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Facts, information and articles about Battle Of Peachtree Creek, a Civil War Battle of the American Civil War

On the sultry evening of July 17, 1864, Lieutenant General John Bell Hood finally got the job he had long coveted. At his headquarters just north of Atlanta, he received a telegram from Richmond notifying him that he had been promoted to the temporary rank of full general and given command of the hard-pressed Army of Tennessee. For the 33-year-old Kentuckian–and the future of the Confederacy as a whole–it was a fateful moment brought about by a peculiar combination of personality, misfortune, self-promotion and politics.The pattern of Hood’s military career had been established early on. As a youth, he used the influence of his congressman uncle to wrangle an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. There, he proved to be a less-than-gifted student and an all-too-representative member of a particularly unruly class of cadets. Although nearly expelled, Hood graduated in 1853 and subsequently won an appointment as second lieutenant in the newly formed 2nd U.S. Cavalry. Serving on the frontier, the young lieutenant quickly demonstrated what would be the hallmark of his professional life, compensating for his limited intellectual depth and modest strategic abilities with reckless boldness and undoubted courage.

When the Civil War began, Hood quickly gained fame as one of the South’s most aggressive officers. His boldness also made him one of the nascent Confederacy’s most rapidly promoted military leaders. From cavalry captain in 1861, he rose to the rank of major general by the fall of 1862, along the way winning high praise for his courage and conduct at the Seven Days’ battles, at Second Manassas and on other fields of battle.Hood’s recklessness sometimes carried a high price. At Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, fragments from an exploding shell ripped through the general’s arm and permanently paralyzed his left hand.

When Hood returned to the saddle again–somewhat prematurely–at Chickamauga that September, a Minié bullet shattered the upper portion of his right thigh, forcing an amputation that would have killed a lesser man. A lesser man also might have given up command after such severe wounds. Not Hood. He loved to fight and savored the adulation that his wounds brought him from an adoring public.While convalescing at Richmond after receiving his wounds at Gettysburg and Chicka-mauga, Hood was celebrated and toasted as the latest hero of the South. He hobnobbed with the city’s elite, was feted at formal receptions and courted the beautiful young socialite Sally ‘Buck’ Preston. He also visited and rode around town with Jefferson Davis. Never one to pass up an opportunity for self-promotion, Hood fawned over the Confederate president. He once suggested that Davis, who fancied himself a military expert, take field command, unabashedly gushing, ‘I would follow you to the death.’By February 1864, Hood had successfully parlayed his battlefield wounds and Richmond politicking into a major promotion.

As a corps commander in General Joseph Johnston’s Army of Tennessee, then in winter camp at Dalton, Ga., the ambitious Hood seized the opportunity to further his career. He sent secret letters to Richmond, overstating the army’s perilous condition, downplaying Johnston’s frequent requests for cavalry, and openly expressing his disappointment that the commanding general had not taken the initiative to advance into Tennessee and Kentucky–exactly what Davis and the Confederate high command had repeatedly urged Johnston to do.In undermining his immediate boss, Hood needed little help. Instead of taking the offensive, the ever-cautious Johnston spent May and June retreating again and again through northern Georgia toward Atlanta. He incorrectly reasoned that the increasing length of opposing Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s supply line, which stretched north to Chattanooga and Nashville, would make Sherman’s offensive untenable. Failing that, Johnston hoped to entice his numerically superior opponent into attacking already fortified positions. Indeed, in late June, Sherman assailed entrenched and strongly manned Kennesaw Mountain–and lost. But the Confederate commander could not follow up his victory, and both generals soon reverted to their previous tactics–Johnston retreating to carefully prepared entrenchments, and Sherman blithely marching around his flank.

