“Atlanta is ours and fairly won,” claimed William T. Sherman on September 1, 1864, after his Union army captured the city. You might agree or disagree with that statement, but no matter your Civil War sympathies, you’ll still enjoy a tour of this fair Georgia city. Two days will allow adequate time to explore the remnants of the 1864 campaign to capture Atlanta, and you can begin your explorations by driving in on U.S. 41 (Northside Parkway) and proceeding southeast to West Paces Ferry Road.
Just south of U.S. 41, where Paces Ferry Road crosses the Chattahoochee River, Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry skirmished with Union infantry to protect a Rebel wagon train crossing on pontoons. A half-mile north of U.S. 41 are the locations of the wagon road and railroad bridges, Johnston’s principal river crossing.
A side trip north before crossing the river provides additional perspective on the battle. Take Powers Ferry Road north of U.S. 41 from Vinings to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, the location of several Federal crossing points.
Major General John Schofield’s XXIII Corps crossed Sope Creek to establish a foothold on the south bank of the river. Continue north on Paper Mill Road to the parking lot and trailhead that leads, after a short hike, to the overlook of Schofield’s crossing site and the ruins of the Marietta Paper Mill, burned by Union cavalry.
Return via Paces Ferry Road to West Paces Ferry Road. West Paces Ferry and Peachtree roads form the center of Buckhead, today one of Atlanta’s hippest communities. In this area and elsewhere in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia Historical Commission (GHC) markers indicate unit advances and points of contact. Other sites in Buckhead include the Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road, which has a large Civil War collection and research library. The 1840 Tullie Smith house, moved to the center’s grounds, is one of the few Atlanta Civil War–era structures to survive.
Nearby on the grounds of an industrial plant at 950 West Marietta Street, a monument marks the site of the Confederate change of command from Joseph Johnston to John Bell Hood. Johnston’s headquarters was at the Dexter Niles House, which was located at 1030 West Marietta Street.
Return east to Peachtree Road, turn right (south) and cross Peachtree Creek to Collier Road. On the grounds of Piedmont Hospital is a monument commemorating the Battle of Peachtree Creek. Other GHC markers follow the line of battle along Collier Road, the main line of battle. A half-mile west of Peachtree Road is the entrance to Tanyard Branch Park, the site of some of the heaviest fighting of the battle. GHC markers along Collier Road and nearby describe the action. Some are in congested areas, but those with easy access are at the entrance to Bobby Jones Golf Course and at Atlanta Memorial Park. At the conclusion of your tour of the Battle of Peachtree Creek, take Northside Drive south to I- 75, enter the interstate and drive through downtown Atlanta and east on I-20.
The Battle of Atlanta occurred in a area that is now highly developed. The dramatic painting of the battle at the Atlanta Cyclorama, 800 S. Cherokee Avenue, S.E., #C, I-20 Exit 59A, is a must-see. Most of the battle was fought a short distance east along Moreland Avenue, a north-south thoroughfare. Just north of I-20 near Memorial Drive is Leggett’s Hill, which was regraded during highway construction.
The left of the Federal line was placed at Memorial Drive and Clifton Street when fighting began at noon on July 22. Union artillery was posted on the present-day grounds of Murphy High School. Nearby at Glenwood Avenue and Wilkinson Drive is a monument to Confederate Maj. Gen. William H.T. Walker, who was killed in the battle. Farther west along Glenwood Avenue, at the intersection of McPherson Avenue and McPherson Monument Place, is a memorial to Federal Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson, the Army of the Tennessee commander killed near this location.
Return to Moreland Avenue and head north. The railroad cut you pass on the way to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library is prominent in the cyclorama painting. The library, off North Highland Avenue, is on the site of the Augustus Hurt house, Sherman’s command post.
Originally published in the January 2008 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.