street. The shell was
still live and was disarmed by Tommy Lyle, one of our local relic hunters and friend of the museum.
The black gunpowder and shot from the shell are also on display.)