The Great Locomotive Chase | Southern Museum

The Great Locomotive Chase: General vs. Texas

The General Locomotive

On April 12, 1862, James J. Andrews and a band of Union Civil War spies stole the General locomotive in Big Shanty (today called Kennesaw). Andrews and his raiders were attempting to use The General to travel to Chattanooga, Tennessee, in an attempt to damage the Western & Atlantic Railroad linking Atlanta with that city.

The theft did not go unnoticed, however, and the General's crew used everything at their disposal - including the Texas locomotive, a pushcar, and even their legs - to pursue the stolen locomotive for 87 miles.

After a day-long chase, the spies were stopped just before reaching Chattanooga. Those who were caught, including Andrews and Sgt. John Scott were hanged. Other raiders, including Sgt. Wilson Brown, escaped from Confederate prison or were exchanged as Prisoners of War. These men were among the first to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

At the Southern Museum, you'll follow in the daring footsteps of Confederate Conductor William Fuller as he chases the "Andrews Raiders" through north Georgia with a dramatic exhibit featuring an exciting movie about the raid, art and artifacts explaining the event, a mockup of Tunnel Hill and the locomotive General itself. In addition, the Medals of Honor awarded to Scott and Brown are on display, highlighting the courage and sacrifice made by these men in their attempt to help end the Civil War.

General Close Up

Andrew's Raiders Participants

  • James J. Andrews, Leader - Executed June 7, 1862
  • William Campbell - Executed June 18, 1862
  • Samuel Robertson, Co. G, 33rd Division Ohio - Executed June 18, 1862
  • Marion A. Ross, Co. A, 2nd Divsion Ohio - Executed June 18, 1862
  • John Scott, Co. K. 21st Ohio - Executed June 18, 1862
  • Perry G. Shadrack, Co. K, 2nd Divsion Ohio - Executed June 18, 1862
  • Samuel Slavens, 33rd Division Ohio - Executed June 18, 1862
  • George D. Wilson, Co. B, 2nd Divsion Ohio - Executed June 18, 1862
  • Wilson W. Brown (Engineer), Co. F. 21st Ohio - Escaped October 16, 1862
  • D. A. Dorsey, Co. H. 33rd Ohio - Escaped October 16, 1862
  • Martin J. Hawkins, Co. A, 33rd Ohio - Escaped October 16, 1862
  • William Knight (Engineer), Co. E. 21st Ohio - Escaped October 16, 1862
  • J. R. Porter, Co. C. 21st Ohio - Escaped October 16, 1862
  • J. A. Wilson, Co. C. 21st Ohio - Escaped October 16, 1862
  • John Wollam, Co. C. 33rd Ohio - Escaped October 16, 1862
  • Mark Wood, Co. C. 21st Ohio - Escaped October 16, 1862
  • William Bensinger, Co. G, 21st Ohio - Prisioner Exchange March 18, 1863
  • Robert Buffum, Co. H, 21st Ohio - Prisioner Exchange March 18, 1863
  • E. H. Mason, Co. K, 21st Ohio - Prisioner Exchange March 18, 1863
  • Jacob Parrott, Co. K, 33rd Ohio - Prisioner Exchange March 18, 1863
  • William Pittenger, Co. G, 2nd Ohio - Prisioner Exchange March 18, 1863
  • William Reddick, Co. B, 33rd Ohio - Prisioner Exchange March 18, 1863

Popular Culture and the General Locomotive

The story of the General locomotive and the Andrews Raid captured audiences in the United States in 1862. After the Civil War, the General retired from service by appeared by public demand at numerous national expositions and commemoration ceremonies as a symbol of national bravery, a remembrance of the Confederacy, a sign of progress, and a story of wartime adventure.

In the decades following the war, the General embarked on a series of national trips that exemplified its diverse range of meanings to Americans. The General traveled to Washington D.D. in 1891, the first trip after being decommissioned, to appear at the Ohio Monument to the Andrews Raiders at the National Cemetery.

At the National Cemetary, survivors of the raid gathered in respectful commemoration of the men who served their country and lost their lives in the aftermath of the chase.

The engine also received invitations to participate in commemoration ceremonies such as the reunion of the Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga in 1892. Then, viewed as an emblem of technological progress and the significance of the railroad in war and economic development, Americans exhibited the General at three world's fairs, including the World's Columbian Expositions of 1893 and 1933 in Chicago.

In the twentieth century, the public interpreted the General in new ways using bobby models, and Civil War centennial commemorative items. Hollywood featured the Great Locomotive Chase on film in 1926 and 1956, adding both comedy and drama to the events of April 12, 1862.

The General's attachment to the national sacrifices of the Civil War, however, remained high and prompted a national tour across the country beginning with a re-enactment of the Andrews Raid to commemorate the centennial of the Medal of Honor in 1962.

Since its arrival at its current home in Kennesaw, Georgia, in 1972, people have continued to transform the meaning of the General locomotive through popular culture, remembering it in the context of the era in which it was produced and as an emblem of local identity.

The General Locomotive Timeline

  • In December 1855, the General was purchased by the Western & Atlantic Railroad from Rogers, Ketchum and Grosvenor, in Paterson, NJ, for $8500.00
  • On April 12, 1862, on a breakfast stop at the Lacy Hotel in Big Shanty, GA, the General was stolen by Andrew’s Raiders.  The engine was recovered just north of Ringgold, GA.
  • Shortly after midnight on September 1, 1864, cavalrymen under the command of the retreating Confederate General J.B. Hood set fire to 81 ammunition train cars parked outside the mill to prevent them from being acquired by General Sherman. The ensuing explosions destroyed the mill and destroyed or greatly damaged structures within 1/4 mile including the General that sustained major damage in the yards of the Georgia Railroad when the engine was burned with cars of ammunition near the Schoefield and Markham Rolling Mill (located in Cabbagetown, Atlanta, Georgia).
  • In 1871 the W&A RR completely rebuilt the General and converted it to a coal burner. It was at this time that engine was issued the No. 3.
  • In September 1888 the General was reunited with ten of Andrew’s Raiders and Captain William A. Fuller in Columbus, OH, at a reunion of the Grand Army of the Republic.
  • 1891 saw the recovery and restoration of the General from a scrap yard in Vinings, GA by the NC&StL Railway.  It was taken to Nashville to be repaired and was later placed in Union Station, Chattanooga, TN.
  • In 1895, the General went to Atlanta for the Cotton States and International Exposition.  Capt. Fuller attended.
  • In 1939 the General was displayed at the World’s Fair in NY.
  • In 1948 the General went on display at the Railroad Fair in Chicago.
  • The General and the lease of the W&A RR were acquired by the L&N in 1957.
  • In 1961 the General was repaired to run under its own steam, and in April 1962 the engine re-traced the route of Andrew’s Raid to commemorate the Centennial of the chase.
  • 1967 sparks a long court battle between the City of Chattanooga and the State of Georgia over ownership of the General.
  • In 1971 the General is granted to the State of Georgia.
  • On April 12, 1972 The Big Shanty Museum, built to house the engine, opened to the public and celebrated the return of the General, in Kennesaw, GA.
  • In March 2003, the expanded Museum re-opened as the Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History, after an 18-month renovation.

Civil War Steam Locomotive "General" 1962 Run

Famous for its use in the Andrews Raid in April 1862, this classic Civil War steam locomotive was refurbished to operate during the centennial of that event. Vintage Kodachrome 8mm movies capture the centennial run through north Georgia on April 14, 1962, and subsequent operations of the General.

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