Civil War Trails

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The General

Article and Photos by Kathleen Walls

Marrietta Museum of History 

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.   

Museum display  
One of the exhibits in Marrietta Museum
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.

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  
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 designations.

Both of these museums are well worth a visit to understand the full story of this train's part in the War Between the States.


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