July 20

This Day in History

Civil War

Jul 20, 1864:

Confederates attack at the Battle of Peachtree Creek

On this day, General John Bell Hood's Confederate forces attack William T. Sherman's troops outside of Atlanta, Georgia at the Battle of Peachtree Creek, but are repulsed with heavy losses.

This was Hood's first battle as head of the Army of Tennessee. He had assumed the command from Joseph Johnston just two days before when Confederate President Jefferson Davis replaced Johnston after Sherman backed the Confederate general’s troops into Atlanta. For nearly three months, Sherman had pushed Johnston southward from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Atlanta. Johnston had blocked each of Sherman's flanking maneuvers, but in doing so he lost territory. Davis finally lost patience with Johnston, and selected the more offensive-minded Hood to defeat Sherman.

Hood wasted little time. He planned to strike the Army of the Cumberland, commanded by General George Thomas, as it crossed Peachtree Creek. The waterway was deep, and the Confederates destroyed all bridges on their retreat into the outskirts of Atlanta. Hood suspected that the Yankees were most vulnerable when only part of their force was across the creek so he planned a two-pronged assault to hold part of Thomas' army at bay while the rest could be pinned against Peachtree Creek.

It was a sound plan, but poor execution doomed the operation. Scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on July 20, the attack was delayed for three hours while Hood's troops shifted into position. The overall assault lacked a general coordination, so units charged the Union positions piecemeal. Twenty thousand Rebels assaulted the same number of Yankees, but the delay proved costly. The Confederates achieved some success, but could not drive the Union troops back into Peachtree Creek. After three hours, Hood ordered a halt to the advance.

Hood was not deterred. Two days later, he attacked Sherman's forces again at the Battle of Atlanta.

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