The Battle of Peachtree Creek was the first of three desperate Confederate attacks on the armies commanded by Maj. General William T. Sherman which were closing in on Atlanta. Although heavy skirmishing occurred between the Federal right and the Confederate left, which extended west to Moore´s Mill Road, and other forces were engaged east of Atlanta, the actual battle was fought along a two - mile front extending from Clear Creek (east of Brookwood Hills) to Howell Mill Road along Collier and Northfleet roads, one of the most costly here along Tanyard Branch at Collier Mill. After 70 days of slow retreat Dalton (88 miles N.), forcing the enemy to fight for every mile, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston´s Confederate Army of Tennessee (Hardee´s, Hood´s and Stewart´s corp. and Wheeler´s cavalry corps) crossed the Chattahoochee River at Bolton late on July 9th and retires toward Atlanta. Although Atlanta was encircled by 12 miles of forts and parapets which Sherman termed "unassailable", Johnston was not ready to use them. He watched closely for the time when Sherman's stronger forces would cross upriver to approach Atlanta beyond mutual support. Now he sensed that Sherman left wing would cross upriver to approach Atlanta from the east while his right wing crossed near Peachtree Creek. While they were miles apart, he planned to attack the exposed right wing. but Confederate President Jefferson Davis relieved him of command and appointed John B. Hood to take his place.
The battlefield is now largely lost to urban development. Tanyard Creek Park occupies what was near the center of the battle and contains several memorial markers. Peachtree Battle Avenue commemorates the battle. All are located in the western part of Buckhead, the northern section of the city which was annexed in 1952.
The Federal Advance
After noon on July 9th, Schofield´s Army of the Ohio (23rd Corps) had forced Johnston to cross the Chattahoochee River that night by a surprise crossing up river at Soap Creek. On the 12th, Howard´s 4th Corps of Thomas´ Army of the Cumberland (4th, 14th and 20th Corps) crossed Power´s Ferry on Schofield´s right. As Johnston had foreseen, McPherson´s Army of the Tennessee (15th, 16th and 17th Corps) moved upriver to Roswell and began crossing while Palmer´s 14th Corps and Hooker´s 20th Corps prepared to cross at Pace´s Ferry. On the 17th, Palmer crossed and moved toward Peachtree Creek and McPherson moved toward Decatur. On the 18th, Schofield, accompanied by Sherman, moved toward Decatur to connect with McPherson; Howard moved to Buckhead; Palmer reached Peachtree Creek; and Hooker crossed the river and camped along West Pace´s Ferry Road. By nightfall, Sherman´s unsupported right wing occupied a line facing Peachtree Creek extending from Buckhead to the river. So far, the advance had been harassed by Wheeler´s cavalry alone. It had met no enemy infantry. On the 18th, Wood´s division of Howard´s corps moved down Peachtree Road to the creek and captured the bridge. Hooker advanced to the creek, placed his artillery on the hills, and crossed the infantry of Geary´s division on an improvised footbridge at Northside Drive. Geary drove back the enemy´s skirmishers, occupied the hills by the creek and built two wagon bridges for the artillery and trains. Ward´s division was sent to Peachtree Road to cross next day and move up on Geary´s left. On the 20th, Geary moved to Collier Road and took position with Candy´s brigade on the left, near Tanyard Branch, Jones´ on his right extending to Northside Drive, and Ireland´s massed behind Jones´. Candy´s left overlooked this site. Bundy´s and Sloan´s batteries were placed on Candy´s line to sweep the open ground to the left front. The 33rd N.J. Infantry was advanced to picket the ridge between Greystone and Colland Drives. William´s division crossed the creek and formed on the ridge along Northfleet Road with a deep ravine covering his front, Knip´s brigade, on the right extended to Howell Mill Road, with Ruger´s behind it in reserve and Roberson´s extending east across Northside Drive, behind Geary´s right. On Howell Mill Road, Anson G. McCook´s brigade, the left of Palmer´s corps, entrenched near Ruger. Ward´s division crossed at Peachtree Road and moved southeast over broken ground, leaving two batteries at the bridge.
It finally reached the golf course area and deployed with Wood´s brigade on the left, Coburn´s in the center and Harrison´s on the right. Earlier, Newton´s division of Howard´s corps had crossed the creek and advanced on Peachtree Road to the high ground north of Collier Road. Newton deployed Kimball´s brigade west of the road, extending through the hospital site, and Blake´s extending east along Brighton Road. Bradley´s remained in reserve on the road near the railroad bridge. Four guns of Goodspeen´s battery were emplaced on the road. Although a gap existed between Newton´s right and Geary´s left, Ward was moving to fill it. Despite Johnston´s planning, the Federal right wing had crossed Peachtree Creek without being attacked; but, unsuspected by Sherman, who was near the Emory campus, the Battle of Peachtree Creek was about to begin.
