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On July 19, 1864, Gen. Hood issued orders to Lieut. Gen. Hardee to defend the banks of the Peach Tree Creek, the object being to enable a small force to resist the enemy´s crossing for some time. By early morning, Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Wood´s 3rd division (US), of the IV Corps and the 2nd Division commanded by Brig. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis (US) of the XIV Corps where approaching the north bank of the Peach Tree Creek at two different places.
Two regiments, commanded by Col. Knefier, of Wood´s 3rd division, were able to cross the Peach Tree Creek and out flank the entrenched Confederate defenders. After a brief skirmish, the remainder of the Federal brigade crossed and secured the crossing. Further downstream, where Green Bone Creek empties into the Peach Tree, Col. Caleb J. Dilworth´s (US) 3rd Brigade, og Brig. Gen. Jefferson Davis´ Second division, XIV Corps. was able to cross the Peach Tree, but then had to fight off an attack by Brig. Gen. Reynold´s Arkansas Brigade (CSA). The skirmish lasted from 3 pm until 7:30 pm and resulted in over 300 killed, wounded or missing.
Col. George H. Cram (USA) of the Ninth Kentucky Infantry, describes the events of the day on his official report:
On the morning of July 19 the regiment was withdrawn from picket and ordered to march, by Colonel Knefler, without tents or knapsacks. About 7 o´clock we moved with the brigade to Peach Tree Creek, the advance regiment of the brigade skirmishing all the way. On arriving within a short distance of Peach Tree Creek I was directed by Colonel Knefler to take the Severity-ninth Indiana and my regiment and move to the right of the road a few hundred yards and await orders. We moved out to an open field, where we had a full view of the enemy´s position. The Atlanta road crosses the creek, where it makes a short bend to the left, and then runs for some distance parallel to the creek about 400 yards; and about 150 yards from it on the right bank is a knoll or piece of high ground, which completely commands the opposite bank. I was ordered to move with the Seventy-ninth Indiana and get possession of this bank, leaving the Ninth Kentucky in the skirt of a woods on the right of the road. On ascending the knoll I discovered two heavy lines of the enemy´s skirmishers on the opposite side of the creek advancing toward the position I was ordered to occupy. On perceiving us they fell back. I placed the Seventy-ninth Indiana in position facing the creek, and threw up a barricade of rails. The enemy occupied a skirt of woods on the left bank, apparently in some force. In several places their works could be seen distinctly. I reported to Colonel Knefler and was ordered to hold the position. Our skirmishers were briskly engaged with those of the enemy for several hours, when I received orders to cross the creek at the point where the Seventy-ninth Indiana lay, with the Seventy-ninth Indiana and Ninth Kentucky. I accordingly directed Lieutenant-Colonel Bailey, of the Ninth Kentucky, to move into position on the left of the Seventy-ninth Indiana. Fifty skirmishers were thrown out from each regiment, under command of Major Parker, Seventy-ninth Indiana. The brigade corps of pioneers, under command of Major Gemmer, succeeded in throwing a bridge across the creek at two points, about 100 yards apart. The crossing of the creek was effected under fire of the enemy´s skirmishers, with but little loss. The space between the creek and the enemy was a corn-field, about 300 yards across. I had just made the disposition to advance when Major Parker, Seventy-ninth Indiana, commanding the skirmishers, was, unfortunately, wounded by a sharpshooter, thus delaying the advance some minutes. I placed Captain Dunbar, Seventy-ninth Indiana, in command of the skirmishers, and ordered him forward, I with the regiments some 150 yards to the rear. The enemy was surprised. We drove him from his position with some loss, capturing Lieutenant-Colonel Hale, Second (rebel) Tennessee [†], and 40 of his men and officers, with but slight loss to ourselves. We advanced to the road, fired a few volleys at the enemy, who retreated, leaving his position in our possession. I placed the Seventy-ninth Indiana in position, its left on the road and its right extended toward the river; the Ninth Kentucky along the road. Colonel Manderson, with the Nineteenth Ohio Infantry, reported to me and was placed in reserve, ready to act on either flank, three companies of his regiment being thrown to the right and front of the Seventy-ninth Indiana, where the enemy threatened. The enemy got a battery of artillery in position bearing on us, without, however, doing much injury, it soon being silenced by a section of Bradley´s battery, which enfiladed it from the opposite side of the river. The enemy, recovering from his surprise, got into position in front of the Seventy-ninth Indiana, and we hastily threw up works. The skirmishers attacked furiously, and I became apprehensive that he would attack in force, when the balance of the brigade arrived and formed on the right of the Seventy-ninth Indiana, making our position secure. We remained here until about 7 o´clock, when we were relieved by Hazen´s brigade and ordered back to our camp at Buck Head where we arrived at 10 p.m. On the morning of the 20th I received marching orders, and moved with the brigade to the left, taking the Decatur road about three miles, turned to the right toward and went into position facing Atlanta, on the right of Stanleys division.
