United States of America
Marietta and Kennesaw Museums (The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History)
"The Great Locomotive Chase"
On April 12, 1862, the building which is today the Marietta Museum was a hotel known as the Fletcher House, although this was later to be known as the Kennesaw House. It was here that began one of the most famous locomotive chases in history.
The American Civil War (1861-1865) began when eleven southern states seceded from the Union in 1860 over the issue of slavery. These eleven states formed the Confederate States of America (CSA). The Civil War began in April 1861 when Confederate troops fired on Union forces at Fort Sumter in Charleston harbour. This action lead to the bloodiest conflict in American history.
The Great Locomotive Chase, as it was to become known, was a plan devised by Union forces to steal a train from Confederate territory and take it north to Chattanooga, Tennessee, disabling the railroad tracks and telegraph line as they went. The purpose was to cut off this vital supply line to the Confederate stronghold of Atlanta which was over 100 miles to the south.
The plan was to have a party of 22 men under the command of the union spy, James Andrews, travel from Chattanooga to Marietta, Georgia where they would buy tickets back to Chattanooga. They knew that when the train stopped at Big Shanty (today known as Kennesaw) the passengers and crew always got off the train to have breakfast at the Lacy Hotel. It was then that they stole the train, disengaging the passenger cars, and speeding off with the locomotive, which was called ‘The General’. The final briefing between Andrews and his men took place at the Fletcher Hotel in Marietta.
One thing that they had not accounted for was the determination of the train’s conductor, William Fuller, who gave chase, firstly on foot, then with a hand cart and finally in another locomotive, summoning help along the way. Despite the efforts of the Union party to shake off their pursuers, after an 86-mile chase, Andrews and his crew were captured by Fuller and his men. Eventually, Andrews and 19 of his men were executed as spies by the Confederates.
In time, the Union posthumously awarded the first Congressional Medals of Honour to those who stole the locomotive.
Today the historic Kennesaw House Hotel houses the Marietta Museum of History, which was established in 1996. It contains exhibits relating to the history of Marietta and Cobb County. The museum is located on the second floor, and features collections from the U.S. military and the Civil War, as well as exhibits of 19th century home life and local history. Prior to the Civil War (ante-bellum days), the place was used as a summer resort for plantation owners. During the Civil War when a number of bloody battles were fought in the area, it was used as a hospital for Confederate soldiers.
The second location in Big Shanty (now Kennesaw), where the train passengers disembarked for breakfast, is now the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History which contains a number of artefacts and documents relating to the civil war and tells the story of the Confederate side in the war and in particular the importance of the railways to the war effort. This modern building also houses The General, the actual locomotive which was stolen in the great Locomotive chase. Built in 1855, ‘The General’ was restored in 1961 and is now displayed in the museum.
In addition, the museum contains a permanent exhibit of the Glover Machine Works -- a restored early 20th-century belt-driven locomotive assembly line as well as other articles relating to the railways of the Civil War.