All the while, Richmond authorities grew more and more apprehensive about the safety of Atlanta. Georgia’s largest city was a vital manufacturing center and storehouse for Confederate military supplies. It was also a transportation center with railroads that radiated in every direction. Losing Atlanta would be a devastating military blow to the Confederacy and would boost Northern morale sapped by three long years of bloody war.By early July, Johnston was at Vining Station, on the north bank of the last major natural barrier to Atlanta, the Chattahoochee River. Amazingly, the Southern commander sat by idly as Sherman feinted to the west and south while preparing to cross his army upstream in the direction of Roswell. On July 8, Maj. Gen. John Schofield, who led the small Army of the Ohio, sent an infantry detail wading across a fish dam in the rain-swollen river. The few Confederates on the south bank offered little resistance.

The following day, Colonel James Brownlow, a Union cavalry officer and son of outspoken East Tennessee Unionist William G. ‘Parson’ Brownlow, ordered a cavalry detachment to cross the river at Cochran’s Ford. Finding the water too deep to wade, Brownlow’s men stripped to the skin and crossed naked, taking nothing but their guns and cartridge boxes and wearing only their blue hats–perhaps to avoid being arrested as out-of-uniform spies. They captured four undoubtedly startled Confederates and would have gotten more, said Brig. Gen. Edward McCook, ‘but the rebels had the advantage in running through the bushes with clothes on.’

Still, McCook concluded, it was ‘a very successful raid for naked men to make.’Sherman had ‘expected every possible resistance in the crossing the Chattahoochee River,’ and he was delighted with the lack of Southern opposition. Oddly enough, even before the river crossings, the usually aggressive Hood had proclaimed his position untenable and urged the army to fall back. After learning of the Union crossings to the east, Johnston characteristically obliged. On the moonlit evening of July 9, the Army of Tennessee slipped quietly across the Chattahoochee.In Richmond, long-standing anxiety turned to alarm. Johnston did nothing to allay anyone’s fears. In the days that followed, he offered no new strategy to deal with the crisis, while renewing his frequent requests for cavalry reinforcements and even suggesting that it would be a good idea to redistribute the Union prisoners at Andersonville in south Georgia.

Hood sensed that his grand opportunity was at hand. On July 14, he told General Braxton Bragg, a close friend and adviser to Jefferson Davis, ‘We should not, under any circumstances, allow the enemy to gain possession of Atlanta.’ In a flourish of self-promotion, Hood added: ‘I have, General, so often urged that we should force the enemy to give us battle as to almost be regarded reckless by the officers high in rank in this army, since their views have been so directly opposite. I regard it as a great misfortune that we failed to give battle to the enemy many miles north of our present position. Please say to the President that I shall continue to do my duty cheerfully and faithfully.’Georgia Senator Benjamin H. Hill also sensed that Johnston’s military career was in extreme jeopardy. After visiting the beleaguered general, the senator returned to Richmond, briefed Davis on the situation in Georgia and subsequently telegraphed the inert commander that he must give battle. ‘For God’s sake do it,’ he begged.It was to no avail. On July 16, Johnston informed Davis that his army was outnumbered 2-to-1 and that ‘my plan of operations must, therefore depend upon that of the enemy. It is mainly to watch for an opportunity to fight to advantage.’ In fact, the Army of Tennessee, with approximately 55,000 men present for duty, was outnumbered on the order of 1 1/2-to-1. But that hardly mattered to Davis. He was looking for assurance that his reluctant commander had a specific plan in mind to save Atlanta, and it was now painfully apparent that he did not.

Some of the president’s advisers suggested that longtime corps commander Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee would be the ideal choice. In fact, Davis had offered Hardee the job the previous November after Bragg’s embarrassing rout at the Battle of Missionary Ridge. A stickler for military protocol, Hardee, a veteran of the peacetime army, had turned him down, noting that Johnston was his senior in rank. In any case, Davis cared little for Hardee either personally or politically and was not about to make him another offer. In the end, the Confederate president found all possible successors lacking, and he turned, as a last resort, to his young friend and protégé John Bell Hood.

Davis knew well that his choice was a risky one. His most trusted commander, General Robert E. Lee, agreed that Hood was a bold fighter, but added, ‘I am doubtful as to other qualities necessary.’ Hood’s Northern opponents felt the same way. They knew that Hood lacked battlefield cunning and cleverness, but they never doubted that he would attack–and attack boldly. Schofield, who had roomed with Hood and tutored him in math at West Point, told Sherman, ‘He’ll hit you like hell, now, before you know it.’ As events soon proved, this was no exaggeration.

