Visiting Sites of the Great Locomotive Chase, 2018

James N.

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#1
Part I - Marietta to Kingston, Georgia
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During my recent trip to Northern Georgia on my way to the 2018 Civil War Talk Gathering at Ringgold/Chickamauga NMP I took the opportunity to revisit and visit for the first time many sites associated with the April 12, 1862 Andrews Railroad Raid, better known as the Great Locomotive Chase. A party of Union volunteers led by courier and spy James J. Andrews stole a locomotive belonging to the Western & Atlantic Rail Road (W&ARR), taking it on an 87 mile attempt to damage and disrupt the line which connected the vital railheads and supply centers at Atlanta, Georgia and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Above, the captured engine General, portrayed by artist Bradley Schmehl.

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The route followed is largely the same today, as depicted in the map above by artist and historian of the incident Wilbur G. Kurtz, who also painted most of the illustrations appearing in this thread. Kurtz had "inside information" about the chase because he had married the daughter of Captain William Fuller who had led the pursuit of the raiders. Kurtz also served as historical consultant when the Walt Disney Co. made the film version of The Great Locomotive Chase in 1956.

Marietta
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The first site available to the history of Andrews' raid is the Kennesaw House hotel, now home to the Marietta Museum of History. This was the rendezvous for the party of Federal raiders, some twenty in number. A life-size diorama below depicts Andrews as he looks out on the tracks in front of the hotel waiting for the General to arrive. Meanwhile, his men gathered in twos and threes at the next-door station, now replaced by a later building above at left.

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Big Shanty
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The raid actually got underway at Big Shanty (now the city of Kennesaw) where General stopped for breakfast at the Lacy Hotel as depicted in Kurtz' painting above. As the historical marker below describes, while the crew and all the other passengers were at breakfast, Andrews' men uncoupled the passenger cars from the train and began their journey, pursued by the conductor, Capt. William Fuller, fireman Jeff Cain, and W&ARR official Anthony Murphy.

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Today the handsome Southern Railroad and Civil War Museum stands beside the tracks and across the street from the site of the Lacy Hotel, now a Kennesaw city park. The museum is highly recommended for anyone interested in either or especially both of its stated subjects. The flags of the United States, the Confederacy, and the State of Georgia and the large stone monument are all dedicated to the incident.

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The centerpiece and pride of the museum's collection is the once-fugitive and much-restored General above; below, the two human heroes of the story, a photograph of James J. Andrews at left and William Fuller at right in a portrait by Cathy Cooksey.

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Alatoona Pass
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Above, the topographical feature known as Alatoona Pass in a post-war photograph by George Barnard; here was a station and siding serving a small town, now drowned by the waters of Alatoona Lake. The pass, however, still exists and can be visited in the battlefield park here operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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The rails have been lifted and the line rerouted in this area following the creation of the lake, but the old line is now a trail as can be seen above; below one of several historical markers describing the October, 1864 Battle of Alatoona is devoted to the story of the Andrews Raid, although both raiders and pursuers negotiated the pass without incident. At first, Fuller, Murphy, and Cain began their pursuit on foot but soon found a work crew and were able to commandeer their pole car; it fell victim to the first of the rails lifted by the raiders, but was soon righted and again on its way with its crew keeping a watchful eye for further mischief.

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Etowah River Crossing and Cooper Ironworks
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The first major river crossing after the raiders had seized the General was here at the trestle over the Etowah River between Alatoona and Cartersville. Although the wooden structure was burned by the retreating Confederates during the Atlanta Campaign, leaving only the stone supports above, Andrews at this early stage in the raid made no effort to damage it in his haste to get underway. Unfortunately for him, the pursuers were able to commandeer here the yard engine Yonah from the nearby Cooper Ironworks. The works and most of its company town were destroyed by Sherman's army in 1864 leaving today only the stone blast furnace below, now centerpiece of another small Corps of Engineers park.

