A few weeks ago I wrote about the estates of George Washington “Wash” Collier and Wesley Gray Collier, which became Ansley Park, Sherwood Forest and Peachtree Heights, respectively. During my research I came across this story, which was too involved to squeeze into my limited word count but was too good not to retell, though the great historian Franklin Garrett does it much more ably in his “Atlanta and Environs.”
Wesley Collier’s home in 1864 was the first house on Peachtree Road after crossing Peachtree Creek in Buckhead. The address was 2510 Peachtree Road. It would have been in vicinity of Muscogee Avenue and in the shadow of the yellow 2500 Peachtree condominium building.
At the time the South was in the grips of the Civil War. A report came into Atlanta that a group of men were stealing and creating chaos to the north of city, just past Buckhead. It was assumed these men were Confederate Army deserters. Confederate Maj. George W. Lee was stationed on Peachtree Street near 11th Street with about 100 men. He instructed a small group of young soldiers — few if any over the age of 18 — to go up Peachtree Road, check out every house and bring the hooligans to justice.
The group came upon Collier’s home first at about 8 p.m. Inside were Collier, who was readying for bed; his four children, who were gathered around a fading fire, and a servant girl.
The idyllic winter evening was shattered by shouting from outside. At first they asked for water and Collier directed one of the children to get them some, but the shouting grew more aggressive and the men came on to the porch. Without opening the door, Collier told the men to leave.
The soldiers, who didn’t identify themselves, demanded entry. Collier grabbed his shotgun and a handgun and told his children to hide. The men, shouting for everyone to come out of the home, began breaking windows and threatening to burn the house down. One of them tried to enter through a broken window, yelling “Come on, boys.”
It was at that time Collier fired his weapon, hitting the intruder. The soldiers then opened fire on the house. No one was hit but one mini ball struck the wall just above the heads of the huddled children. Collier told everyone to run out of the house. As he ran to the woods more shots rang out, all missing the intended target.
Collier remained at the edge of the woods in the dark watching. The soldiers loaded their fallen comrade into a nearby buggy belonging to Collier and left. He sent word that his home had been attacked. City Marshall Oliver H. Jones and two policemen headed out toward Collier’s property that night and found in the vicinity of 16th Street a large fire, around which was a small group of soldiers, one of them badly wounded. Collier’s buggy was also nearby. The soldier, who had been shot in the stomach, would later die from his wound.
The men were not arrested that night, but were found guilty of “aggravated riot” in a case that went all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and a former news editor of this paper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.