Local News

March 18, 2012

Civil War anniversary: The Great Locomotive Chase comes through Whitfield County part 1


On the night of April 6, 1862, a shadowy character named James Andrews walked into Third Division headquarters at Shelbyville, Tenn., and introduced himself to Union Brig. Gen. Ormsby Mitchel. The outcome of this conversation was a daring plan that came to be known at the time as the Andrews Raid. Most people know it today as the Great Locomotive Chase.

Andrews, a some-time Union sympathizer who functioned as a covert agent in search of personal profit, proposed that he and a group of hand-picked saboteurs be authorized to wreck the Western & Atlantic Railroad in exchange for a handsome payment. Such a plan suited Mitchel’s purposes perfectly. His division had been given responsibility for capturing the important rail hub at Chattanooga, and disabling the W&A would make his job much easier.

Completed in 1850, the W&A ran 138 miles from Atlanta to Chattanooga and served as the main supply corridor for Confederate forces operating in Tennessee. If this railroad could be taken out of commission, even for a brief period, Chattanooga would be cut off from the south and the city would present an easy target.

Andrews’ raiders were selected from the ranks of three Ohio regiments under Mitchel’s command. They were given civilian clothing and told to make their way in small groups to Chattanooga, where they would board the train for Marietta. During the trip the train stopped for supper at the Chester House in Dalton, where the raiders and other passengers packed the dining room. Unable to find a seat, raider Daniel Dorsey approached Mrs. Chester and asked for a piece of pie to take with him, which she cheerfully provided. Dorsey later wrote, “How forcibly this reminded me of my mother and home.”

From an initial group of 24 men, 19 would actually take part in the raid. Andrews’ plan was to hijack a train and head north, along the way tearing up the tracks, cutting telegraph lines and burning bridges.

At 4 a.m. on Saturday, April 12, Andrews and his men boarded a combination passenger-freight train in Marietta.The train was pulled by W&A Engine No. 3, the General. About two hours later the train stopped for breakfast at Big Shanty (now Kennesaw). Here Andrews’ raiders uncoupled the mail car and the two passenger cars and sped off with the engine, tender, and three boxcars.The General’s conductor, William Fuller, and two fellow W&A employees gave chase, first on foot and then with a pole car.

Just across the Etowah River, Fuller spotted the Yonah, a rusty switch engine owned by Cooper’s Iron Works. Seizing the little locomotive, Fuller and his comrades chuffed several miles to Kingston, where they found southbound trains blocking their path. On foot once again, Fuller’s group ran north of the traffic snarl where they came across the William R. Smith sitting on a sidetrack. This locomotive took them to a point about four miles south of Adairsville where they encountered a missing rail that Andrews’ raiders had pried up. Shortly thereafter, Fuller met W&A Engine No. 49, the Texas, pulling a southbound train.The Texas uncoupled its cars on a sidetrack and then, with the engine running in reverse, Fuller resumed the chase.

Meanwhile, Andrews had stopped the General near Resaca with the intent of burning the Oostanaula River rail bridge. It was at that point that Andrews spotted the Texas coming up quickly from behind. By this time Fuller had picked up several additional hands, one of whom was 17-year-old telegrapher Edward Henderson. With his pursuers in sight for the first time, Andrews hastily abandoned the undamaged bridge and the General sped northward into Whitfield County. Low on both wood and water, Andrews began looking for replenishments.

Text Only
Local News
  • runner thompson.jpg Taking the race back

    Dean Thompson didn’t go 100 yards in his 26.2 miles through the streets of Boston without seeing people on the side of the road cheering for him.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bobby Lee Dixon mg.jpg Officials: Man jailed for driving toward officer

    A Chatsworth man who officials said accelerated a vehicle toward a law enforcement officer who was approaching on foot remains in the Murray County jail without bond.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Standoff 1 mlh.jpg Charges undetermined following standoff (Updated 5:45 p.m.)

    Police have yet to decide whether to press criminal charges against a man they say was armed and intoxicated while barricading himself in his office at a carpet mill in downtown Dalton Tuesday evening.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • Man charged for using fraudulent Social Security card

    A man is being held in the Whitfield County Jail on multiple charges for using a fraudulent Social Security card with someone else’s Social Security number to land a job at a rug manufacturer in Dalton and for providing false information to receive workers’ compensation benefits, according to the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation’s Enforcement Division.

    April 23, 2014

  • Standoff 1 mlh.jpg Police: Four-hour standoff ends with peaceful surrender

    A man who was armed with at least one firearm and believed to be under the influence of alcohol surrendered to police Tuesday night after barricading himself for four hours inside a carpet mill in downtown Dalton, officials said.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Murray deputy bit by drug dog while taking selfie

    A Murray County Sheriff’s Office deputy is recovering after one of the department’s drug dogs bit him in the face on Monday.

    April 23, 2014

  • Local wrestler ‘made everybody smile’

    Rash Renegade got his wrestling nickname after a motorcycle wreck several years ago left him with a bad case of road burn.

    April 23, 2014

  • Pinwheels in murray '14 1 mlh.jpg Awareness can prevent child abuse

    Three hundred forty-six pinwheels dotted the Murray County Courthouse lawn on Tuesday, representing 346 reported cases of child abuse in the county last year.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Murray library, regional system still far apart

    Murray County officials say they will announce soon if they will follow through with their plan to take the Chatsworth-Murray Library out of the Northwest Georgia Regional Library System.

    April 22, 2014

  • Fire believed to have started outside home

    Investigators are still working to learn what sparked a fire that nearly destroyed a house at 602 Top St. in Dalton on Monday.

    April 22, 2014