General Howard (USA) estimates his casualties at about 20 killed and wounded. [Corr part 4 - p 189]
Gen. Reynolds´ brigade (CSA), of Walthall´s division, guarded the bridge over Peach Tree Creek on Paces Ferry Road as well as supporting the Cavalry operating in the area. On July 18, at about 2 PM, his brigade moved south of the creek and began destroying the bridge. Shortly after the bridge was set on fire, skirmishing began with Union forces on the north side of the creek, the skirmishing continued during the night. Capt. Yates (CSA) used one section of his artillery with effect. During the night Gen. Reynolds extended his picket line to his right and to his left. [OR 711 p 935 ]
At about 1 PM on the 19th, Gen. Gist´s (CSA) brigade relieved Gen. Reynolds and his men. Leaving about 80 men who could not be relieved from their post on Paces Ferry Road, because of their exposed position, and 80 men on his extreme left, Gen. Reynolds moved his brigade downstream (to its left) to the gap between Gen. Adams´ right and the eighty men that were stationed on his left before his move and relieved part of Gen. Adams pickets. The left of Gen. Reynolds brigade was within sight of Moore´s Mill and about 300 yards from it. The men were deployed from 5 to 10 paces apart. [OR 711 p 935 ]
During the day of the 18th, Brig. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis´ (USA), division reached the vicinity of Peach Tree Creek, and set up camp a short distance below Howell´s Mill. On the morning of the 19th, Maj. Gen. Thomas (USA) issued orders to Brig. Gen. Davis (USA) to cross Peach Tree Creek. Brig. Gen. Davis (USA) ordered Col. Caleb J. Dilworth (USA) to move his brigade to the mouth of Green Bone Creek in search for crossing that was believed to exist it there. A place troops could cross Peach Tree Creek was found but it was strongly picketed by the confederates. Col. Bill Dilworth (USA) was ordered to cross the creek and the drive the defending confederates away from the opposite bank if possible. The fifty-second Ohio was able to cross the creek on a log and advanced across a field to the top of a hill. [OR 140 p 712] The remainder of the brigade followed.[OR 123 p 634]
Maj. James T. Holmes (USA), commanding the Fifty-second Ohio Infantry, describes the crossing:
In the afternoon of the 19th the regiment, under the personal direction of Colonel Dilworth, commanding brigade, effected the crossing of Peach Tree, and only sheltered from the fire of the enemy by a light strip of undergrowth on each side of the stream. As soon as the entire regiment was on the south side of the creek, Companies A, F, H, B, and K were deployed as skirmishers, as much as possible under cover of the bushes, with instructions to halt when the ridge and houses, from 300 to 500 yards in front, should be carried. At the command the five companies leaped from cover, and, as quickly as men could pass over the distance, regardless of the fire from twice their number of guns, carried the crest with a shout at the success. Lieutenant-Colonel Clancy immediately double-quicked the reserve to the right and rear of the skirmish line on the crest, and began a light work of rails for the purpose of sheltering the reserve. Company A, by his order, was withdrawn from the skirmish line, and Companies F, E, and G sent forward on the right. Both our flanks were without support at this moment. Orders to move the skirmish line forward were sent by the colonel commanding brigade, and as the movement began it was met by the enemy in force, charging back upon the line. The weight of his first assault struck the center and left of the line, but did not succeed in dislodging us from the houses and the crest, although our loss, in proportion to the number engaged, was severe in killed, wounded, and missing. [OR 146 pp 729-730]
Gen. Reynolds (CSA) soon learned of the crossing by the Federals. Before he could issue orders to his brigade to prepare for an attack the, Fifty-second Ohio advanced across the field to the right of the line of skirmishes he had just posted. The Confederate regiment here was compelled to retire and two of its men were taken prisoner. Gen. Reynolds immediately ordered Lieut. Col. Smith to move rapidly to support the regiment and directed the remaining regiments (the First [Rifles] and Fourth Arkansas) to follow rapidly and deploy to fill up the gap. General Reynolds´ describes the action:
The troops moved at a double-quick, but before they arrived at their designated positions I found the enemy were in force in line of battle and extending across and to the right and left of the gap, and were at the road in front of which (on each side of the gap) ran our picket-line. I at once formed a line of battle, part of it in one rank parallel with the road, with my whole force present except the Twenty-fifth Arkansas, which was still on the skirmish line, leaving a space of several hundred yards between the left of the line and the Twenty-fifth Regiment. As soon as formed the line moved forward and soon engaged the enemy, who was at points not more than seventy-five yards distant, and drove the enemy back on all parts of our line except on extreme right, occupied by skirmishers, who had exhausted their ammunition and were compelled to fall back. Hearing that the right skirmishers had fallen back to the road, I feared we were cut off from ambulances and ordnance wagons, and directed the wounded to be carried directly to our rear some distance, and prisoners to be carried to General Adams command. A number were carried to that brigade; the exact number I have no means of knowing. [OR 711 pp 935-936]
The rest of the Davis´ (USA) 3rd brigade followed the Fifty-second Ohio regiment as quickly as possible.
