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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

July 19, 1864

Union Troops Reached Peachtree Creek

Confederate forces engaged several divisions of Union troops trying to cross Peachtree Creek north of Atlanta. In heavy fighting, some Union forces succeeded in crossing, while others were turned back. Meanwhile, Union General William T. Sherman was with the 23rd Corps at the present site of Emory University. Here, he issued Special Field Order No. 39, which stated:

HDQRS. MIL, DIV. OF THE MISS., In the Field, near Decatur, Ga., July 19, 1864. The whole army will move on Atlanta by the most direct roads to-morrow, July 20, beginning at 5 a.m., as follows: I. Major-General Thomas from the direction of Buck Head, his left to connect with General Schofield’s right about two miles northeast of Atlanta, about lot 15, near the houses marked as “Hu.” and “Col. Hoo.” II. Major-General Schofield by the road leading from Doctor Powell’s to Atlanta. III. Major-General McPherson will follow one or more roads direct from Decatur to Atlanta, following substantially the railroad. Each army commander will accept battle on anything like fair terms, but if the army reach within cannon-range of the city without receiving artillery or musketry fire he will halt, form a strong line, with batteries in position, and await orders. If fired on from the forts or buildings of Atlanta no consideration must be paid to the fact that they are occupied by families, but the place must be cannonaded without the formality of a demand. The general-in-chief will be with the center of the army, viz, with or near General Schofield. By order of Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman: L. M. Dayton, Aide de Camp. Source: U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), Vol. 38, Part 5, p. 193.

As night fell, Union forces stretched along Peachtree Creek to the north, with an arc to the northeast, and yet more forces were to the east. Sherman was now ready to advance on Atlanta, while Hood was determined to stop him. The stage was set for battle.