The new Confederate commander realized as well as anyone that he had gotten the job because of his reputation for aggressiveness. He was a lifelong disciple of the Lee and Jackson school of fighting, which favored large, open-field attacks–never mind that by 1864 Lt. Gen. Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson was dead and Lee himself had given up massed assaults in favor of fighting behind breastworks. Times had changed, but John Bell Hood had not.On July 18, Hood asked Confederate authorities in Richmond to keep Johnston in command at least until the current crisis had passed. Whether the request was a matter of Victorian courtesy and protocol or was based on a genuine concern for the situation at the time is hard to say. Either way, neither Davis nor Johnston had any interest in doing so. The deposed Virginian did tell Hood that his plan had been to strike Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland as it crossed Peach-tree Creek from the north. (Interestingly, the former commander never shared this plan with Davis. Had he done so, he might have retained command.)

Hood liked the idea and, after assessing the military situation that day and the next, decided that he would do as Johnston suggested, with one exception. Instead of hitting Thomas as he crossed Peachtree Creek, he would strike him after he had crossed and before the Federals had time to dig in. Hood’s plan was more risky than Johnston’s, but it did offer the opportunity to deliver a more decisive blow.On the night of July 19, Hood met with his corps commanders to explain his plan. Major General Benjamin F. Cheatham, temporarily in command of Hood’s old corps, would form battle lines several miles northeast of Atlanta. With the support of Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry and 3,000 state militia under the command of Maj. Gen. Gustavus Smith, he was expected somehow to hold at bay Schofield, two divisions of Maj. Gen. O.O. Howard’s IV Corps and Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson’s entire 20,000-man Army of the Tennessee, which was astride the Georgia Railroad at Decatur.

Meanwhile, Hardee and Maj. Gen. A.P. Stewart would hit the slowly advancing Thomas from right to left and in succession. They would drive the Yankees north and west, penning and destroying them at the angle formed by the confluence of Peachtree Creek and the Chattahoochee River. The attack was to begin at 1 p.m. the following day.Hood’s plan offered promise. There was a gap of nearly two miles between Thomas’ left and Schofield’s right. And, just as Hood had calculated, Thomas was crossing the last of his divisions but had not yet formed line of battle or entrenched on the south side of the creek by the morning of July 20. Moreover, Sherman had convinced himself that any Confederate attack would be made against Schofield and McPherson, not Thomas, which was one reason he had made his headquarters with Schofield, near the center of his line. On the evening of July 19, Sherman ordered Thomas to move toward Atlanta at daylight. ‘With McPherson, Howard, and Schofield,’ the red-haired Ohioan wrote later, ‘I would have ample to fight the whole of Hood’s army, leaving you to walk into Atlanta, capturing guns and everything.’On the morning of the 20th, Hood began moving his troops into line. However, he soon learned that Cheatham was too far north to cover the Union advance from Decatur. In response, he instructed the Tennessean to slide to the south and ordered Hardee and Stewart to sidestep a half-mile each to maintain contact with their right. Unfortunately, Cheatham continued to shift south for not one but two miles. Hardee could not move a half-mile and still maintain contact. Without further instructions from Hood, who was not on the field, Hardee continued to march to his right, while a frustrated and angry Stewart, eager to attack, followed. Time and opportunity were rapidly slipping by.As Hood’s corps moved to the right, Union artillery served notice that the long-feared Yankee hordes were rapping on Atlanta’s door. About noon, two 20-pounder Parrott shells exploded near the corner of Ellis and Ivy streets, killing a young girl who was walking through the intersection with her parents. The brief shelling also gave noisy proof that Schofield and McPherson were moving on the city, albeit at snail-like speed.Finally, at 3:30 p.m., the bulk of the Army of Tennessee was ready to advance toward Peachtree Creek. Thomas was ill-prepared for the coming attack. Although captured Rebels had told him that heavy enemy forces were in his front, Thomas had still not fully deployed his lines. On his left, Brig. Gen. John Newton’s detached division from the IV Corps was busily entrenching and throwing up barricades on a ridge top along Peachtree Road, three-fourths of a mile south of the creek.Major General Joseph Hooker’s XX Corps, to Newton’s right, was largely undeployed and arrayed in an irregular V-shaped pattern. His 3rd Division, led by Brig. Gen. William T. Ward, milled about in the creek bottom several hundred yards to Newton’s right and rear. Beyond Ward, Brig. Gen. John W. Geary had formed his 2nd Division along and beyond Collier Road, which ran east to west and connected Peachtree and Howell’s Mill roads. To Geary’s right and 500 yards to the rear, Brig. Gen. Alpheus Williams’ 1st Division rested near the creek and along nearby ridges. Major General John Palmer’s XIV Corps was entrenched still farther to the right and rear and seemed in no hurry to move abreast of Hooker.The long saunter to the right was not a complete disaster for Hood. Although Newton and Geary were spending the afternoon busily strengthening their positions, by sheer luck Hardee’s line now overlapped the Union left. Major General William Bate’s division had moved unobserved into the gap to the east of Newton. His assignment was to deliver a devastating blow to the Union flank while Maj. Gen. William H.T. Walker’s division assailed the front. Hardee anxiously awaited Bate’s attack, but it never came. The Tennessean was trapped in a tangle of brush and briars in Clear Creek valley, to the east of Peachtree Road, and could not find Newton’s left.

