Today marks the 150th anniversary of a “tragic chapter of our history,” the burning of the city during the Civil War.
Known as Big Shanty at the time, Kennesaw was home to Camp McDonald, one of four Confederate training camps throughout the state.
The city entered the annals of history on April 12, 1862, when Union spies stole a Confederate locomotive stopped in town with the hopes of destroying the Western & Atlantic Railroad connecting Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn. The episode is today remembered as the Great Locomotive Chase or the Andrews Raid and is memorialized at the Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History.
Union soldiers captured the city in June 1864 and used the Lacy Hotel, one of the few buildings in the town at the time, as a military garrison. In October of that year, after Atlanta fell into the hands of Union troops, Confederate forces re-occupied Big Shanty, but Union soldiers eventually recaptured the town and later burned it to the ground.
“On Nov. 14, 1864, soldiers from the Union’s Fourteenth Army Corps descended upon the area and destroyed the Western & Atlantic Railroad, sparing little of Big Shanty in the process,” Southern Museum Curator Jonathan Scott said.
“The Lacy Hotel was burned to ashes along with many of the buildings that existed here at the time,” Scott said. “After Nov. 14, the Civil War moved away from Big Shanty for good, leaving in its wake devastation, loss, and poverty.”
George M. and Edna Lacy rented the Lacy Hotel, a small, two-story boarding house located along the Western & Atlantic rail line, starting in 1859. The hotel, located beneath what is today the municipal parking lot next to the historic 1908 train depot in downtown Kennesaw, was known among travelers and soldiers for its food and service.
While the hotel wasn’t rebuilt following the Civil War, a new town emerged from the ashes. The city of Kennesaw was formally incorporated in 1887 and named after Kennesaw Mountain, the site of a major Civil War battle in June 1864.
“Today, as we commemorate this tragic chapter of our history, we are reminded of the strength of our community and its ability to overcome war and adversity,” Southern Museum Executive Director Richard Banz said. “We are also encouraged to think of the many positive contributions and the bright future that Kennesaw will contribute to Georgia and America today, tomorrow and beyond.”