MARIETTA, Ga. — The sound of a diesel resonates as it passes the Kennesaw House.
The busy main line, today under the control of CSX sees dozens of freight trains daily. Without taking notice, they pass the Kennesaw House a historic building, with little more than a historical marker commemorating what once happened here.
It was at this very spot, 142 years ago, that 20 men boarded a passenger train bound for Chattanooga. The train, however, didn’t make it to Tennessee that fateful day. And the subsequent events would go down in history as one of the most exciting actions of the Civil War.
The men stole the train’s engine the General in the hopes of destroying the Western and Atlantic Railroad. They failed. But, the daring adventure has not been forgotten.
Today, the 87-mile route of the Great Locomotive Chase can be easily retraced. The railroad still exists, running over much of the same right-of-way it did on April 12, 1862.
From Marietta, the General proceeded north, stopping in Big Shanty, known today as Kennesaw. A historical marker erected in 1901 by the Nashville, Chattanooga and St Louis Railway denotes the stretch of track where the General was parked when she was stolen.
About two miles north of Kennesaw, the General stopped at. Moon’s Station to pick up some tools from a track crew. A second historical marker marks Moon’s Station.
The General then continued north, passing over the Etowah River. Although the railroad no ‘ longer uses the same bridge, stone supports are still standing. Andrews did not destroy the bridge, ‘ which was one of the raid’s targets. Instead, he left the bridge intact, allowing the General’s train crew to continue their pursuit.
The next major stop on the raid was in Kingston, Ga. Although the town is no longer a thriving railroad community, during the Civil War.
Kingston was a major crossroads of the Western and Atlantic and the Rome railroads. It was here the raiders were delayed for about an hour and five minutes, a key Only turning point in the raid.
Kingston’s depot no longer stands, but the remains of its foundations are still visible. Likewise, the remains of the rail yard’s right of way can still be seen. A historical marker marks the raiders time in Kingston.
After the long delay, the chase headed towards Adairsville, Ga. Just south of town, the raiders stopped to tear up the track, prohibiting their pursuers from continuing the chase in a locomotive. The pursuers, led by conductor William A. Fuller, 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. Adairsville’s depot, built in the 1850s, has been converted into a museum dedicated to the Great Locomotive Chase.
After Adairsville is the most impressive sign on the route of the raid the former railroad tunnel through the Chetoogeta Mountain. The 1,447-foot long tunnel -was completed in 1850, allowing the Western and Atlantic Railroad to connect Atlanta and Chattanooga. The tunnel was used until 1928, when a larger passageway was built through the mountain, allowing bigger trains to use the route.
The tunnel was one of several points of possible sabotage by the raiders, but because of the close pursuit, their plan failed.
Running out of steam, the raiders passed through the north Georgia town of Ringgold, which in the mid-19th century was a bigger community than Chattanooga. The General passed by the town’s station opened on May 9, 1850.
About two miles north of town, the General was out of steam. The raiders, no longer able to outrun their pursuers, abandoned the engine and their hopes of destroying one of the Confederacy’s lifelines.
A historical marker denotes the spot which must look eerily similar today as it did 141 years ago where the General came to a stop for the last time on the Great Locomotive Chase. The 20 raiders scattered off into the woods, only , to be caught in a matter of days.
The rest is history.