Hardee then ordered Walker forward. Advancing two of his brigades along the right and left of Peachtree Road, Walker’s whooping gray lines ran headlong into a semicircular line of Union barricades and breastworks. Newton’s 2,700 battle-tested Midwesterners, still shoring up their defenses, dropped their shovels and unleashed a murderous fire on the stunned Confederates. Those who had forced their way around Newton’s right quickly found themselves under a galling flank fire and retreated in short order.Walker’s right, moving along the slopes east of the road, fared better, at least momentarily. Newton had formed his line in a ‘T,’ with Colonel John W. Blake, temporarily in command of Brig. Gen. George Wag-ner’s brigade, posted in the rear and fronting Peachtree Road. Blake’s men had just commenced building barricades of posts and rails when Walker’s men burst from the woods. The first Rebel, said an Ohio corporal,’seemed to be making strides of about 15 feet, and as he came in sight of our line he called out at the top of his voice: ‘Here they come, boys! By God, a million of them!’ ‘ For a while, it appeared that Walker would turn Newton’s left, but massed artillery near Peachtree Creek, which Thomas himself had posted, took the steam out of Walker’s assault with shot, shell and canister. For all his trouble, Walker had gained nothing and had lost a competent brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Clement H. Stevens of South Carolina, who was unhorsed and mortally wounded by a shot in the head.As Hardee attacked on the extreme right, Stewart ordered his right division, commanded by Maj. Gen. William W. Loring, into action. Relaying Hood’s orders, Stewart told Loring’s men, ‘We must carry everything, allowing no obstacle to stop us.’ He said that the fate of Atlanta depended on the outcome of the battle. His soldiers took the message to heart.On Loring’s right, Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott Featherston led his Mississippians some 800 yards over the ridges and deep ravines to their front. The rough ground and dense growth of vines and brambles formed an almost impenetrable jungle that scrambled the Mississippians’ lines but did not stop them from chasing off the enemy skirmishers. Stopping and re-forming, Featherston waited in vain for the expected attack of Hardee’s left division, commanded by Brig. Gen. George Maney and posted in the woods to Featherston’s right.

