The Great Locomotive Chase
Location: Ringgold, GA
Dates: April 12, 1862
Union Commander: James Andrews (Civilian)
Confederate Commander: William A. Fuller (Conductor/Civilian)
On April 12, 1862, James Andrews, along with nineteen Union infantry
(all from Ohio), left Tennessee to meet destiny in northern Georgia.
Andrews had a plan that would help relieve the Unionists in eastern
Tennessee. Andrews believed that he and the Ohio troops (who would
forever be know as the Andrews Raiders), could enter northern Georgia, steal
a train, and tear up track, burn bridges and create fear from Atlanta to
Chattanooga. With covert cooperation from U.S. Brigadier General
Ormsby M. Mitchel, the troops, dressed as civilians, arrived at Big Shanty,
just north of Marietta, GA.
The Raiders stayed at the Lacy Hotel, on April
11, and had made plans to steal the locomotive, General, early the next
morning. This would take place in front of roughly 300 new rebel
soldiers (recruits) at Camp McDonald. Early in the morning, the
northbound Western and Atlantic Railroad train, being pulled by the General,
stopped at Big Shanty. Conductor William Fuller, and the passengers
disembarked from the train and set off for a quick breakfast. The
Raiders unhooked the passenger cars, climbed in the General and sped north.
William Fuller watched as his train pulled out of the station. Chasing
after the General, troops at nearby Camp McDonald were alerted. The
chase was on. It would proceed through Acworth, Allatoona, Etowah,
Kingston (a major switching location), Adairsville, Resaca, Dalton, Tunnel
Hill and Catoosa. The speeds, at many times, exceeded 60 MPH.
Along the way, the Raiders tore up track and cut the telegraph lines.
Adairsville, the northbound General met the southbound Texas. James
Andrews was able to convince the stationmaster that the General was on
official army business. After some time, Andrews was able to get the
engineer of the Texas, Peter Bracken, to pull his train far enough forward
to allow the General to pass his long freight train. As the Texas
cleared the General, Andrews sped north.
Going south, the Texas ran into
William Fuller, on foot, and armed. Recognizing him, Bracken stopped
to determine what was going on. Fuller was able to get Bracken to join
in the chase of the General. Speeding north, with the engine pushing
from the rear,. the Texas was running full speed. When she would come
to a section of track, that had been destroyed, they were able to remove a
section, from behind the train, putting it in the hole the Raiders created.
As the Raiders sped north, through Resaca, Dalton, Tunnel Hill and Catoosa,
she began to run low on water - and steam. Just north of the Ringgold
Gap, the General came to a stop. The Raiders got off the train, and
fled northwest. This was the direction of the closest Union troops and
Andrews believed the mountains, around Chattanooga, could screen their
movements from rebel cavalry.
The Raiders would be captured. Andrews would be hung as a traitor.
Six other Ohio soldiers would be hung in Atlanta, as traitors. Six men
would escape prison and the remainder would be exchanged later in the war.
Soldiers from the Andrews Raiders would be the first soldiers to receive the
new Congressional Medal of Honor. These would be presented to them, by
Secretary of War Stanton, after they met with President Lincoln.
disputes over the General, were not over. Chattanooga and Kennesaw, GA
would argue over the fate of the retired engine - each claiming they were
the rightful home of the locomotive. In the end, after lawsuits and
appeals, Kennesaw would be successful in bringing the General back to
Georgia. Today the General resides at the
Southern Museum of Civil War
and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, GA. Close Window