Kennesaw is the third largest city in the county, with
about 33,000 people, and shares its name with the 1,800-foot
mountain that lies between it and Marietta.
The city’s railroad heritage dates to the 1846 Western and
Atlantic Railroad, which laid 20 miles of track stretching
from Terminus (now Atlanta) up to Cartersville. The shacks
or “shanties” occupied by railroad workers gave the area the
name “Big Shanty.”
Kennesaw played a historic role in the Civil War. It was
first a training camp for Confederate soldiers due to its
proximity to rail lines and fresh water and became famous
for the Great Locomotive Chase. In 1862, James Andrews
and other Union volunteers commandeered steam engine
The General and set off toward Chattanooga. Confederates
followed in hot pursuit on other trains, including on The
Texas. The Confederates recovered the train and executed
Andrews and others.
More consequential for the war was the Battle of
Kennesaw Mountain, considered a tactical Confederate
victory but a strategic win for the Union. The battle led
to another retreat of the C.S.A. Army of Tennessee and
was followed up by Gen. William T. Sherman’s burning of
Atlanta and march to the sea.
Kennesaw then became a Union supply base, hospital and
headquarters. It was incorporated 22 years after the war
ended, in 1887.
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A local law made Kennesaw famous in the 1980s. The
saying became “It’s the law in Kennesaw” after a 1982
ordinance was passed requiring every household to own a
gun (the law is not enforced).
Kennesaw is home to Kennesaw State University, Georgia’s
second largest university.
Places of Interest: The Southern Museum of Civil War
and Locomotive History, downtown’s Depot Park. Kennesaw
State University, Kennesaw Skatepark, and the Smith-Gilbert
Gardens on Pine Mountain Road, a 16-acre botanical garden
which includes the Hiram Butler house, a historic home
which dates to the 1880s.
A Bit of History: In the Great Locomotive Chase
during the Civil War, Union raiders led by James Andrews
hijacked a train and rode it north toward Chattanooga
with Confederates pursuing. Some of the raiders were
the first to be awarded the Medal of Honor by the U.S.
Congress for their actions. As a civilian, Andrews was not
eligible. Today, the locomotive General is on display at the
Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, a
Smithsonian affiliate, located in Kennesaw.
Annual Events: Trains! Trains! Trains!, January; Big
Shanty Arts and Crafts Festival, April, May; Kennesaw
Grand Prix 5K Series, May — October; Civil War History
Day, June; Salute to America, July; Pigs & Peaches BBQ
Festival, August; Taste of Kennesaw, November; A Day with
Santa, December; All Aboard for Holiday Fun, December.
Gardens opened its butterfly
enclosure in July 2021.