The Change of Command
By the 17th, Johnston´s engineers had staked out a strong outer line, overlooking the valley of Peachtree Creek, from which he could launch his attack on Thomas´ troops while they crossed the creek, unready to fight. With Thomas shattered, he could attack McPherson with his whole army. If not successful, his army "had a near and secure place of refuge in Atlanta, which he could hold forever and so win the campaign." He announced his intention to the troops and began moving them into positions on the outer line, which ran east from Crestlawn Cemetery through the E. P. Howell School site, over Loring Heights, across Peachtree Street, uphill past the TV station, and on beyond Sherwood Forest to Highland Avenue, where it turned south to the GA RR. Hood´s corps was sent to the latter line to face McPherson. Hardee´s corps was posted with its right covering Loring Heights, its left connecting with Stewart´s corps. at Howell Mill Road. Stewart´s left extended to Marietta Road. But Johnston was not destined to fight his battle. That night, he was relieved and Gen. John B. Hood replaced him Since the army loved "Old Joe" Johnston and knew Hood to be rash and to lack experience in high command, morale suffered severely. At Hood´s request Johnston continued to give orders until sunset next day when he departed.
The Confederate Attack
On July 20th, Hood ordered the attack to begin at 1:00 P.M. Hardee and Stewart were to advance, drive the enemy back to the creek, and then west into the angle formed by the creek and the river; but events east of Atlanta caused the line to be shifted about a mile to the east, delaying the attack until all but Ward´s division of the enemy had occupied strong ground in line of battle. Bate´s division (Hardee´s right) halted with its right on Clear Creek and its left reaching Walker´s right near Peachtree and Spring Street. Walker´s left met Maney´s right near Brookwood Station. Maney´s left joined the right of Loring´s division (Stewart´s right) which now occupied Loring Heights. Loring´s left extended to meet Walthall´s right near Northside Drive and Bellemeade Avenue. Walthall´s left regiment halted west of Howell Mill Road. About 3:30, Hardee moved forward, Stewart a half hour later. Walker´s advance, astride Peachtree Road, was impeded by uncut forest growth, Maney´s by miry creek bottom and steep hills, Bates by swampy, densely-thicketed bottom of Clear Creek. At Collier Road, Walker´s charging men met a withering fire of musketry and canister from Newton´s lines. Although they fought desperately, heavy losses forced them back. On their left, Maney´s men also met defeat. In the creek bottoms, Bates sung around Newton´s left flank to attack his rear; but Bradley´s men, massed along the road overlooking the creek, met them with musketry. At the Peachtree Creek Bridge, Thomas in person emplaced Ward´s two batteries on the high ground along Peachtree Hills Avenue. Canister from these guns shattered Bate´s right. Already suffering from Bradley´s musketry, his men fell back. Having no reserves, Hardee could not renew the attack so he withdrew. About 4:00, Stewart´s corps attacked. Loring moved forward with Featherston´s brigade on the right, Scott on the left. Featherston´s men crossed Tanyard Branch and moved through dense wood into a wide clearing. They reformed their lines (astride Dellwood Drive) under fire from Geary´s batteries, firing from their left. Sweeping back the Federal picket line barricaded along it, they charged over Collier Road and into the gap between Newton´s right and Geary´s left; but a cross fire of musketry from those positions, together with Ward´s arrival, drove them back with severe losses. Ward´s men took position along Collier Road.
On the right, Harrison placed two regiments across Tanyard Branch, to connect with Candy´s left, and three on the slight rise east of it. Scott´s brigade advanced across the thickly wooded hills between Northside and Whitehall drives, routing the 33rd New Jersey and capturing its state flag. Although Scott´s men met a storm of fire from Geary´s front, his left regiment captured four of Geary´s guns but where forced to retire without them. His right regiments, diverted to the right by the fire from Candy´s men and of the battery near his left, crossed Tanyard Branch in this area and charged into the gap along the stream, between Harrison´s regiments. At Collier Mill, a few yards farther on, they were halted by a ridge across their front. Massed under the cross fire of Harrison´s men, they were decimated before they could withdraw. Later, a Federal officer wrote "Few battlefields of the war have been strewn so thickly with dead and wounded as they lay that evening around Collier´s mill." On Loring´s left, Walthall had deployed astride Howell Mill Road and advanced northeast through the Embry plantation. O´Neal´s brigade struck Geary´s right, forced it to swing back across Overbrook Road and the ravine to connect with Williams´ left. But the impetus of the attack plunged O´Neal´s men into the ravine between Geary and Williams where they lost heavily before they could withdraw. On O´Neal´s left, the right of Reynolds´ brigade made two desperate attempts to cross the ravine on Williams´ front and assault his line, but the concave ridge thrust Williams´ flanks forward, enabling them to enfilade Reynolds´ right regiments and drive them back with heavy losses. Reynolds´ left across Howell Mill swung around Knipe´s right and attacked his flank; but Ruger´s men rushed to his support and Reynolds´ now exposed left was swept by fire from McCook´s intrenchments, forces Reynolds´ to retire. Nowhere on the two-mile front had the Confederate assault met with more than passing success. Finally, Hardee and Sterwart withdrew their shattered divisions in to the shelter of the outer line. Estimates place Hood´s loss as 4,796, Thomas actual loss was 1,779. Although the Army of Tennessee had fought with the same courage and gallantry which had made Sherman´s advance slow and costly, it had suffered a bitter defeat.
Source: Historic marker placed by the Georgia Historic Commission - Georgia Civil War Centennial Commission
The battlefield has not been preserved.
Map of the Battlefield showing the locations of the markers?
This page originally submitted by Byron Hooks of Sandy Springs, GA, on July 04, 2014. This page has been viewed 1936 time(s) since then. This page has been updated 2 time(s) since then.
The page was last updated by Byron Hooks of Sandy Springs, GA, on July 21, 2014.
BG Hooks was the editor who published this page on July 11, 2014.