Hearing nothing on his right and assuming that there were no Federals in Maney’s front, Featherston ordered his men forward on the double-quick. Yelling as they ran, they soon hit Newton’s right and dashed into the gap between Newton and Geary, striking Ward’s three brigades in front and temporarily driving back his advancing blue lines. Midway across the open field in their front, Major Martin Oatis’ 22nd Mississippi ‘encountered a boggy marsh overgrown with tall marsh grass and a small creek [Tanyard Branch] running through it.’ As his companies crowded together to cross the marsh and the creek, a blistering enfilade of musketry and the artillery ‘cut down many of [my] bravest and best officers and men.’ Unable to re-form, the 22nd continued in a ragtag assault of broken lines and disordered ranks.Newton’s right soon gave way in considerable confusion but then re-formed and opened a deadly fire on the Mississippians’ right. Featherston now found his outnumbered troops nearly surrounded and under a murderous fire from the front, right and rear. Those in front of Ward seemed completely addled. ‘They were now,’ the Union general wrote, ‘in the wildest confusion, firing in all directions, some endeavoring to get away, some undecided what to do, others rushing into our lines.’ After holding his dearly won ground for only a few minutes, and with no support on his right, Featherston retreated through the woods and across the open fields to the sunken Collier Road. Those lucky enough to return with him collapsed from exhaustion in the intense midafternoon heat.Featherston’s men had suffered 616 casualties in their brief but violent attack. That was more than Ward’s entire division sustained in the battle and far more than Newton did; his division suffered only 102 casualties from both Hardee’s and Loring’s assaults. The 31st Mississippi alone reported 164 casualties out of 215 men engaged, for a staggering casualty rate of 76 percent.Ironically, Featherston’s initial success might have turned into a complete rout of the Union forces if Hardee had supported him with Maney’s division or if he had committed Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne’s crack division, which was being held in reserve. Instead, Maney’s two lead brigades watched as well as they could from the woods, while his rear brigades took refuge on the back side of a wooded ridge. Although Hardee later sent Maney on a belated and half-hearted assault, it was not until after Featherston’s retreat. Loring was justifiably angry. In his after-battle report, he tersely commented, ‘What caused this delay on the part of the division on my right in making the attack I am unable to state.’

Hood also blamed Hardee, perhaps with justification. His senior corps commander was unquestionably bitter that he had not been appointed to army command. After all, Hardee had deferred to Johnston at Dalton, and now he thought it was his turn for promotion. In addition, before the war Hardee had been Hood’s superior in the 2nd Cavalry and then had been his peer during the entire Atlanta campaign. He believed that he knew Hood well enough to judge him to be ‘unequal in both experience and natural ability to so important a command.’ Whatever the reason, Hardee’s failure to commit Maney’s division and his overall conduct at Peachtree Creek left much to be desired. It cost the Confederates dearly.Loring’s left brigade (he had only two, the other was guarding the army’s left flank) advanced in line with Featherston and struck Geary in front. Following Thomas’ general orders to advance toward Atlanta, the Union brigadier had spent the morning driving enemy skirmishers from the ridges around Collier Road and throwing up rail barricades. That done, he advanced his skirmishers again. Noticing a high and narrow timbered hill still farther ahead and on his right, Geary ordered the 33rd New Jersey Regiment to occupy it. On his way up the hill with the regiment, the Pennsylva-nian met three prisoners who ‘were quite communicative, saying that there were no large bodies of their troops within two miles.’ Indeed, as the New Jersey regiment took up its outpost, the woods seemed blissfully quiet. ‘Not a man of theirs,’ said Geary, ‘was to be seen or heard in any direction.’Brigadier General Thomas M. Scott’s largely Ala-bamian brigade suddenly burst from the woods in the Union front and seconds later on the right, at a range of less than 75 yards. Giving a Rebel yell and firing steadily, they rushed the flabbergasted New Jersey regiment. ‘The fire was terrific,’ said Lt. Col. Enos Fourat of the 33rd. ‘The air was literally full of deadly missiles; men dropped upon all sides; none expected to escape.’ The surging Alabamians demanded the surrender of the New Jersey state flag, and when it was not forthcoming, they shot down the color-bearer and carried off the prize. Fourat was embarrassed and saddened by the loss of the flag and by his rapid retreat, but as he correctly commented, ‘To stand longer was madness.’The Rebel assault struck Geary as magnificent. ‘Pouring out from the woods they advanced in immense brown and gray masses, with flags and banners,’ he wrote, ‘many of them new and beautiful, while their general and staff officers were in plain view, with drawn sabers flashing in the light, galloping here and there as they urged their troops on to the charge.’ Geary could not help but notice, too, that the enemy seemed to rush forward ‘with more than customary nerve and heartiness in the attack,’ which was unfortunate for the surprised New Yorkers, Pennsylvanians and Ohioans.