The balance of our brigade crossed, first, Eighty-fifth Illinois, and went to the assistance of the Fifty-second Ohio on the left, and found a heavy force; next came the One hundred and twenty-fifth Illinois, and moved forward to the crest of the hill; next the Eighty-sixth Illinois, and formed on the left. The Twenty-second Indiana at the same time commenced crossing on our right and connected with the Fifty-second Ohio skirmishers on the right. Word was sent to General Davis for assistance. At the same time information was received that the enemy was drifting to the right. Colonel Langley, One hundred and twenty-fifth Illinois, was ordered to form on the right, which he did at a double-quick, and just reached the top of the hill as the enemy was ready to attack, and, after a fire from the One hundred and twenty-fifth Illinois, the rebels were driven back from the right. [OR 140 p 712]
General Reynolds continues his report:
As soon as ammunition was supplied, the skirmishers on the right advanced to near their old position and relieved all fears of losing the road. The brigade captured some 80 or 100 prisoners. The Ninth Arkansas captured 2 stands of colors, which were sent to division headquarters. While forming Colonel Farrell tendered the services of his regiment (the Fifteenth Mississippi), just relieved, and my inspector was ordered to conduct him and form his regiment on the left of the line. Colonel Farrell failed to join on my left as directed, and I again sent my inspector, directing him to so form, but failing to do so, and my inspector failing to return (being captured), I sent my assistant adjutant-general, and had to send him a second time, when he found Colonel Farrell fortifying with rails, & c., at a distance from my left flank and at nearly right angles with it. I had been outflanked on the left, and two companies of the Ninth Arkansas were deployed back from their left to act as vedettes and prevent the enemy from coming down on my flank without notice. After the fourth call on Colonel Farrell, he moved and formed on left of the Twenty-fifth Arkansas that had just joined from the skirmish line on my extreme left. I now ordered forward both wings and directed the center to remain stationary and aid by an enfilading fire as soon as the wings should become engaged. I feared to risk a general advance, as the enemy were in strong force in my front, and my line was very thin, but by advancing both wings hoped to recover my old picket-line and be prepared to take advantage of any disorder in the main force of the enemy by throwing his flanks in confusion on it. The right retook its line and was compelled to yield it again, as the enemy, by extending to the right, outflanked me. The right fell back a short distance and maintained its position. On the left the Twenty-fifth Arkansas and Fifteenth Mississippi in moving forward failed to connect with the left of the Ninth Arkansas, on left of the line. This failure to connect left a space of 150 or 200 yards, through which some of the enemy passed on the flank of these regiments, and after they had driven the enemy before them they were compelled to retreat. Both brought prisoners with them in withdrawing. As these regiments drove the enemy into the open ground, the center of the line poured a deadly fire on them, killing and wounding a number. The enemy having retaken the picket-line, the fighting ceased, leaving me in possession of our entire line, though some parts of it were retired from 100 to 200 yards. The Twentieth Mississippi was deployed in front of the Fifteenth Mississippi, and, with the left of my brigade extended, a new line was formed about 100 yards in front of the road from left to right, until it struck the open field and former gap, and then it continued to and up the road to the right. I learned that General Gist had fallen back some distance from the creek, and had been relieved by General Maney´s brigade, and heard the rumor that the enemy were passing through the gap to my right, there being at this time a gap of near or quite a mile. I immediately sent out scouts and ascertained that the enemies line extended from my left across the Paces Ferry road, and that he was intrenching along his whole line. About 11 p. m. the First Alabama relieved the Mississippi regiments and two regiments on my left, it being extended at intervals of five paces. With my brigade I extended my line by deploying from five to twenty paces interval, and established a line connecting with General Maney´s left. During the night on the line held by a portion of my brigade, and being but a very small part of the ground fought over, I gathered up and brought in 102 stand of small-arms. The moon shone brightly, and only such guns as lay on our immediate line could be gathered, as the enemy [continued] to fire on any one going in front of the lines either for guns or to care for their wounded. From the number of killed and wounded left near our line the enemy must have lost at the hands of my brigade alone over 500 in killed, wounded, and prisoners a number greater than my whole force engaged.
