KENNESAW, Ga. — Sitting in a Chattanooga, Tenn., jail and faced with only hours left to live, James J. Andrews had a sense of tranquility.
It was June 5, 1862, less than two months after Andrews led a daring raid behind enemy lines. The Andrews Raid, as it is today known, aimed to destroy the Western & Atlantic Railroad, a major lifeline between Atlanta and Chattanooga.
“The sentence seems a hard one for the crime proven against me, but I suppose the court that tried me thought otherwise,” Andrews wrote in a letter to D.S. McGavic, an attorney in Flemingsburg, Ky., Andrews’ home town. “I have now calmly submitted to my fate and have been earnestly engaged in preparing to meet my God in peace; and I have found that peace of mind and tranquillity (sic) of soul that even astonishes myself. I never supposed it possible that a man could feel so entire a change under similar circumstances.”
Two days later, Andrews was taken by train to the present day intersection of Juniper and Third streets in Atlanta and hanged. His body was buried in a shallow grave, where it remained for more than two decades when it was exhumed and re-interred at Chattanooga National Cemetery.
The Andrews Raid, also known as the Great Locomotive Chase, is one of the more colorful events that took place during the Civil War. A number of museums and historic markers in Georgia remember the raid.
Check back for Part II.