Geary had stacked his three brigades one behind the other on the ridges and ravines south of the Peachtree Creek valley. With Williams’ division still hundreds of yards to the rear, Scott’s men completely enveloped Geary’s right. A colonel of the 147th Pennsylvania became aware of the battle not by the sounds of firing but by ‘the disorganized masses of men as they rushed by the right of my line.’ The soldiers seemed panic-stricken, and the officers ‘manifested a lack of energy, coolness, and determination’ that was ‘truly deplorable.’ Many threw away knapsacks, guns and accouterments in their pell-mell flight.

Riding up on a splendid horse, Hooker rallied Geary’s hard-pressed troops and helped re-form the lines. ‘Boys,’ he said, ‘I guess we’ll stop here.’ It is hard to say whether Hooker spoke with a nonchalance born of confidence or with a genuine and well-founded uncertainty. In either case, the New Yorkers, Pennsylvanians and Ohioans quickly re-formed and linked up with Williams’ left brigade.Artillery batteries posted on the ridge and across the creek poured a rapid fire of case shot, shells and canister into the victory-sensing Confederates. At one point, the swarming Southerners overran a section of Captain Henry Bundy’s 13th New York Independent Battery but fell back when other artillery and rallying infantry opened fire at close range. Bundy’s gunners suffered heavily in the struggle. One of his dead was struck by nine rounds, another seven. ‘So hot was the rebel infantry fire,’ said a New Jersey adjutant, ‘that many of the spokes of the wheels of his [Bundy’s] pieces were almost cut in two.’Like Featherston in the ravines and creek bottom to the east, Scott could not sustain his initial success. He, too, lacked the numerical strength and flank support to drive the better part of two Union divisions into Peach-tree Creek. Ultimately, Geary’s re-formed lines took Scott in flank. Together with the advance of Williams’ left brigade and with murderous artillery fire, Geary’s assault eventually sent the battered, bloodied and exhausted Confederates back toward a sheltering ravine.Almost simultaneously with Loring, Stewart sent Brig. Gen. Edward Walthall’s division up the Howell’s Mill Road. Ahead, soldiers of the 123rd New York were napping, playing cards and discussing rumors that the enemy was in retreat and that they would likely enter Atlanta the next day. Corporal Rice Bull and his companions were congratulating themselves ‘on this unexpected good luck when suddenly…there was a rifle shot on our front.’ Then came the all-too-familiar Rebel yell. Said Bull, ‘A look of surprise and almost consternation came to every face.’

