or the following day we commenced intrenching, the enemy having crossed the Chattahoochee, and advanced on Sunday, the 17th to the vicinity of Peach Tree Creek. This corps was on the left, Hardee's in the center, Cheatham's (formerly Hood's) on the right of the army.
On the morning of the 20th it was decided at army headquarters that at 1 p. m. that day an attack should be made on the enemy by this corps and Hardee's. The plan was for the divisions (commencing on Hardee's right) to move forward successively in echelon at intervals of some 200 yards, to attack the enemy, drive him back to the creek, and then press down the creek to the left. Should the enemy be found intrenched his works were to be carried, everything on our side of the creek was to be taken, and our crossing to the other side of the creek was to depend on our success. Such were the instructions of the commanding general to General Hardee and myself. I was to hold a division in reserve. It seems a division had been withdrawn from the lines on the right of Hardee's corps. His corps and mine were to close to the right far enough to cover the space vacated by this division, the space to be divided between the two corps. This would have shifted my line a half division front to the right-perhaps at most half a mile. The division and brigade commanders were notified of the work to be done, and directed to reconnoiter the ground in front of their lines as far as practicable. At 1 o'clock I found the left of Hardee's corps just beginning to shift to the right. Feeling that this change was not important, and that not a moment should be lost in making the attack contemplated, a staff officer was dispatched to the commanding general to inform him of the fact, and requesting an order to stop the movement to the right and commence the forward movement. The result was, however, that to keep up connection with the other corps my line moved fully a mile and a half or two miles to the right, and my right division (Loring's) did not move forward, following the one on its right in the prescribed order, until near 4 o'clock. My instructions to division commanders, and through them to commanders of brigades and regiments, were: to move forward and attack the enemy; if found intrenched to fix bayonets and carry his works; to drive him back to the creek and then press down the creek; that we were to carry everything in our front on our side of the creek. Loring's division was on the right, Walthall's in the center, and French's, the reserve division, on the left. The instructions given were obeyed promptly and with alacrity. Loring's division moved forward and carried the works in their front, but were compelled to fall back by an enfilade fire from the right, because the left division of the other corps had not moved up to the attack. Walthall's division also engaged the enemy with great spirit, while French's was moved so as to cover the left and be in supporting distance. Learning the cause of the check to Loring's and Walthall's divisions, an officer [was] dispatched to request General Hardee to allow his left division to co-operate with Loring in carrying the line in its front. Before an answer was received a staff officer from the commanding general brought me an order to retire to the intrenched line from which we had advanced, and the conflict terminated.
The loss in Loring's and Walthall's division, especially the former, was heavy. These commanders, their subordinates, and men behaved entirely to my satisfaction, and I cannot but think, had the plan of the battle, as I understood it, been carried out fully, we would have achieved a great success.