The Battle of Dead Angle

Sam Watkins Dead Angle

“The First and Twenty-seventh Tennessee Regiments will ever remember the battle of “Dead Angle,” which was fought June 27th, on the Kennesaw line, near Marietta, Georgia. It was one of the hottest and longest days of the year, and one of the most desperate and determinedly resisted battles fought during the whole war. Our regiment was stationed on an angel, a little spur of the mountain, or rather promontory of a range of hills, extending far out beyond the main line of battle, and was subject to the enfilading fire of forty pieces of artillery of the Federal batteries. It seemed fun for the guns of the whole Yankee army to play upon this point.” – Sam Watkins, First Tennessee Regiment, “Co. Aytch”

I often visit the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. The park is a beautiful and magnificently well-preserved 2,965 acre Civil War battleground that played a significant role in the Atlanta Campaign of 1864.

While the Park does a terrific job of interpreting the battleground and guiding its visitors through the expansive grounds, nothing can quite compare to reading the first-hand account of the events that took place there on June 19, 1864 through July 2, 1864.

In Sam Watkins’ personal memoir “Co. Aytch,” he devotes many pages to this battle; specifically a section of the battlefield known as “Dead Angle” where some of the most brutal fighting occurred. Told through the eyes of an ordinary Southern soldier, Watkins definitely had a way with words. His uncanny ability to tell a story puts you right along beside him, as he’s dodging Yankee lead while ducking behind head-logs strung atop Confederate breastworks.

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To draw a stronger connection to Watkins and his experiences at Dead Angle, I recently visited the Park to retrace his steps. Check out the images below and the corresponding excerpts from “Co. Aytch.”

Watkins’ View from Dead Angle


(Above) Watkins view from the Confederate Earthworks at Dead Angle.


(Above) Confederate Earthworks of the 1st and 27th Tennessee Regiments.

“Well, on the fatal morning of June 27th, the sun rose clear and cloudless, the heavens seemed made of brass, and the earth of iron, and as the sun began to mount toward the zenith, everything became quiet, and no sound was heard save a peckerwood on a neighboring tree, tapping on its old trunk, trying to find a worm for his dinner. We all knew it was but the dead calm that precedes the storm. On the distant hills we could plainly see officers dashing about hither and thither, and the Stars and Stripes moving to and fro, and we knew the Federals were making preparations for the mighty contest.
It seemed that the arch-angel of Death stood and looked on with out-stretched wings, while all the earth was silent, when all at once a hundred guns from the Federal line opened upon us, and for more than an hour they poured their solid and chain shot, grape and shrapnel right upon this salient point, defended by our regiment alone, when, all of a sudden, our pickets jumped into our works and reported the Yankees advancing, and almost at the same time a solid line of blue coats came up the hill.” – Sam Watkins

Yankee View of Dead Angle


(Above) This is the Yankee view of Dead Angle. Looking up this hill would have been the 125th, 85th, 86th Illinois and the 52nd, 113th, 121st Ohio. Notice the Illinois Monument in the center of Dead Angle.

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Perfect Pandemonium

As told by Watkins, the violence and ferocity of this battle far surpassed all others. That is quite a statement considering the battles in which he participated–Shiloh, Corinth, Perryville, Murfreesboro, Shelbyville, Chattanooga, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, the Hundred Days’ Battles, and the Atlanta, Jonesboro, Franklin, and Nashville campaigns.

“Talk about other battles, victories, shouts, cheers, and triumphs, but in comparison with this day’s fight, all others dwarf into insignificance. The sun beaming down on our uncovered heads, the thermometer being one hundred and ten degrees in the shade, and a solid line of blazing fire right into our very faces, singeing our hair and clothes, the hot blood of our dead and wounded spurting on us, the blinding smoke and stifling atmosphere filling our eyes and mouths, and the awful concussion causing the blood to gush out of our noses and ears, and above all, the roar of battle, made it a perfect pandemonium.” – Sam Watkins

Out of the 5,100 men who formed the Army of Tennessee, only 125 officers and men remained when the war came to an end in 1865.

Watkins, Sam R.
Co. Aytch, or, A side show of the big show and other sketches /
Sam Watkins; edited by M. Thomas Inge, Dead Angle (PP 130-137). New York, NY: Penguin Putnam Inc.
NPS: http://www.nps.gov/kemo/index.htm

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