Search billions of records on

The Great Locomotive Chase

The Great Locomotive Chase started in Cobb County, Georgia.  James J. Andrews, a Virginian, and his hand-picked team of Union spies made their way to Marietta, Georgia, where they boarded a north-bound train.  The train was pulled by a locomotive named General.  At the town of Big Shanty (now known as Kennesaw), was a place called Lacy Hotel.  Dining cars had not been invented, thus hotels along train routes were stops of 10 to 20 minutes duration where passengers might eat.

Click the picture above for the route of the Great Locomotive Chase

Big Shanty had a huge advantage over Marietta, or any other stop in the line: there was no telegraph at Big Shanty.  As such, there was no way for the railroad people to telegraph ahead of the theft unless they sent a runner to Marietta, more than an hour's ride by horseback.

When the crew and passengers of the General disembarked the train for breakfast, Andrews and his men left their compartments, uncoupled the passenger cars and stole the General with several freight cars attached.

The conductor, William Fuller, and others saw the General leave and began to give chase.  They raced on foot after the General for several miles before coming upon a Western & Atlantic Rail Road work crew.  Fuller and company took their pull car and rode the pull car to Allatoona, where they were able to commandeer the Yonah, an engine owned by an iron works in the area.  They rode the Yonah to Kingston, where they were able to commandeer the William R. Smith, another small engine, which they abandoned due to broken track in the area of Rome.  Just south of Adairsville, Fuller stops the Texas, engineered by Pete Bracken, who drives the Texas in reverse in pursuit of the General.

The raiders would drop one box car just north of Calhoun to stop Fuller and company in the Texas.  They would drop a second car just south of Adairsville in a similar attempt.

The chase ended with the General out of water and wood about two miles north of Ringgold, Georgia, less than 10 miles from Chattanooga.

James J. Andrews and his raiders were all arrested and taken to prisons in Chattanooga, Knoxville and, eventually, Atlanta. 

Andrews made a daring prison break on June 2, 1862.  He was recaptured on June 3, 1862, and brought to Atlanta, arriving on June 7, 1862. 

James J. Andrews was hanged in Atlanta on the evening of June 7, 1862.  There is a marker which indicates the spot at the corner of Juniper Street and 3rd Street, however, rumors had him hanged on every street corner in Atlanta.  Although 14 of the raiders attempted a daring escape, six were recaptured.  Those six would eventually be included in prisoner exchanges with the North.

All of the raiders, except Andrews and William Campbell, both civilians, were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor (which had been newly created at the time).  These men were the very first recipients of the prestigious award.  Andrews and Campbell, because they were not members of the military, were ineligible. 

Coming Soon!  Biographies of Andrews and his Raiders and the Confederate chasers.