The Great Locomotive Chase on the Western and Atlantic Railroad
On April 12, 1862, during the Civil War, Union Army members and sympathizers commandeered a locomotive named "The General" and moved northward along the Western and Atlantic Railroad, which connected Chattanooga with Atlanta, and was a vital link for the Confederacy. The General was no. 3 in the W&A roster, a 4-4-0 type locomotive, also known as an "American Standard". The General was stopped at Big Shanty, Georgia (now Kennesaw) for breakfast for the crew and passengers when it was taken.
The Union members, led by a civilian scout named James J. Andrews, did as much damage as they possibly could to the line during the raid, but were soon being chased by Confederate soldiers in another locomotive, The Texas, over a distance of 87 miles.
Union troops had cut telegraph wires along the line, and thus the Confederacy could not warn the forces of the situation.
|"The General" Steam Engine. Illustration from a book called Deeds of Honor.|
The event was dubbed, "The Great Locomotive Chase", and was made into a movie.
|Movie poster for The General, which released in 1926.|
Some men were caught and executed by the Confederates over the next two weeks. Many of the members of the Union Army were awarded the Medal of Honor for their efforts in the raid. Andrews, being a civilian, was unfortunately ineligible for the award, but was nonetheless venerated for his efforts, and a historical marker of his execution stands in Atlanta today.
|Kurtz & Joswick map and summary of the chase.|
The General remains alive today as a static display at the Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History. The Texas is also displayed at a museum, the Atlanta History Center.