In 1862 during the American Civil War, Union Major General Ormsby Mitchel who commanded the Federal troops in middle Tennessee planned to move south with his army and take Huntsville, AL and Chattanooga, TN. Twenty-two Army volunteers, led by civilian scout James J Andrews, hijacked a train in Big Shanty (now Kennesaw, GA) while the passengers were dining, and headed toward Chattanooga TN doing as much damage as possible to the Western and Atlantic Railroad. Because the Union men had cut the telegraph wires, the Confederates could not send warnings ahead to forces along the railway.
Captain William Allen Fuller (1836 -1905) was the conductor of the train pulled by the ‘General.’ Fuller first chased the train on foot and then by handcar. The hilly area with steep grades allowed him to keep up with the train, which stopped periodically to sabotage the rails and communications. When Fuller reached an area where the tracks had been destroyed, he pursued on foot again. Fuller picked up 11 Confederate troops at Calhoun, commandeered an engine and ran it tender-first (in reverse) in pursuit.
With The Texas still chasing the General tender-first, the two trains steamed through Dalton and Tunnel Hill. The raiders continued to sever the telegraph wires, but they were unable to burn bridges or damage Tunnel Hill. The wood they had hoped to burn was soaked by rain. Finally, at milepost 116.3, north of Ringgold GA, just 18 miles from Chattanooga, with the locomotive out of fuel, Andrews’ men abandoned the General and scattered. Within two weeks, the Confederates captured the raiders and executed some quickly as spies. Fuller was honored as a hero.
Tomorrow, The First Lady Medal of Honor Winner. Rita Bay