Thursday, December 8, 2011

'Great Locomotive Chase': Plans for 150th are gathering steam

(Updated March 21) Ceremonies, model trains, movie screenings, music and tours will be part of April 2012 observances of the 150th anniversary of the daring Union effort to disrupt rail traffic between Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn., during the Civil War.

James Andrews and his band of raiders tried to destroy much of the Western & Atlantic Railroad and communications as they rushed northward on April 12, 1862. They achieved little success and eight of the nearly two dozen captured participants, disguised as civilians, were later hanged in Atlanta as spies. Andrews was among them.

The Picket got in touch with cities along the route of the Great Locomotive Chase, which began in Big Shanty (present-day Kennesaw) and ended just above Ringgold, below Chattanooga.


The Andrews Raid began above Atlanta, but the museum at Grant Park houses the Texas (right), the locomotive that eventually caught up with the General.

The Atlanta Cyclorama is planning activities, said marketing manager Yakingma Robinson, but on March 21 they had not been finalized.


Andrews and his men rendezvoused in Marietta, just northwest of Atlanta, to begin their journey north. They intended to destroy track, trestles, bridges and telegraph lines. A dogged pursuit left them little opportunity to do much damage.

The city has a bevy of events planned over a week, said Theresa Jenkins of the Marietta Welcome Center. There will be some free events. Contact the welcome center for more details.

Thursday, April 12
The city’s celebration begins at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre with the “re-premiere” of the 1956 Disney film “The Great Locomotive Chase,” starring Fess Parker. It will include a red carpet, dinner, organ recital, the movie and a champagne and dessert reception. Current schedule is 6 p.m. until about 11 p.m. Ticket prices: $75 for VIP (includes red carpet, dinner, movie and champagne reception); $35 general Admission (includes movie & champagne reception)

Friday, April 13
10am-5pm: Civil War Home Front Days. How the home folks fared during the war. – Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum, Marietta Museum of History, Root House Museum
10am-5pm - Tours of Old Zion Heritage Church
10 a.m. and 2pm – “Technology during the Civil War,” Marietta Museum of History
11am-5pm – “Homes & Heroes of the Civil War Exhibit”, Marietta-Cobb Museum of Art
11am & 1pm – Historic Marietta Trolley Tours
8pm - Showing of “The General” and organ concert, Earl Smith Strand Theatre

Saturday, April 14
11am-3pm Living history on the Marietta Square – characters from the chase as well as Marietta’s Civil War history will tell their stories.
10am-5pm - Tours of Old Zion Heritage Church
10am-5pm – Civil War Home Front Days – Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum, Marietta Museum of History, Root House Museum
10 am & 2pm – “Technology during the Civil War,” Marietta Museum of History
11am-4pm -“Homes & Heroes of the Civil War Exhibit”, Marietta-Cobb Museum of Art
11am-4pm – “Texas III and Me Tour: From the Rails to the Road”
Enjoy a tour of the Great Locomotive Chase segment from Marietta (Marietta Museum of History in the Kennesaw House) to Kennesaw (Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History, home of the General). The tour takes place aboard the Texas III a replica of the original Texas, the chase locomotive (converted from an army truck). Tours begin at Glover Park, Historic Marietta Square
11am & 2pm – Civil War music concerts. 8th Regiment Band of the Georgia Volunteer Infantry. Glover Park, Historic Marietta Square
4pm-6pm – Disney Party for Kids sponsored by Radio Disney, Glover Park
8pm Showing of “The General” and organ concert, Earl Smith Strand Theatre

Sunday, April 15
10am-4pm – Civil War Home Front Days – Marietta Museum of History & Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum
11am-4pm -“Homes & Heroes of the Civil War Exhibit”, Marietta-Cobb Museum of Art
1pm-5pm - Statue Dedication at Marietta Confederate Cemetery & cemetery tours
1pm-5pm - Tours of Old Zion Heritage Church

More details, related websites


The Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History is a big player in the anniversary events. After all, it houses the General and related exhibits. The city also is organizing events, and is helping to host a breakfast on the actual anniversary.

The Great Locomotive Chase, the Southern Museum points out, actually began on foot.

Western & Atlantic Railroad conductor William A. Fuller was shocked to see a group of men steal the General while passengers and crew were enjoying breakfast at the Lacy Hotel in Big Shanty.

Fuller and a couple others ran north after his train. He didn’t yet know it had been taken by the Union commandos. The conductor ran across a handcar and three trains and traveled 86 miles -- along with Confederate horsemen who had been reached by telegraph -- after the raiders.

The Southern Museum has released a list of activities:

-- Civil War Symposium: March 23, 5 p.m.-7 p.m. A film, lecture and tour will be held at the museum in partnership with Kennesaw State University.

-- April 12 (Thursday): Breakfast and at 6 a.m. at the Trackside Grill with actors to re-create the beginning of the Great Locomotive Chase near the original location of the Lacy Hotel. Tickets are $20.

Free commemoration ceremony at 8:30 a.m. in the depot area, with speeches by dignitaries and a citywide parade. Starting at 9:30 a.m., all-day free admission and guided tours of the museum.

