Article and Photos by Kathleen Walls
Marrietta Museum of History
The outcome of war is often decided by events other
than battles. The Kennesaw/Marietta area was the scene of one of the
Civil War’s most daring spy stories.
It began with a secret meeting in Fletcher House, now Marietta
History Museum on the night of April 11, 1862.
James Andrews and 21 other men plotted a daring
train theft. The idea was to cut the Confederate supply lines. The
target was The General, a Western and Atlantic engine on a routine run
between Atlanta and Chattanooga. The Fletcher House was used because the
owner, Dix Fletcher, was a Union sympathizer. The next morning Andrews
and his raiders boarded the train as passengers. When William Fuller,
the conductor, and his crew went to breakfast at the Lacey Hotel in
Kennesaw, then known as Big Shanty, the raiders absconded with “The
General.” The plan was to move north toward Chattanooga destroying rails
and burning bridges behind him to facilitate an easy win for the Federal
troops at Chattanooga.
The indignant crew of The General took the insult personally. Conductor
William Fuller and two of his crew raced on foot the two miles to Moons
Station where they commandeered a handcar and two maintenance men to
help in the pursuit. The race was on in earnest now. When Fuller and his
men encountered torn-up track, they continued on foot then on whichever
different engines that were handy. Finally at Adairsville, the
Confederates boarded a southbound engine, The Texas. They continued in
hot pursuit in reverse.
|One of the exhibits
in Marrietta Museum
Meantime, the Rebels had sent a rider to nearby
Dalton where the telegraph lines had not been cut and sent a message to
General Ledbetter in Chattanooga. Southern troops were swinging north on
the railway to meet the Raiders. Just at the top of Ringgold Gap, the
gallant General gave out.
All 22 of the Raiders were caught. Andrews and
seven others were tried and hanged in Atlanta. The other 14 were sent to
prison. In 1862, Congress created the Medal of Honor and awarded it to
some of the Raiders. Ironically, James Andrews was not eligible since he
was not in the military.
The General remained a working engine
until 1891 when it was retired. It was renovated and made
appearances at festivals and reunions until it came to Kennesaw Civil
War Museum. The museum was renovated and renamed the Southern Museum of
Civil War & Locomotive History in 2003. The museum also showcases
Railroads: Lifelines of the Civil War and Glover Machine Works:
Casting a New South. It has a great new multi-media show telling the
story of the daring train chase.
One of the exhibits is a rare regimental flag of
the 65th Georgia Infantry. The flag still proudly displays its 41 bullet
holes and a bloodstain. This flag saw much action during the Civil War,
including the entire Atlanta campaign. It survived many battles,
including the Battles of Resaca, New Hope Church/Dallas/Pickett's Mill,
Kennesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek and Atlanta, and is the only known
surviving example of an Army of Tennessee flag with both unit and state
Both of these museums are well worth a visit to
understand the full story of this train's part in the War Between the
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