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How Georgia communities are commemorating Great Locomotive Chase’s 150th anniversary

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

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/.

Marietta
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:

  • The Earl Smith Strand Theatre will host a re-premiere of  the 1956 Walt Disney film “The Great Locomotive Chase,” at 7 p.m. April 12.  The program includes a Civil War-era organ music recital by Ron Carter, opening remarks by “Stealing the General” author Russell Bonds and a champagne and dessert reception. $35 ($75 with red carpet access, VIP reception).  www.earlsmithstrand.org.
  • From  10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 13, the Marietta Gone with the Wind  Museum, Marietta Museum of History and Root House Museum will present  “Civil War Home Front Days,” exploring how “home folks” coped during the  war (www.gwtwmarietta.com; www.mariettahistory.org;  www.cobblandmarks.com). The photo exhibit “Homes and Heroes of the Civil War” continues at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art (www.mariettacobbart museum.org).
  • At 6 p.m. April 13, 2 Rules Fine Art will host a slide presentation/book signing by Civil War historian Clint  Johnson, with three different ones at 11 a.m., 2:30 and 6 p.m. April 14 (www.2rulesfineart.com).
  • At 8 p.m. April 13-14, the Strand will screen Buster Keaton’s “The General,” with a pre-show concert of Civil  War-vintage music and live organ accompaniment by Ron Carter. $10; students and seniors, $8.75. www.earlsmithstrand.org
  • A highlight on April 14  is the “Texas III and Me Tour: From the  Rails to the Road.” The tours  offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Marietta’s Glover Park  to Kennesaw’s Southern Museum will be aboard the Texas III, a replica of  the historic locomotive (now housed at Atlanta’s Cyclorama) handcrafted  by the East Point VFW (770-429-1115). $25, $20 students/seniors, $15 under 12. At 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., the 8th Regiment Band of the Georgia Volunteer Infantry will perform a free  concert of Civil War-era music in Glover Park  (www.eighthregimentband.net).
  • On April 15, “Garden of Heroes” will be unveiled at Marietta Confederate Cemetery following the observance of Confederate Memorial  Day beginning at 1 p.m. The bronze statues by T.J. Dixon and James Nelson  depict a mother and son leaving the cemetery after visiting the grave of  their loved one.

Kennesaw

  • The Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History, where the General has remained on view since 1972, has organized a  full slate for April 12:

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).

  • The observance continues 10 a.m.-4 p.m. April 14-15 with “Camp  McDonald: A Living History Weekend,” featuring reenactment groups  interpreting life in the Confederate encampment that was sited across  the tracks from the museum. $5, $2 ages 4-12 (includes museum  admission). 770-427-2117, www.southernmuseum.org/sesquicentennial.

Emerson
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.

Kingston
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.

Calhoun
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
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.

4 comments Add your comment

FM Fats

April 5th, 2012
2:21 pm

Howard, if I am not mistaken “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County” opened last night at the Alliance Theater. I can’t seem to find a review of it in the AJC today. Is there a reason for this? Was it a soft opening?

Howard Pousner

April 5th, 2012
4:15 pm

Official opening night is next Wednesday, April 11. The shows until then are considered “previews.”

FM Fats

April 5th, 2012
4:40 pm

Thanks. There’s absolutely no indication of that on the Alliance website, as far as I can tell.

steve

April 11th, 2012
8:58 am

Saw Ghost Brothers…. last night. Very enjoyable play. The main character was played by the understudy.