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Kingston
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Andrews' first major obstacle confronted him at Kingston, a junction of the W&ARR and a spur line to Rome. The raiders were forced to wait on a siding amid suspicious citizenry for over an hour for three freights to pass. Most remained in hiding, cooped up in the boxcars while Andrews attempted to persuade the crowd that General was being used to convey ammunition to General P. G. T. Beauregard at Corinth, Miss. during the Shiloh Campaign. Eventually he was able to pass the freights but Fuller and his men soon arrived in Yonah; unable to pass the traffic jam, he next commandeered the William R. Smith, seen above in another Kurtz painting. Unfortunately, nothing but the outline of the foundation remains of the Kingston station; a historical marker for the raid, a Confederate cemetery, and the marker below for one of Kingston's many hospitals is all left from the period.

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Next, Part II
 
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TomV71

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#2
Excellent post. I have always been fascinated by that story and those areas in Northwestern GA, ever since I saw that movie as a young brat in the 70's. I went to Kennesaw in 1995 and saw The General at that museum which was at that time quite an experience.
I also love the Buster Keaton movie about the locomotive chase, although the historical accuracy can be debated. :D
Thanks for posting this.
 

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#3
Part II - Adairsville to Ringgold
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The route featured several wooden trestles built over rivers and creeks, all prime targets for Andrews' raiders.

Adairsville
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Although nothing of significance occurred here at Adairsville, the depot has been lovingly restored, featuring exhibits about the town and its role in the Great Locomotive Chase and although small, the museum is another highly recommended attraction. Every October a Fall Festival highlights the chase and local history. However, near here Andrews once again talked his way around another south-bound train, putting it between him and his pursuers. Once past the train and its engine Texas, the raiders began their program of destruction in earnest at the next wood and water stop, cutting telegraph wires and lifting rails as depicted in the Wilbur Kurtz painting below.

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Resaca
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Andrews and his party were plagued by bad, rainy weather throughout their trek to Marietta and now again during the raid; the next and first serious target was the trestle over the Oostanula River at Resaca, but its timbers were too waterlogged to burn when a boxcar was set on fore and left inside, as pictured in a recent painting above. Although the modern bridge still uses the Civil War-era stone supports, nothing else remains at Resaca. After the raid, however, an earthwork called Fort Wayne was erected by the Confederates as protection against future threats and it survives completely in a small park nearby as seen below.

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Mill Creek Gap, Dalton
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By the time the General reached Dalton, they could see in the not-too-far distance the smoke and hear the bell of the pursuing Texas which Fuller and Cain had next commandeered in their pursuit after the William R. Smith had been stymied by another lifted rail near Adairsville. Texas' engineer had backed his cars onto a siding and the party resumed the chase with Texas traveling in reverse! The small park in Mill Creek Gap above was created in the 1930's by the Works' Progress Administration (WPA) to commemorate the Atlanta Campaign but overlooks the route of the W&ARR through the narrow gap in Rocky Face Ridge.

Tunnel Hill
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Probably the most serious threat to the pursuers might have occurred at the next significant terrain feature, the tunnel that gave the small town of Tunnel Hill its name; in the painting below, General steams through in another downpour of rain that had plagued them throughout.

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Captain Fuller and his party in Texas approached the tunnel with trepidation although still running at full speed in reverse, depicted in Kurtz' painting above; amazingly, Andrews totally neglected this, possibly his best and certainly last opportunity to sabotage the pursuit. Today the tunnel is a park and open daily for touring by cart through its entire length. A small museum contains artifacts and exhibits about the raid and the Civil War.

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Ringgold Gap
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Feeling uncertainty about their chances and not knowing how few in number their pursuers really were, Andrews and his men steamed straight through the next town, Ringgold, without stopping at the stone station which has been restored after its near-destruction during the war. Having dropped all but one of the boxcars in futile attempts to slow or stop the pursuers, Andrews was nevertheless running out of fuel. Only two miles farther along and at the end of a long curve General slowed to a stop at the spot now marked by another large monument, almost identical to the one pictured earlier at Big Shanty (Kennesaw) where the raid had begun.

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Andrews and his men abandoned the train and scattered as pictured in this final painting by Kurtz, not waiting to find out the size of the pursuing force; unfortunately for them their luck remained bad: that day had also been chosen in Resaca for a muster of the local militia which were soon in pursuit of the raiding party. All were captured, and although several eventually successfully escaped, seven including leader James J. Andrews were hanged as spies and saboteurs in Atlanta. As might be expected, conductor Fuller and the others were hailed as heroes. Below, it was my privilege to relate the story of The Great Locomotive Chase to members of Civil War Talk at our annual Gathering at Ringgold as seen here in a photo by @Buckeye Bill.