Programming includes the donation of Sgt. John Morehead Scott’s Medal of Honor to the museum by the Waggoner family of Ohio. Scott was one of the raiders.

Following a sold-out fund-raising dinner at the Trackside Grill; the museum hosts “Dessert at the Southern Museum” featuring musician Bobby Horton, who will be performing Civil War-era songs; tickets are $25. The event is set for 8:30 p.m.

-- April 14-15: Several re-enactment units will interpret Camp McDonald, the Confederate encampment once located across the tracks from the Lacy Hotel. This event, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, is to take place on the lawn across the street from the museum. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 4-12, while children 3 years old and younger are free. Tickets also allow entry into the museum, which will operate normal hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 14 and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 15.

-- May 26: Descendants of participants in the chase will unite for a day of storytelling and camaraderie. This is an invitation-only event that includes the Great Locomotive Chase bus tour, followed by a catered dinner.


On April 21, tour Allatoona Pass, where the chase continued, with interpreters and re-enactors providing accounts. Sponsored by Red Top Mountain State Park. Allatoona Pass Battlefield, Old Allatoona Road, Emerson, Ga. $5 parking. 770-975-0055.


The raiders had to wait for almost an hour at Kingston while several southbound freight trains cleared the tracks, according to the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Four minutes after the General left Kingston's yard, the Confederate crew arrived on the Yonah. Instead of trying to negotiate the complicated Kingston rail yard, the Confederates took a locomotive owned by the Rome Railroad and continued the chase.

Confederates chasing the General switched to the Texas in Adairsville, and ran it in reverse as they followed Andrews (left).

The 1847 W&A Railroad Depot, 101 Public Square, features displays of Adairsville's role in the raid, its local history and tributes to early life in Adairsville.

-- Events in Adairsville April 12-14 include depot tours, re-enactors in period dress, dinner theater at the 1902 Stock Exchange, special exhibits, an afternoon tea, old-time games, treats and live Civil War-era music. There also will be a showing of "The General" by Buster Keaton, and Walt Disney's "The Great Locomotive Chase." • See full schedule of events. Directions: I-75 Exit #306, GA Hwy. 140 west. Straight through traffic light across US Hwy. 41, then left onto Main Street. Continue one mile to Adairsville's historic Public Square on the right.

-- The chase will be remembered in Kingston at 1:30 p.m. on April 12. The city will recognize Uriah Stephens, who attempted to stop Andrews on a siding at the town depot. Stephens specifically resisted Andrews' demands to "throw the switch" to return the General to the main line. • More details


Events are planned April 14 around the Calhoun depot and GEM Theatre, according to Ken Padgett of the Friends of Resaca Battlefield.

Padgett told the Calhoun Times that raiders cut telegraph lines when they went through the city. In Resaca, men on the General detached a rail car and set it on fire on the rail bridge in hopes of burning it down. The bridge was not burned completely because of a rainstorm, Padgett told the Times.

Fuller first spied the Union raiders just south of Resaca, near the Oostanaula River.

Festivities in Calhoun kick off at 3 p.m. April 14 (Saturday). Re-enactors will display weapons and an artillery piece.

The Gordon County Historical Society will host a signing of the book "Crossroads to Conflict," a complete history of Georgia and the Civil War, by author Barry Brown. 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the GEM Theatre. The volume will be sold at a reduced price.

At 3:30 p.m., Padgett will present a light-humored telling of the Andrews Raid as it relates to the Calhoun and Resaca area. At 4 p.m., the GEM will show the 90-minute Walt Disney movie, "The Great Locomotive Chase." The screening is free.

At 7:30 p.m. at the GEM, Bobby Horton is in concert, featuring stories, songs and period instruments. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students.

More information on the event.


One of Andrews’ targets was supposed to be the 1,477-foot tunnel blasted through Chetoogeta Mountain at appropriately named Tunnel Hill, a town 110 miles north of Atlanta.

A tour on Saturday, April 14, is sold out, said Ty Snyder, manager of visitors centers for the Dalton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The day will include a stop at the abandoned Western & Atlantic rail roadbed in Tilton, and the stone trestle and site of Green’s Wood station. Lunch will be held at the Western & Atlantic Depot (Dalton Depot Restaurant) in downtown. Participants also will see the Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel & Museum in Tunnel Hill.

Because pursuers were closing fast on the General, it could take on only a little water and wood in Tilton.


At about 1 p.m. April 12, 1862, the General ran out of wood and water two miles north of this city, with the Southerners, aboard the Texas, fast upon them. The Confederates rounded up all the raiders.

Eight of the 20 were tried as spies and executed in Atlanta. The rest either escaped or were exchanged, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. Andrews and a couple other raiders were civilians. The rest were soldiers. The very first Medals of Honor were given to some of these Federal men.

City Manager Dan Wright told the Picket an interpretive marker about the chase recently arrived. A new rail-viewing platform (above) also has been dedicated at the depot.

Credits: Chase map, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia; W&A tunnel photo courtesy of Dalton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau; rail platform photo courtesy of city of Ringgold

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