The new commander of the Army of Tennessee, Confederate General John B. Hood, hoped to destroy one of Union General William T. Sherman's three armies as it crossed Peach Tree Creek. Hood's target was Major General George Thomas's Army of the Cumberland.
On Tuesday, July 19, 1864, the divisions of Union Brigadier Generals Thomas J. Wood and John Newton of Major General Oliver O. Howard's 4th Corps marched south from Buckhead to Peach Tree Creek. At 6:30 p.m. they found the bridge here burned by Confederates. Wood improvised a crossing and established a bridgehead.
Early on Wednesday, July 20th, Wood recrossed Peach Tree Creek and moved eastward to cover a gap between Howard's 4th Corps and Major General John Schofield's 23rd Corps. Newton's division replaced Wood's south of the creek,
covering the left flank of the Federal 20th Corps. Because Howard accompanied two of his divisions eastward Newton temporarily took orders directly from Thomas who came to Peach Tree Creek to personally oversee his fellow Virginian's advance.
Newton deployed 3/4 mile south along the eastern end of the ridge occupied by the 20th Corps. He placed Brigadier General Nathan Kimball's land Colonel John Blake's brigades astride Buckhead Road (Peachtree Road). Colonel Luther Bradley's brigade was placed in the road with two regiments establishing
a picket line eastward along Reach Tree Creek. In addition six cannon were placed just south of the creek.
From that ridge and its hastily improvised fortifications Newton defended his position against the energetic attacks of three divisions from Confederate Lieutenant General William J. Hardee's Corps. The attacks, made "en echelon" from right to left, were "with a rapidity and absence of confusion I have never seen equaled," wrote Kimball. The division of Confederate Major General William B. Bate attacked first close to 4:00 p.m. Bate's men were supposed to assault Newton's left flank but instead became lost in the nearly impenetrable thickets. Eventually some of Confederate Brigadier General Joseph Lewis's Kentucky brigade nearly reached Peach Tree Creek to cut-off Newton's line of retreat. The Kentuckians drove away most of Bradley's pickets but fell back under fire from the six-gun battery.
Confederate Major General W.H.T. Walker's division attacked Newton's center. As Walker's men advanced an Ohio skirmisher racing back to his lines shouted, "Here they come, boys! By God, a million of them." One of Walker's brigades found some
success and charged for the creek. But the cannon posted here and below the creek forced a retreat.
The last division in Hardee's Corps to attack was that of Brigadier General George E. Maney.
A portion of it approached Newton's right flank but halted when they discovered the Federals had partially entrenched.
Inadequate reconnaissance, poor coordination, rugged terrain and effective artillery fire enabled Newton's 3,200-man division to prevent 10,000 Confederates in Hardee's Corps from reaching this crossing of Peach Tree Creek and enveloping Thomas's left flank. The Confederate failure at Peach
Tree Creek led to a second flanking attempt two days later resulting in the Battle of Atlanta.