The Battle of Peachtree Creek in south Buckhead is a bit of a misnomer.
While discussing the 150th anniversary of the battle, which was July 20, 1864, a friend made the observation that the series of stories would have been more appropriately called the Battle of Collier Ridge or the Battle of Collier’s Mill. The heavy fighting took place along present-day Collier Road from the intersection of Peachtree and Brighton roads to Howell Mill Road, a few hundred yards south of Peachtree Creek.
The gridlocked roads that prevent us from making appointments on time are the same routes the Union and Confederate troops used to set up at the historic two-hour-long Rebel offensive. One neighborhood there even bears the name of the man who launched an assault from the area.
The stage for the battle was set following a series of strategic withdrawals by the Confederate Army of Tennessee, then under the command of Gen. Joseph Johnston. Atlanta was critical to the cause because of its rail lines. The North knew it. The South knew it. The Confederate leadership in Richmond, Va., headed by President Jefferson Davis, lost confidence in Johnston as the Federal armies continued nearly unimpeded toward Atlanta.
As a result, Gen. John Hood replaced Johnston July 17. Hood was to go on the offensive in an attempt to halt the Union advance. Johnston’s plan was to hold the line at Peachtree Creek. Since Johnston was replaced, that did not come to pass. The Federal Army of the Cumberland crossed Peachtree Creek and established positions on the high ground along Collier Ridge July 19. In the center of the line was Andrew J. Collier’s mill, near Collier Road and Tanyard Creek today.
The troop movements are detailed in Franklin Garrett’s books, “Atlanta and Environs.” Two Federal divisions came from Pace’s ferry along Paces Ferry and Howell Mill roads while another division came down Peachtree Road. One was repelled at Howell’s mill but managed to cross the creek further to the south.
On the Confederate side, one division advanced from just north of current-day Piedmont Park in Midtown while a division under the command of William Loring came through the Loring Heights neighborhood. Another came up Howell Mill Road, while still another came through the dense woods to the west of Peachtree Road.
The attack, which was supposed to take place at noon, did not commence until 4:30 p.m. owing to poor communication and delayed movements. The Confederates ran into the teeth of a well-defended line.
The numbers tell the tale of what ultimately happened at the Battle of Peachtree Creek. The Union casualties were 1,710, while 4,796 Confederate soldiers died. There is a photograph of the once heavily wooded terrain following the battle. The graves are many, the trees nearly clear cut from the artillery.
Along Peachtree Road near Brighton Road and down Collier Road to Northside Drive and Howell Mill Road are numerous markers describing the various movements and the struggles that define the Battle of Peachtree Creek. We drive by them every day, hardly taking notice that an important battle of the Civil War unfolded right in our front yard.
Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and a former news editor of this newspaper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.