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The Historic General: A Thrilling Episode of the Civil War

by Randell W. McBryde
Originally Published in 1904
Reprint Edition, 2016
paperback; 72 pages

On April 12, 1862, James J. Andrews and a band of Union spies stole the General locomotive in Big Shanty (today called Kennesaw), Georgia. Andrews and his raiders planned to use the steam engine to travel to Chattanooga, Tennessee, destroying the bridges along the Western & Atlantic Railroad which linked Atlanta with that city. If successful, this daring expedition would have resulted in the fall of not only Chattanooga, but a large part of east Tennessee, as well as leaving Lynchburg, Virginia vulnerable and possibly also threatening Stonewall Jackson's troops in the Shenandoah Valley. The theft did not go unnoticed, however, and a desperate pursuit began with the General's crew using everything at their disposal, including other locomotives, a push car and even their feet, to overtake the raiders. After a wild chase of 87 miles, Andrews' men were stopped just before reaching Chattanooga. Those who were caught, including Andrews and Sgt. John Scott, were hanged by the authorities in Georgia. Others, including Sgt. Wilson Brown, escaped from Confederate prison or were exchanged as prisoners of war. These men were among the first to be awarded the United States Medal of Honor for their bravery.

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