The Great Locomotive Chase
or Andrews' Raid
was a military raid that occurred April 12
, in northern Georgia
during the American Civil War
. Volunteers from the Union Army
stole a train
in an effort to disrupt the vital Western & Atlantic Railroad
(W&A), which ran from Atlanta, Georgia
, to Chattanooga, Tennessee
. They were pursued by other locomotives
, and the raiders were eventually captured, with some being executed as spies
. Some of Andrews' Raiders became the very first recipients of the Medal of Honor
Maj. Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel
commanded the Federal troops in Tennessee
. He planned to move southwest with his army and seize Huntsville, Alabama
, before turning east in hopes of capturing Chattanooga, Tennessee
. James J. Andrews
, a civilian scout and part-time spy, proposed a daring raid aimed at destroying the Western and Atlantic Railroad
link to Chattanooga, isolating the city from Atlanta. He recruited a civilian named William Campbell
, as well as 22 volunteer Union
soldiers from three Ohio regiments
. Andrews instructed the men to arrive in Marietta, Georgia
, by midnight of April 10
. With the plans delayed a day by heavy rain, they traveled in small parties in civilian clothing to avoid arousing suspicion. All but two men were able to reach the designated rendezvous point at the appointed time.
On the morning of April 12
, a passenger train with the locomotive General
was stopped at Big Shanty (now Kennesaw, Georgia
) so that the crew and passengers could have breakfast. Andrews and his raiders took this opportunity to Hijack
and a few railcars. His goal was to drive the train towards the north toward Chattanooga and meet up with Mitchel's advancing army. En route, Andrews planned to inflict as much damage as possible to the railroad by tearing up track, destroying switches, burning covered bridges
, and disrupting telegraph
wires. James J. Andrews' men commandeered the General
and steamed out of Big Shanty, leaving behind startled and shocked passengers, crew members, and onlookers, which included a number of Confederate
soldiers from a trackside camp.
The train's conductor, William Allen Fuller, chased the General by foot and handcar. At Etowah, Fuller spotted the Yonah and with it chased the raiders north, all the way up to Kingston. At Kingston, Conductor Fuller got on the William R. Smith and headed north to Adairsville. The tracks two miles south of Adairsville were broken by the raiders, so Fuller had to run the distance by foot. At Adairsville, Fuller took command of the southbound locomotive Texas and chased the General.
With the Texas chasing the General in reverse, the two trains steamed through Dalton, and Tunnel Hill. At various points, raiders severed telegraph wires so no transmissions could go through to Chattanooga. However, their objective of burning bridges and dynamiting Tunnel Hill was not accomplished. At milepost 116.3 (north of Ringgold, Georgia), with the locomotive out of fuel, Andrews' men abandoned the General and scattered, just a few miles from Chattanooga.
Andrews and all 21 of his men were caught by the Confederates, as well as the two that had missed the hijacking that morning by oversleeping. Andrews was tried in Chattanooga and found guilty. He was executed by hanging on June 7 in Atlanta. On June 18, seven others who had been transported to Knoxville and convicted as spies, were returned to Atlanta and also hanged; their bodies were buried unceremoniously in an unmarked grave (they were later reburied in Chattanooga National Cemetery). Eight other raiders made a successful and remarkable escape from confinement. Traveling for hundreds of miles in predetermined pairs, they all made it back safely to Union lines, including two who were aided by slaves and Union sympathizers and two who floated down the Chattahoochee River until they were eventually rescued by the Union blockade vessel, U.S.S. Somerset. The remaining eight were exchanged as prisoners of war on March 17, 1864.
The very first Medals of Honor were given to these men by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. Later, all but two of the other soldiers also received them (posthumously for those who had been executed). The two who have not received the Medal of Honor were executed but the story of their heroics was apparently lost in a paper shuffle at the War Department, and it took some lobbying for them to be appropriately honored. As civilians, Andrews and Campbell were not eligible.
The pursuit of Andrews' Raiders formed the basis of the Buster Keaton silent film comedy The General and a dramatic 1956 Walt Disney film, The Great Locomotive Chase, starring Fess "Davy Crockett" Parker as Andrews.
19 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor
for involvement in the raid. They are listed by date of receiving the MOH;
Received Medal on March 25, 1863
- Pvt.(later 1Lt.) Jacob Wilson Parrott (1843-1908)
- Pvt.(later Cpt.) William Bensinger (1840-1918)
- Pvt.(later 2Lt.) Robert Buffum (1828-1871)
- Sgt.(later Cpt.) Elihu Harlam Mason (1831-1896)
- Sgt. William Pittenger (1840-1904)
- Cpl.(later 2Lt.) William Henry Harrison Reddick (1840-1903)
Received Medal on September 17, 1863
- Cpl.(later 1Lt.) Daniel Allen Dorsey (1838-1918)
- Pvt.(later 2Lt.) Mark Wood (1839-1866)
- Pvt.(later Sgt.) Wilson Wright Brown (1837-1916)
- Pvt. William James Knight (1837-1916)
- Pvt. John Alfred Wilson (1832-1904)
- Sgt. Maj. Marion A. Ross (1832-1862) (posthumous; was hanged as a spy by the Confederates)
- Pvt. Samuel Robertson (1843-1862) (posthumous; was hanged as a spy by the Confederates)
- Pvt.(later 1Lt.) John Reed Porter (1838-1923) (overslept the day of the raid, did not participate)
- Cpl.(later Sgt.) Martin Jones Hawkins (1830-1886) (overslept the day of the raid, did not participate)
Received Medal on July 6, 1864
- Pvt.(later Cpl.) James Smith (birth name Ovid Wellford Smith) (1844-1868) (was forced to enlist in a Confederate unit before reaching Marietta, did not participate)
Received Medal on July 20, 1864
- Pvt. John Wollam (1840-1890)
Received Medal on August 4, 1866
- Sgt. John Morehead Scott (1839-1862) (posthumous; was hanged as a spy by the Confederates)
Received Medal on July 28, 1883
- Pvt. Samuel Slavens (1831-1862) (posthumous; was hanged as a spy by the Confederates)
Three other soldiers who volunteered were not awarded the Medal of Honor;
- Cpl.(later Sgt.) Samuel Llewellyn (1841-1915) (was forced to enlist in a Confederate unit before reaching Marietta, did not participate)
- Pvt. George Davenport Wilson (1830-1862) (was hanged as a spy by the Confederates)
- Pvt. Charles Perry Shadrack (real name Phillip Gephart Shadrach) (1840-1862) (was hanged as a spy by the Confederates; ineligible for Medal of Honor due to serving under an assumed name)
W&A in modern times
Today, the W&A has not changed much since the chase of 1862. A marker indicating where the chase began is near the Big Shanty Museum in Kennesaw. A marker where the chase ended is at Milepost 116.3, north of Ringgold — which is not far from the recently restored depot at Milepost 114.5.
A monument dedicated to Andrews' Raiders is located at the Chattanooga National Cemetery. There is a scale model of the General on top of the monument, and a brief history of the Great Locomotive Chase. The General is now in the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, Kennesaw, Georgia; while the Texas is on display at the Atlanta Cyclorama.
The Chase in music
The Great Locomotive Chase
is also a musical piece arranged for symphonic band, written by composer Robert W. Smith. The piece is based on Andrews's Raid, including sound effects that remind the listener of railroad engines.