Bridge piers offer a link to Civil War

EMERSON, Ga. – In order to complete the Western & Atlantic Railroad, engineers had to overcome a number of natural obstacles. That resulted in a 1,447-foot-long tunnel through Chetoogeta Mountain and a bridge over the Etowah River south of Cartersville.

The bridge over the Etowah River was completed in 1847, about three years before the Atlanta-to-Chattanooga rail line opened. The bridge’s stone pillars are all that remain of the once-formidable structure.

During the Civil War, James J. Andrews, who led a group of Union soldiers with the intent of destroying the Western & Atlantic Railroad, identified the bridge as a major target of The Andrews Raid. However, the group of Union spies left the bridge intact, allowing a group of pursuers to continue their chase, which eventually proved successful.

Just north of the bridge, the former Etowah Railroad joined the Western & Atlantic Railroad. At this point during The Andrews Raid, the pursuers commandeered the Yonah, an Etowah Railroad locomotive.

“We had better destroy that, and the big bridge,” one of the raiders told Andrews. He simply responded: “It won’t make any difference.”

During the Civil War, the bridge was burned a number of times by both Union and Confederate troops. A newer bridge opened in 1944 and railroad traffic was rerouted away from the historic structure.

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