The Great Locomotive Chase
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Location: Ringgold, GA
Dates: April 12, 1862
Union Commander:  James Andrews (Civilian)
Confederate Commander:  William A. Fuller (Conductor/Civilian)

Battle Summary:
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.

At 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.

The 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