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captaindrew

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Excellent thread @James N. and love the art work. As a rail fan also an event that always interested me. Yes @Polloco the Texas has just underwent another restoration. In fact there was a recent thread about it on here, probably in the railroads and steam locomotives forum, I'll have to go look for it.
 

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Fantastic write-up!! My friend that took me to Kennesaw NBP then said we have to go see the "General." He's a great fan of the RR. His entire basement was full of vintage Lionel and HO train sets. Of course me and my brother grew up with both. Thanks for posting all these wonderful images and commentaries. The "General" is a breathtaking exhibit. They do make an HO scale "General" and the cars that go with it. Buster Keaton's silent production is a classic!!! In the early 60's he was in a "Twilight Zone" episode and also played a small part in "Beach Blanket Bingo."
 

James N.

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#13
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Is the Texas in a museum also. If not where is it ? I heard somewhere that it was being restored, any truth to that.
Excellent thread @James N. and love the art work. As a rail fan also an event that always interested me. Yes @Polloco the Texas has just underwent another restoration. In fact there was a recent thread about it on here, probably in the railroads and steam locomotives forum, I'll have to go look for it.
Here's Texas from my visit in 2014 when she was displayed in the now-defunct Atlanta Cyclorama building lobby in Grant Park, looking as she might've during the chase. Unfortunately (and no doubt due to political correctness - after all, a city like Atlanta could hardly have on display an object that in any was celebrates or commemorates the Confederacy!) she has been "restored" to look as she might've ca. 1880, painted all black and with a totally different "cow catcher" and stack so as to disguise any Civil War appearance.

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#14
This is fascinating as I did not know a whole lot about this. I certainly didnt realize so any of the sites exist today. Thank you for putting this together.

I was however fully aware of the foolishness concerning the restoration and paint color selection of the locomotive Texas. Now we have to sanitize and distort the historical record of objects and pieces of equipment.

I am glad to see we can still observe the General as it should historically appear. I was not aware it even still existed.
 

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#15
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Fantastic write-up!! My friend that took me to Kennesaw NBP then said we have to go see the "General." He's a great fan of the RR. His entire basement was full of vintage Lionel and HO train sets. Of course me and my brother grew up with both. Thanks for posting all these wonderful images and commentaries. The "General" is a breathtaking exhibit. They do make an HO scale "General" and the cars that go with it. Buster Keaton's silent production is a classic!!! In the early 60's he was in a "Twilight Zone" episode and also played a small part in "Beach Blanket Bingo."
This is fascinating as I did not know a whole lot about this. I certainly didnt realize so any of the sites exist today. Thank you for putting this together.
I was however fully aware of the foolishness concerning the restoration and paint color selection of the locomotive Texas. Now we have to sanitize and distort the historical record of objects and pieces of equipment.

I am glad to see we can still observe the General as it should historically appear. I was not aware it even still existed.
Here are a couple more photos of the General within the exhibit there. The "official" excuse for restoring Texas to her post-Civil War appearance is that only about 30% is original to pre-war condtruction; however, the same can certainly be said for General as well: only 30 - 35% original parts, etc. Regardless, I'd rather see her as she looks now, despite "modernization" to burning oil instead of wood, air brakes, etc. because it's wonderful to consider that when she was placed here in this museum she was still totally operable and as recently as the Civil War Centennial had been making regular runs under her own power!

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James N.

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Since originally posting this thread in November of last year I have found and read a copy of Russell S. Bonds' wonderful and comprehensive Stealing the General - The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor which goes into great detail about not only the raid itself but puts it in full relation to what was going on elsewhere in the war and the travail and ordeal of the raiders who were captured, some of whom were tried and executed, others who escaped, and the remainder who were exchanged as prisoners of war as much as a year following the raid; for my full review: https://www.civilwartalk.com/threads/stealing-the-general-by-russell-s-bonds.155333/
 
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