When Bob Jenkins completed his book on the Civil War Battle of Peach Tree Creek, he knew that he’d give Mercer University Press the first look at the manuscript. After all, he’d earned his law degree at Mercer and knew the school’s reputation.
And when the press agreed to publish the book, Jenkins was elated. And also a bit worried.
“I was afraid that maybe I’d led them down a path that might not be financially successful,” he said.
Jenkins, a Dalton attorney, needn’t have worried.
“The Battle of Peach Tree Creek: Hood’s First Sortie, July 20, 1864” came out in late January, and within 10 days the entire first run, some 1,400 copies, had sold out.
“They had about 600 orders on Amazon alone,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting anything like that.”
The book’s second printing should be available in a few weeks.
“When I got my copies, I spotted a few typos we’d missed, and they were kind enough to let me correct them before sending it back to the printer,” he said.
Though it wasn’t as large and hasn’t been written about as much as Chickamauga or Gettysburg, Jenkins said the Battle of Peach Tree Creek was one of the pivotal battles of the Civil War. Fought just north of Atlanta, it presented perhaps the South’s best chance to deter or delay the Union forces of Gen. William T. Sherman.
Union forces would have to cross Peach Tree Creek at several places and would be vulnerable while they did so. The Confederates planned to hit them then. But miscommunication between Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood and his subordinates and a lack of coordination between Confederate forces meant the attack was delayed. The Union forces took a pounding but did not break, and the Confederates had to pull back once again.
Jenkins said the book is the culmination of 20 years of work. He’s been a Civil War buff since fourth grade in Chamblee, when his social studies teacher let him do a project on the war.
But it was at a family get-together when an aunt presented him with the Civil War records of his great-great-grandfather Caradine Jenkins that his interest really developed.
“His story had been passed down in oral history in the family, but we’d never seen anything in writing,” Jenkins said. “That opened up a world to me. I thought I knew everything about the Civil War, but looking through that I realized I knew nothing.”
He began doing research so he could explain the records to his family.
“I ended up going through museums and libraries throughout the South so that I could explain things to my family when we got together again,” he said. “At that point, my father convinced me I should write a book about the 31st Mississippi (the unit his ancestor served with). That led me to the Battle of Peach Tree Creek.”
That unit took part in the Battle of Peach Tree Creek, and the battle was one chapter of that planned book. But after a presentation at the Chattanooga Civil War Roundtable, Jenkins said several people convinced him that the battle was worthy of a book of its own.
The Peach Tree Creek area is very well developed now.
“The good thing is that it’s mostly residential development, so while there are roads and houses and other things that weren’t there when the battle was fought, the terrain still looks pretty much the same, so you can visualize the battle, even if you have to squint your eyes pretty hard sometimes,” Jenkins said.
While Confederate and Union losses were fairly equal in the battle, the 31st Mississippi was hit very hard. Of the 215 men that started the battle, just 34 were not killed, wounded or taken prisoner. Caradine Jenkins was one of those men.
Jenkins said he’s very proud to be able to tell that story and is thankful for the reception his book has gotten.
Bob Jenkins will present the program on Thursday at the February meeting of the Dalton Civil War Roundtable. The meeting is at the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society and begins at 7:30 p.m. The public is invited.