On July 17, 1864, Confederate General John Bell Hood replaced General Joseph Johnston as commander of the Army of the Tennessee. This change in command signaled a new Confederate strategy to stop Sherman’s Atlanta campaign. Instead of using a series of defensive positions, forcing the Union army to attack, General Hood takes the initiative in attacking the Union army. This becomes evident in the Battle of Peachtree Creek.
The Battle of Peachtree Creek, fought on July 20, 1864, is the first major battle around the city of Atlanta. General Hood sent his army out of the city’s defenses to attack the approaching Federal troops under General George Thomas. After several hours of intense fighting , the Confederates withdrew back into their own defensive works.
Robert Patterson’s regiment, the 61st OVI, was heavily involved in this battle. Dr. Robert G. Carroon’s history of the 61st OVI reports the following about the battle:
“On July 20 the regiment crossed Peachtree Creek and skirmished with the enemy until four o’clock in the afternoon, when the Confederates made a desperate attempt to drive the Union forces back across the Chattahoochee. The fight was one of the most desperate of the war in which the 61st was engaged. The 61st was part of Brigadier General James Sydney Robinson’s Brigade which, together with that commanded by Brigadier General Joseph Farmer Kniepe, was assaulted in a densely wooded area by Major General Edward Cary Walthall’s Division. The 61st received a devastating volley at point-blank range and were flanked on both left and right. They fell back and regrouped, aided by other elements of Major General Alpheus Starkey William’s Division.
For a moment Confederates were in full tide of success, but the XX Corps, under Major General Hooker stood firm and drove them back to their main works. In the Battle of Peachtree Creek, five officers, including Colonel McGroarty, were wounded and one killed. Over seventy of the other ranks were wounded and eighteen or twenty killed. Together with Gettysburg it proved to be the most devastating fight in which the 61st was engaged as far as the number of serious casualties is concerned. At the end of the action the regiment could report only 14 commissioned officers and 194 enlisted men for an aggregate of 208 with 194 guns and 11,640 rounds of ammunition.”