KENNESAW, Ga. — April 12, 1862. It was the one-year anniversary of the start of the Civil War, and the morning passenger train — pulled by the locomotive General — arrived in town.
A band of Union spies led by James J. Andrews, the men planned to steal the locomotive and then destroy the Western & Atlantic Railroad, a vital link between Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn., in the heart of the Confederacy.
The Andrews Raid, also known as The Great Locomotive Chase, ultimately failed. More than an “astounding adventure,” the raid was near genius. Here’s a timeline of events 150 years ago (times are estimated):
- 4 a.m. — The General departs Atlanta with conductor William Allen Fuller and engineer E. Jefferson Cain on board
- 5:15 a.m. — The General departs Marietta, where James J. Andrews and 19 men with tickets to various locations along the line board the train; two men — John Reed Porter and Martin J. Hawkins — overslept and missed the train
- 6 a.m. — The General arrives in Big Shanty/Kennesaw; when many of the passengers and the crew head to the Lacy Hotel for breakfast, Andrews and his raiders steal The General and three box cars and head north.
- 8:30 a.m. — When the raiders reached the town of Kingston, they encountered an unexpected delay. It would turn out to also be a deadly one, as it gave a pursuing party time to close the gap.
- 9:25 a.m. — The pursuers commandeer the Yonah, the yard engine for Cooper Iron Works. The Yonah gave the pursuers their first burst of speed, allowing them to make up valuable time. Conductor William A. Fuller later said he made the 14-mile trip from the Etowah River to Kingston in 15 minutes, which would mean speeds of about 55 m.p.h.
- 9:35 a.m. — The raiders depart Kingston
- 9:40 a.m. — The pursuers arrive in Kingston
- Minutes later the pursuers left Kingston on the William R. Smith, a locomotive from the Rome Railroad, heading toward Adairsville, Ga.
- Just south of Adairsville, the raiders stopped to tear up the track, prohibiting their pursuers from continuing the chase in a locomotive. At this point, the pursuers abandoned their second locomotive – the William R. Smith – and continued on foot. Minutes later, they commandeered their third engine – the Texas, which ran in reverse for the remainder of the chase.
- 12:30 p.m. — The raiders pass through Dalton. Minutes later, Edward Henderson, who joined the Chase near Calhoun, sent a telegraph to Gen. Danville Leadbetter, alerting him of the engine theft.
- 1 p.m. — Tired, The General, was about to give out. About two miles north of Ringgold, the Great Locomotive Chase came to an end. The raiders fled, but were later captured.