•December 30, 2015•
By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist
The Illinois Monument at the Kennesaw Mountain Civil War battlefield north of Atlanta is a rather nondescript vertical block of marble.
The monument stands atop Cheatham’s Hill, which the soldiers of the 85th and 125th Illinois Regiments almost but never quite reached on June 26, 1864. The marker commemorates the courage and cohesiveness of the men who came within 30 feet of the almost impregnable Confederate earthen parapets above the sharp rise.
Each holiday season I visit my sister’s family, who live near the park, outside Marietta, Ga. And each year I am drawn back to Cheatham’s Hill.
I stand at the top of the hill, looking down from the dug earthen defenses, still evident. I wonder in awe how men could have marched in formation up the hill, sure to absorb a crippling fusillade from rifles stuck through the slits of space between the earth works and the braced logs atop.
The open, grassy line of march up the hill is the shape of a football field, though maybe half again as wide and deep. Loblolly pine frame the battlefield, tall, mute sentinels to the carnage of that day. The Union lost 397 killed and wounded at just this one hill, rather insignificant in the larger scheme of things.
Before entering the battle that day, Union Colonel Daniel McCook recited for his men McCauley’s popular, “Horatius, the Captain of the gate; Death will cometh sooner or late, and how can man better die than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his father’s grave and the temples of the gods.”
A Reb soldier wrote in his diary later that, “The ground was piled up with one solid mass of dead and wounded Yankees.” Ignited by the rifle and cannon bursts, grassfires threatened the Yankee wounded on the hillside. Read More