The New York regiment and the rest of Brig. Gen. Joseph Knipe’s Union brigade quickly formed a line around the Embry House in an effort to stave off the advance of Walthall’s left. The Arkansas brigade soon passed down a ravine, struck Knipe in flank and briefly challenged the strongly entrenched left of the XIV Corps near the creek. However, Knipe changed front to the west to catch at least part of the advancing Confederates in flank. The musketry was so rapid and the afternoon heat so intense that some weapons ignited prematurely, sending bullets and ramrods flying.To relieve the pressure on the Confederate left, division artillery chief Major William L. Preston personally posted a battery on the slope of an open field to the left of the road. As the battery lieutenant rapidly shifted fronts to counter fire from two directions, a shot from an opposing battery struck and killed the major. News of this death would be especially hard on Hood. Preston was the brother of Hood’s erstwhile fiancée, Buck.Meanwhile, Walthall’s right brigade was passing down an 80-foot-deep ravine to the east of Howell’s Mill Road. Colonel E.A. O’Neal’s Alabama and Mississippi troops, ‘yelling like demons,’ temporarily unnerved the Federal brigade in their front. In hand-to-hand fighting, O’Neal forced his way through to an open field, but like his predecessors under Loring, he was taken in flank by Geary’s men, who now held the ridge top. Before long, O’Neal’s and all of Walthall’s men had to retrace their steps.Although the firing continued until dark, the battle had essentially ended. Pressed and temporarily broken, the Union lines had withstood the onslaught; the field belonged to them. They had suffered nearly 2,000 casualties, but they had inflicted 2,500 on their opponents and captured seven stands of colors. To their credit, the Federals had held the field without reinforcements. Only later was Sherman to learn of the threat that Thomas had faced and the ferocity of the three-hour battle he had fought. At 3:25 p.m., Sherman had sent a message that surely must have brought a wry smile to Thomas’ face: ‘All your troops should push hard for Atlanta, sweeping everything before them.’Hood and Stewart were convinced that had Hardee fought with as much vigor as Loring and Walthall, the Confederates would have carried the day. They had a point; Hardee had only committed a relatively small portion of the troops under his command, and he had done so piecemeal. Not only did he fail to commit Maney’s entire division at what proved to be the most critical moment in the battle, but he also held back Cleburne’s much-feared division, which was not sent to reinforce Cheatham until late in the afternoon.Indeed, the brunt of the attack had fallen to a mere half-dozen Confederate brigades–two under Walker’s command, two led by Loring and two commanded by Walthall. In effect, Hood had surrendered his overwhelming numerical superiority. The fault for this was as much his as anyone’s. The commander had visited Stewart in the morning, but he had not remained on the field to supervise the opening moves or the execution of the battle. Hood had also underestimated the quickness with which Thomas’ men could throw up barricades and breastworks. Newton and Geary had both fashioned effective defenses while Hardee and Stewart were shifting to the right. These works had proved costly to the Confederates, although such entrenchments would never have stopped Hood from attacking.Two days after the Battle of Peachtree Creek, the lank Kentuckian marched Cheatham and Hardee to the south to strike Sherman’s opposite flank. The move was reminiscent of Stonewall Jackson’s spectacular flank march and attack at Chancellorsville; the outcome was not. As at Peachtree Creek, the Confederate attacks were poorly coordinated, and once again Hood backed off. This time his casualty list totaled 8,000.Undeterred, Hood attacked six days later at Ezra Church and again on August 31 at Jonesborough. By September 1, the last supply line to Atlanta had been severed, and Hood was forced to abandon the city. In six short weeks, his army had suffered a staggering 17,000 casualties.In late September, Davis tried to justify his appointment of Hood. He told an audience in Macon that he had put ‘a man in command who I knew would strike an honest and manly blow for the city, and many a Yankee’s blood was made to nourish the soil before the prize was won.’ Johnston was not impressed with the president’s rationale and subsequently referred derisively to Hood as ‘the Striker of Manly Blows.’What Davis failed to mention was that Hood’s quick loss of Atlanta had buoyed Northern morale and given President Abraham Lincoln a huge boost in his bid for re-election against Democratic hopeful George B. McClellan. Unwittingly, Hood had dealt a crippling blow to Southern hopes for a negotiated peace.But then John Bell Hood was a warrior, not a politician. After the fall of Atlanta, he swung his battered army north into Tennessee. In late November, he ordered the suicidal attack at Franklin that, for all practical purposes, destroyed the Army of Tennessee as an effective fighting force.The subsequent defeat at Nashville two weeks later ended Hood’s military career. His lifelong tenacity and aggressiveness had taken him to the pinnacle of command and left him–and the Army of Tennessee–in defeat. On the fateful evening of July 17, Secretary of War James A. Seddon had warned Hood, ‘Be wary no less than bold.’ He was giving advice to the wrong man, at the wrong place and the wrong time. Hood was always bold; he was never wary.

This article was written by Phil Noblitt and originally appeared in the September 1998 issue of America’s Civil War magazine. For more great articles be sure to subscribe to America’s Civil War magazine today!