The fighting lasted from 3 p. m. until 7.30 p. m. Could the co-operation of the Fifteenth Mississippi been secured when first called on I think we would have captured a much larger number of prisoners and retaken and held all the line to the left of the gap. During the night I strengthened my line across the open ground by rails and earth-works and at other points by logs and rails. My loss was 8 killed, 48 wounded, and 3 missing. Among the wounded were Maj. J. P. Eagle and Lieutenant Kirkpatrick, of the Second Regiment [Rifles], being severely wounded while nobly discharging their duties. The Fifteenth Mississippi acted gallantly when brought into action. [OR 711 p 936]
Col John G. Mitchell´s (US) 2nd brigade was ordered to the support Dilworth´s (US) brigade. The 2nd brigade succeeded in crossing the Peach Tree creek in time to assist in the closing of the fight and repulse of the enemy. Brig. Gen. James D. Morgan´s (US) 1st brigade, the One hundred and twenty-first Ohio, of Mitchells 2nd (US) brigade, and the batteries were held as reserved forces on the north bank of the Peach Tree creek. Brig. Gen. Absalom Baird´s (U. S.) Third Division, division crossed and took position on the left of Davis´ division during the night. [OR 123 p 635]
In his official report, Brig. Gen. Reynolds (CSA), details his attempts to get Colonel Farrell´s (CSA) 15th Mississippi regiment to close on his left. In his official report, Brig. Gen. John Adams, Col. Farrell´s brigade commander, claims that Col. Farrell did advance. He details the activities of Col Farrell´s command as follows:
The Fifteenth Mississippi Regiment and two companies of the Sixth Mississippi were relieved by a brigade of General Walthall´s division, under General Reynolds, this evening. No sooner had General Reynolds taken the line than the enemy advanced in force, driving in vedettes. General Reynolds requested Colonel Farrell to remain and assist him in driving back the enemy. This Colonel Farrell did, and when the enemy advanced he (Colonel Farrell) moved forward his regiment and two companies of Sixth Mississippi on the left of Reynolds´ brigade in gallant style, easily driving everything before them, retook his old line on the creek, and demanded the surrender of the regiment in his front. The whole regiment surrendered, when, on looking to his right, he (Colonel Farrell) found that Reynolds´ brigade had not advanced in concert with him, thereby exposing his (Colonel Farrell´s) right, which being perceived by the enemy, who should have been confronted by Reynolds, he (the enemy) moved in the rear of Colonel Farrell, which being seen by the colonel (Farrell), he immediately faced to the rear and captured all who passed his front, about 60, including a lieutenant-colonel [Clancy] of Col. Daniel McCook´s regiment (Fifty-second Ohio). This move, of course, liberated the regiment which had surrendered to Colonel Farrell. Had General Reynolds cooperated and connected with Colonel Farrell a thousand prisoners might easily have been taken. As it was, however, I lost heavily both in killed and wounded. [O.R. 696 p 891]
The truth about these two versions of the actions that day cannot be determined from the historical records. The only clue comes from Maj. James T. Holmes (US), Fifty-second Ohio Infantry. In his report, he does note that Lieut. Col. C. W. Clancy (US) was taken prisoner. It should also be noted that Brig. Gen. Adams (CSA) uses the phrase “to remain and assist”. Col. Ferrell (CSA) may have misunderstood the order. A reading of the two accounts can lead to this conclusion, but it is only speculation at best. [OR 146 p 730]
|Col Caleb J. Dilworth (USA)[‡2]|
|Reynolds´ Arkansas Brigade (CSA)[‡3]||59|
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|Adams' Mississippi Brigade
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|Reynold's Arkansas Brigade|
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