Andrew’s Raid

One of the more colorful raids of the Civil War, known as Andrew’s Raid and The Great Locomotive Chase,  occurred on April 12, 1862 in northern Georgia.  James J. Andrews, a Kentucky civilian and secret agent for the Union, convinced Major General Ormsby Mitchell, commanding military troops in Middle Tennessee to authorize a raid into northern Georgia to steal a Confederate locomotive and then to ride it North, cutting the telegraph links between Chattanooga and Atlanta, and destroy train tracks and bridges.  Mitchell planned the raid in tandem with a Union move on Chattanooga.  Andrews recruited 22 men from three Ohio regiments and another civilian, William Hunter Campbell.  The raiders were ordered to travel in civilian attire in small groups behind enemy lines and rendezvous at Marietta, Georgia on April 10, 1862.

All but two of the raiders reached Marietta on time.  On April 12, 1862 they captured the locomotive The General and began to steam North.  Unfortunately for the raiders, the conductor of The General, William Allen Fuller, was a very determined man, immediately beginning to pursue the raiders, by foot, railcar, and then by commandeering locomotives.  He spread the news that Yankee raiders had stolen The General.  Andrews and his raiders ran out of fuel and abandoned The General 18 miles south of Chattanooga.  All the raiders were caught in the next two weeks.

William Allen Fuller was a national hero in the Confederacy and was commissioned a Captain of militia by the Governor of Georgia.  Since the raiders had been wearing civilian clothes the soldiers were charged as committing acts of unlawful belligerency and Andrews and Campbell were tried as spies.  Andrews and seven other raiders were found guilty and executed by hanging.  Eight of the raiders staged a daring escape and made their way across hundreds of miles of hostile territory back to Union lines.  The remaining six raiders were eventually exchanged for Confederate prisoners held by the Union.

Six of the raiders became the first men to be awarded the Medal of Honor.  All but two of the remaining raiders eventually received the Medal of Honor.  Buster Keaton made one of the classic comedic silent films, The General, based upon this incident, with Keaton portraying the plucky Fuller.  The film was panned by critics and failed at the box office, but has long been considered one of the classics of cinema.

Published in: on April 5, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Andrew’s Raid  
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