Kennesaw Mountain

The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was the last major Confederate defensive prior to the battles for Atlanta during Sherman’s March to the Sea.  Its consequences were far-reaching and portended the inevitability of defeat for the Confederacy in the War Between the States: Johnston’s replacement as Army commander by the impetuous John Bell Hood evidenced the rapidly growing desperation of President Jefferson Davis, and Sherman’s capture of Atlanta on September 2, 1864 gave the Northern population confidence in Abraham Lincoln’s ability to bring an end to the War, leading to his re-election in November finally sealing the fate of the Confederacy and its bid for independence.

As a battle generally regarded as a debacle for Sherman and a masterful defense by Johnston, the Confederate withdrawal from its invulnerable fortifications under cover of darkness signaled a serious misalignment at the strategic level between Jefferson Davis and his commanding general Joseph Johnston.  The events of the roughly 20 days of battle in the Kennesaw area offer in-depth looks at some of the Civil War’s most flamboyant characters as well as unsung heroes during the fighting on this well-preserved battleground on the immediate outskirts of Atlanta.

Case Studies

Case studies focus on Confederate commanders Johnston and Hood, as well as lower level leaders like Generals Francis Cockrell and Alfred Vaughan at pivotal moments in the heat of battle on June 27, 1864.  Union commanders Sherman, Thomas and McPherson are also focal points, along with lower level battle captains, General Giles Smith and Colonel Dan McCook, who led key attacks on Pigeon Hill and Cheatham Hill respectively.

Leadership Lessons

Leadership dimensions explored during the experience include:

  • Proactive utilization of competitive intelligence

  • Adaptive leadership: organic planning and urgency of execution

  • Playing to win vs playing not to lose

  • Ensuring clarity of intent and expectations

  • Forging alignment on strategy and objectives

  • Acting on an individual vs team perspective

  • Dealing with executive disagreement and Influencing without direct authority

  • Motivating and stimulating initiative in the absence of direction

  • Creating a culture of mission focus and selfless service