The Battle of Peachtree Creek was fought in Georgia on July 20 1864, as part of the Atlanta Campaign in the American Civil War. It was the first major attack by Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's Union army on the defenses of Atlanta. The main armies in the conflict were the Union Army of the Cumberland, commanded by Maj. Gen. George Henry Thomas, and the Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by Lt. Gen. John B. Hood. Peachtree Creek was the first battle fought by Hood as commander of the Army of Tennessee.
Retreating from Sherman's advancing armies, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston had withdrawn across Peachtree Creek, just north of Atlanta. Johnston had drawn up plans for an attack on part of Thomas's army as it crossed the creek. On July 17, he received a letter from Confederate President Jefferson Davis relieving him from command. The political leadership of the Confederacy was unhappy with Johnston's lack of aggressiveness against the larger Union army and so they replaced him with Hood. In contrast to Johnston's conservative tactics and conservation of manpower, Hood had a reputation for aggressive tactics and personal bravery on the battlefield (he had already been maimed in battle several times). Hood took command and launched the attempted counter-offensive.
On July 19, Hood learned that Sherman had split his army; Thomas's Army of the Cumberland was to advance directly towards Atlanta, while Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield's Army of the Ohio and Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson's Army of the Tennessee moved several miles east, apparently an early premonition of Sherman's general strategy of cutting Confederate supply lines by destroying railroads to the east. Thomas would have to cross Peachtree Creek at several locations and would be vulnerable both while crossing and immediately after, before they could construct breastworks. In addition, Maj. Gen. William J. Hardee's corps would enjoy a rare three-to-one numerical advantage over the Union IV Corps. Hood thus hoped to drive Thomas west, further and further away from Schofield and McPherson, and Sherman would be forced to divert his forces away from Atlanta.
Throughout the morning of July 20, the Army of the Cumberland crossed Peachtree Creek and began taking up defensive positions. The few hours between the Union crossing and their completion of defensive earthworks were a moment of opportunity for the Confederates. Hood committed two of his three corps to the attack: Hardee’s corps would attack on the left, while the corps of General Alexander P. Stewart would attack on the right. Meanwhile, the corps of General Benjamin Cheatham would keep an eye on the Union forces to the east of Atlanta.
The Confederate attack was finally mounted at around four o’clock in the afternoon. On the Confederate left, Hardee’s men ran into fierce opposition and were unable to make much headway, with the Southerners suffering heavy losses. The failure of the attack was largely due to faulty execution and a lack of pre-battle reconnaissance.
On the Confederate right, Stewart’s attack is more successful. Two Union brigades were forced to retreat, and most of the 33rd New Jersey Infantry Regiment (along with its battle flag) were captured by the Rebels, as was a 4-gun Union artillery battery. Union forces counter attacked, however, and after a bloody struggle, successfully blunted the Confederate offensive.
A few hours into the battle, Hardee was preparing the send in his reserve, the division of General Patrick Cleburne, which he hoped would get the attack moving again and allow him to break through the Union lines. An urgent message from Hood, however, forced him to cancel the attack and dispatch Cleburne to reinforce Cheatham, who was being threatened by a Union attack and in need of reinforcements.
The Union lines had bent but not broken under the weight of the Confederate attack, and by the end of the day the Rebels had failed to break through anywhere along the line. Estimated casualties were 6,506 in total: 1,710 on the Union side and 4,796 on the Confederate.
Many historians have criticized the Confederacy's tactics and execution, especially Hood's and Hardee's. Johnston, although fighting defensively, had already determined to counterattack at Peachtree Creek; in fact, the plan for striking the Army of the Cumberland as it began to cross Peachtree Creek has been attributed to him. His long rear-guard retreat from Kennesaw is understandable, as Sherman used his numerical superiority in constant large-scale flanking movements. Moreover, although he had lost an enormous amount of ground, Johnston had whittled Sherman's numerical superiority from 2:1 down to 8:5.
Replacing him with the brash Hood, practically on the eve of battle, has generally been regarded as a mistake. (In fact Hood himself, as well as several other generals, sent a telegram to Davis seeking a remand of the order, advising Davis that it would be "dangerous to change the commander of this army at this particular time.") Additionally, although Hood's general plan was plausible, or even inspired, the failure of the units to be formed and positioned prior to the Union's crossing the river, Hardee's failure to commit his troops fully, and Hood's decision to continue the attack when he discovered he had lost his advantage, resulted in a severe and predictable defeat.
Adjutant Claudius V.H. Davis of the 22nd Mississippi regiment was awarded the Confederate Medal of Honor for his bravery during the Battle of Peachtree Creek. He was killed while carrying the colors and went down waving the flag.
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 play Peachtree Battle is a comedy about life in the upscale area.
- Battle of Atlanta
- Peachtree Creek Union order of battle
- Castel, Albert, Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864, University Press of Kansas, 1992, ISBN 0-7006-0562-2.
- National Park Service battle description
- Taylor, Samuel. "The Battle of Peachtree Creek." About North Georgia
- Bluegrass.net website
- John Bell Hood website
- Taylor, Peachtree Creek; Bluegrass.net; John Bell Hood website.
- Tanyard Creek is a tributary of Peachtree Creek. Today, Tanyard Creek Park is located on Collier Road, site of the old Collier's Mill, between Peachtree Street and Northside Drive, less than a mile from the point where Tanyard Creek flows into Peachtree Creek.
da:Slaget ved Peachtree Creek fr:Bataille de la Peachtree Creek ja:ピーチツリークリークの戦い