Saturday, May 24, 2014

Peachtree Creek 2: Charlie Crawford's expert overview and tour of battle sites

C. Crawford
Earlier this week, we had a post about my visit to the site of the Battle of Peachtree Creek in north Atlanta. It gave very general information and had some photos. I asked Charlie Crawford, president of the Georgia Battlefields Association, for his thoughts on the battle’s significance and places to see. By permission, the Picket offers here his wonderful and detail-rich tour overview, along with maps showing the battle movements and wartime and current roads in Buckhead. The post starts with his thoughts on the battle and how a sound plan ultimately went wrong for Gen. John Bell Hood, his subordinates and Confederate troops on July 20, 1864.


Overview of troops, roads and other Atlanta fixtures. Click to enlarge (GBA)

The plan was to have seven Confederate divisions (French, Walthall, Loring, Maney, Walker, Cleburne, Bate) attack four Union divisions (Williams, Geary, Ward, Newton), but the plaque wording (at Tanyard Creek Park) makes it appear that this was another charge by Confederates who knew they would be outnumbered from the get-go.

It was the Confederates’ fault that they didn’t get the three missing brigades from Stewart’s Corps (one each from French’s, Walthall’s, and Loring’s divisions) into position in time.  Likewise, Maney’s division didn’t fight well, Cleburne’s division was held back to exploit the hoped-for breakthrough, and Bate’s division got lost in the swampy ground around Clear Creek.

John Bell Hood
Consequently, the participating brigades form Walthall’s and Loring’s divisions and the entirety of Walker’s division did almost all the fighting.  In that sense, the Confederates were outnumbered, but it wasn’t by design.

Hood was trying to bring superior numbers to bear (i.e., his plan was sound), but coordination and execution of the plan were poor. Certainly, Hood is ultimately responsible, but he wasn’t well-served by his subordinate commanders (particularly Bate and Maney, and partly Hardee).  So this wasn’t the oft-portrayed circumstance of the outnumbered, ill-clad, starving, brave Southern boys charging the immigrant, well-supplied, overwhelming Yankee hosts.

The Confederates came close to breaking the Federal line and achieving at least part of their objective, though not at all in the manner in which they hoped.


Confederate assault. Click to enlarge (GBA)

Normally, I start at the north end of West Peachtree St.  The Land Lot 104 marker at the crest of the hill (on WSB property) refers to the Confederate outer line that ran through the site, and I stop at the small parking lot (just above where the MARTA tracks go underground) and explain the Confederate position on the morning of 20 July 1864 and the intended advance northward.

I then drive north on Peachtree Street and turn east on Palisades (another marker is there) to talk about Bate's inability to advance up the Clear Creek Valley.  I follow Palisades to Huntington and Wakefield, showing how low the ground is there and explaining how swampy it was at the time.  I turn left on Brighton to show the high ground occupied by Bradley's brigade as they repulsed the Confederates.

I emerge from Brighton at Peachtree Road (two more markers) and show the 1944 monument on the grounds of Piedmont Hospital, turn south on Peachtree to show the misplaced stone dedicated to Howell's battery, and continue to a right (west) on 28th Street, the old Montgomery Ferry Road, pausing at the marker that refers to Stevens' mortal wounding.  Continuing west on 28th, I turn north on Ardmore Road, passing Ardmore park on the left, with its one correct marker (Featherston's brigade) and two relocated (and now misleading) markers to Wood's and Coburn's brigades

George Barnard image of grave headboards (LOC)

I go north on Ardmore to a left on Collier (Mississippi brigade marker at corner), point to the location of Barnard's photo of the grave headboards, then turn into the parking lot at Tanyard Creek Park. The plaques have a wealth of information but a decidedly Confederate viewpoint (especially regarding the size of opposing forces).  If I have enough time, I walk the group south through the park, talking about the capture of the 33rd New Jersey flag (marker on east side of Walthall Drive) and the advance of Scott's brigade across this ground.  We walk under the railroad trestle, through Ardmore park (past the three markers again), north on Ardmore Road, cross Collier to pause at the site of the Barnard photo, then north on Dellwood to a left on Redland, where the clash was intense as Ward's division advanced to fill the gap in the Federal line (marker on Collier Road).  At the bottom of the hill is about where Collier's Mill stood, and we turn south along the creek to Harrison's brigade marker at the intersection with Collier. Scott's brigade marker is across Collier Road.

Next, it's west along Collier, then north on Overbrook to Northside to explain how Geary's line was bent back by Walthall. Rather than a dangerous (heavy traffic) walk along Northside, I normally head back to the bus or car to leave the Tanyard Creek parking lot and go west on Collier (past a marker for Geary's division) to north on Northside and turn right into the Bitsy Grant tennis center. The marker to Williams' division has always been at the corner (on the back slope of a green on Bobby Jones golf course), but three other markers have recently been relocated there (and are consequently misleading): one (O'Neal's brigade at the ravine) was at the point where the ravine crossed Northside; two (Geary's refused line and O'Neal's brigade) were at the intersection of Northside Drive and Collier Road. The markers were relocated because they were difficult to reach on foot.  At least now, there's a better chance that they'll be read as a group.

Turn around at the tennis center and go back south on Northside Drive a short distance to a right on Norfleet Road to point out the still existing ravine on the south side and the high ground (Williams' position) on the north side. Following Norfleet to Howell Mill, I may mention the marker farther north on Howell Mill that indicates the right of the 20th corps. Then I turn left on Howell Mill and stop at the shopping center on the right to dismount and talk about the Preston marker that faces on Howell Mill. I usually end the tour there.

There are a few other markers that could be seen, but the Preston story is evocative for many and is a neat way to summarize what Hood was trying to accomplish and all the ways in which he failed, mostly through bad luck, bad coordination among his subordinates and a competent opponent rather than bad planning.


  1. Does Crawford still do the tour?

  2. He does them through the Georgia Battlefields Association.