By Howard Pousner
It didn’t alter the course of Civil War history, but the Great Locomotive Chase that took place on April 12, 1862 left its mark on the communities lining the rail route from Big Shanty (present day Kennesaw) to near the Tennessee line and captured the imagination of a divided nation.
A number of the towns will host public programs in coming weeks to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the chase.
The events of that day nearly 150 years ago were set in motion when Union spies led by civilian scout James J. Andrews consorted behind enemy lines in Big Shanty to commandeer the General locomotive. Andrews’ Raiders intended to force an end to the war by cutting off the Confederate strategic railroad supply line between Atlanta and Chattanooga, tearing up track, destroying bridges and cutting telegraph wires along their way.
But their plan was foiled. General conductor William Allen Fuller and others pursued Andrews’ Raiders for 87 miles, first on foot and later by commandeering the locomotive the Texas, before the General ran out of fuel north of Ringgold.
The most ambitious sesquicentennial celebrations will take place in the metro area, in Marietta, where the General began that fateful day, and in Kennesaw, where the engine was stolen while Fuller and other train workers had breakfast.
Here are highlights of observances in communities along the route northwest out of Atlanta. Details, more events: www.gacivilwar.org/events/search/.
The Cobb County seat hosts four days of movie screenings, tours, talks and exhibits April 12-15. For more details, visit www.mariettacivil war.com.
Some highlights include:
After a 6 a.m. breakfast at the Trackside Grill in downtown Kennesaw ($20), a 150th anniversary proclamation will be presented at the historic Kennesaw depot at 8:30 a.m. (free). The museum, 2829 Cherokee St., will offer free admission from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A dinner at the Trackside Grill is sold out, but at 8 p.m. the museum will host a dessert gathering featuring Bobby Horton performing Civil War-era songs ($25).
Historians and re-enactors recount the Great Locomotive Chase speeding through Allatoona Pass, 10 a.m.-noon April 21. $5 parking. 770-975-0055. I-75 exit 283, east 1.5 miles to Allatoona Pass Battlefield. 770-975-0055, www.georgiastate parks.org/redtopmountain.
At 1:30 p.m. April 12, this Bartow County town will honor depot agent Uriah Stephens. Unconvinced of James Andrews’ authority, Stephens resisted Andrews’ demands to “throw the switch” to return the General to the main line, delaying the locomotive’s northward movement for an hour. A monument in Stephens’ honor will be dedicated at the Kingston Museum, 13 E. Main St.; 770-336-5905; www.bartowga.org.
On April 14, Chase-themed programming in or outside the Gem Theatre begins at 3 p.m. with Civil War re-enactors displaying infantry weapons and a cannon. At 3:30 p.m., Gordon County historian Ken Padgett gives a talk about the area’s role in the chase. At 4 p.m., a free screening of “The Great Locomotive Chase.” Bobby Horton performs a concert of Civil War-era music at 7:30 p.m. ($10; $5 students). 114 N. Wall St.; 706-625-3132; www.calhoungem.org.
Dalton Little Theater actors will portray Civil War characters during Spirit Walk at West Hill Cemetery. 5 p.m., 5:20, 5:40 p.m. April 13; 5 p.m. April 14; 3 p.m., 3:30, 4 p.m. April 15. A social hour will take place at West Hill Chapel after each tour. West Cuyler Street. $12. www.glctour.eventbrite.com.