Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Great Locomotive Chase

The Raiders
 150 years ago today occurred one of the most exciting and romantic events of the Civil War, the Great Locomotive Chase. Federal Major General Ormsby Mithcel was planning an attack on Chattanooga, on the Tennessee-Georgia line. However, an attack would be difficult as Chattanooga was protected by high mountains and the Tennessee River. James J. Andrews, a Northern civilian, developed a plan for a raid that would cut the important railroad connecting Chattanooga, Georgia, to Atlanta, Georgia. Mitchel could then more on Chattanooga without it being able to be reinforced by rail.

Andrews convinced 22 soldiers to volunteer for the mission, along with several civilians. They went behind the Confederate lines in civilian clothes, and all but two met at their rendezvous in Marietta, Georgia without behind detected. On the morning of April 12th, they hijacked the train the General in a small town with no telegraph, while the train was stopped for the pass angers to eat. Andrews set out, planning to destroy as much of the railroad as he could along the way. He was pursued by William Fuller, the conductor, along with several other men on a handcar. He stopped a train and was able to use it to chase Andrew's raiders. At Adairsville he encountered a break in the track made by the raiders, and so he ran on foot to the other side and commandeered the Texas coming south, and started her backwards towards the General. He was still not far behind the General, because the raiders had to keep to the train's schedule to avoid an accident with a southbound train. Along the way Andrews cut the telegraph wire to keep the Confederates from letting the stations and men up the line know of the captured train. As the raiders approached Chattanooga, they were unable to destroy the tunnels and bridges because the Texas was so close behind.

The General finally ran out of fuel near Ringgold, Georgia, just 18 miles from Chattanooga. Anderson and his men scattered, but they were not able to make their escape. Within two weeks all had been rounded up and put on trial as spies, since they were wearing civilian clothing. Eight of them were hung in the first weeks of June, and then the rest tried to make their escape to avoid a similar fate. Eight were successful in traveling the many miles back to the Union lines, and the rest were treated as prisoners of war and exchanged. These men were some of the first recipients of the Medal of Honor. All but two of the soldiers were awarded it, those two being somehow lost in the shuffle. The civilians who participated, including Andrews, did not receive it since as civilians they were ineligible.


Carmela said...

Man, what a story. I hadn't heard of it. Just amazing.

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