The Great Locomotive Chase

On 12 April 1862, Union civilian scout James Andrews and 22 Ohio infantry volunteers hijacked a Confederate locomotive “The General” in Kennesaw, Georgia. The plan was to stop periodically and destroy track, cut telegraph wire, and burn bridges behind them in order to cut supply from Atlanta to the strategically important Confederate town of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Although Andrews cut telegraph wire preventing anyone ahead from knowing of the train, the former conductor of The General, William Fuller, pursued on a hand car with some rebel soldiers (Andrews’ top speed was only 15mph). Fuller eventually commandeered another train and pursued Andrews. Fuller dogged and unrelenting pursuit prevented the raiders from damaging the vital supply route in any meaningful way. Andrews at one point tried to set a car on fire while on a covered bridge to thwart pursuit, but Fuller pushed through before the bridge was too damaged.

The Chase lasted almost all the way to Chattanooga when The General ran out of coal and had to be abandoned. Andrews and the Union soldiers split up but were all eventually captured. They were tried as spies and found guilty of being unlawful combatants and sentenced to hang. Seven, including Andrews, were hung but the rest escaped, six were recaptured but because of the outcry were not hung and later exchanged. Abraham Lincoln’s Sec. of War, Edwin Stanton, awarded the first Medals of Honor to the soldiers who participated in The Chase, the very first being Pvt Jacob W. Parrot of the 33rd Ohio Infantry, due to his particularly brutal time as a prisoner.

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