Remembering "The General"
(This historic photograph* shows "The General," a steam locomotive stolen by brazen Union soldiers from Confederate territory in Marietta, GA, during 1862. While the raid was short lived, the amazing true story captivated the public and was later made into a 1950s Disney movie. Today, visitors can explore the history of The General and Civil War history in Marietta.)
Exploring Civil War Tales in Marietta, GA
Southern Sojourn Blog By Kathy Witt
A short-lived but dramatic slice of history – the Andrews Raid of April 12, 1862 in Marietta, GA – still conjurs up tales of daring adventure some 150 years after it occurred during the War Between the States.
More familiarly known as “The Great Locomotive Chase,” this action resulted when Union soldiers journeyed into the heartland of the Deep South to hijack “The General,” a Western & Atlantic 4-4-0 American steam locomotive that was being used by the Confederacy.
Soldiers hoped to thwart Confederate supply lines. However, the mad dash to steal the train lasted just seven hours and ended in failure.
But, the train thieves were hailed as heroes in the North. They were also immortalized in a 1956 Disney movie starring Fess Parker and Jeffrey Hunter.
"The story of the Great Locomotive Chase still fascinates because it’s a terrific adventure story, a railroad story, a war story – but it’s more than that, too,” said Russell Bonds, author of "Stealing the General."
Bonds’ book won the 2007 Richard Barksdale Harwell Book Award for the best Civil War book of the year. (A photo of the cover is shown above left.*)
It's based on the true story of the Civil War raid that resulted in the first award of the nation’s highest decoration for valor -- the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor.
(Shown at right is the first recipient of that honor, Jacob Parrott, who was a part of the U.S. effort to steal The General.*)
“This story reminds us that, then and now, there are young Americans, far from home, risking their lives and doing great things in the service of their country,” Bonds said.
Today, the Victorian-style Glover Park in Marietta (shown in the photo at right*), which is near where the raid occurred, looks charming and peaceful.
It's a stark contrast from what happened in Marietta just a century ago.
But you'll still find a remembrance of the Civil War raid and its famous choo-choo. Just look for the miniature replica of The General in the park's train-themed playground.
Anchoring Antebellum Square, one of five National Register Historic Districts in the city, the park is also home to a multi-tiered fountain, floral displays, statues and a gazebo bandstand.
Surrounding the square, visitors will discover eclectic boutiques, a lively dining scene with many international eateries, as well as theaters and museums.
The Story Behind “The General”
At the Marietta Museum of History, (www.mariettahistory.org), 1 Depot Street, the brazen locomotive theft event is recounted through exhibits.
Located adjacent to train tracks, the museum is housed in the historic Kennesaw House, a former 1800s-era hotel where the audacious Union soldiers actually plotted the locomotive-stealing mission.
In the Raiders Room exhibit, you'll view an 1860s-era hotel room (shown in the photo above*) , complete with authentic furnishings from the Kennesaw House hotel. A timeline narrates the train-stealing adventure.
Disguised as passengers, 22 Union soldiers stole the locomotive. They were 91 miles from Marietta before the Confederates were able to catch up with the engine and take it back. All 22 men were captured.
Why was the raid needed? What was the intent? Why did it matter?
“The Andrews Raid foreshadowed the importance of Georgia’s railroads in the Civil War, two years before General Sherman would use the same railroad line to supply his campaign to capture Atlanta,” emphasized Bonds.
“In addition, along with the battle of the ironclads and the bloody Battle of Shiloh that same spring, the chase signaled a new era of warfare in the dawning industrial age," he said.
“This is a story that appeals to folks North and South," stressed Bonds. "Yankees like the story because it was a daring raid by boys in blue that led to the Medal of Honor, while Southerners like it because it’s a battle, so to speak, that the South actually won.”
Delving into Scarlett’s World
Next door to the Marietta Museum of History is the Marietta “Gone With The Wind” Museum: Scarlett on the Square, (www.mariettaga.gov/gwtw).
It’s housed in a historic building with exposed brick walls and rough-hewn beams.
Inside, is the real treasure though -- a collection of one-of-a-kind artifacts that pay tribute to Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1936 novel about the Civil War and the 1939 Academy Award-winning film classic.
Here you may view several of Mitchell’s personal volumes of the novel as well as costume pieces from the movie.
In addition, you'll see a children’s book, South Carolina Indians, illustrated and autographed by the reclusive Alicia Rhett, who played the role of India Wilkes in the movie.
One of the most significant pieces in the museum’s collection is the original silk Bengaline gown worn by Vivien Leigh during the film’s honeymoon scene. (It's shown in the photo at right.*)
This lovely gown was created by renowned costume designer Walter Plunkett.
In addition, you’ll see movie actors’ contracts and private correspondence, GWTW paintings, foreign film posters and advertisements.
The museum also displays a collection of nearly 100 dolls, including a mini assemblage of Scarletts.
Another special piece is a heart-shaped locket that Ann Rutherford recently donated to the museum (see photo at left*).
Rutherford played Carreen O’Hara in the movie. She wore the locket during Hollywood’s Golden Age, when she acted in Gone With The Wind and other movies.
Honoring Soldiers, Blue and Gray
Within two miles of the town square are several important Civil War heritage sites. The Marietta National Cemetery (www.cem.va.gov/CEM/cems/nchp/marietta.asp) is the final resting place of more than 10,000 Union soldiers.
Laid out by Union Army Chaplain Thomas Van Horne, this cemetery features a 35-foot-high Monumental Masonry Archway. The Roman-inspired masonry archway has Doric columns and an ornamental gate.
The Marietta Confederate Cemetery is the final resting place of more than 3,000 soldiers. Established in 1863, the cemetery occupies land donated by Mrs. Jane Porter Glover to bury 20 Confederate soldiers who died in a train wreck.
But the need for cemetery space was great and so the cemetery was expanded. Soldiers now buried here represent every Confederate state, plus Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri. Many were soldiers who fought nearby in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.
The City of Marietta has an extensive brochure (see photo at left*) with information about the Marietta City Cemetery and the Confederate Cemetery; visit (www.mariettaga.gov/departments/parks_rec/docs/cemeteries/CemeteryBrochure.pdf).
The city also has a separate Web page for information on all major local cemeteries as well as a map showing their locations: (www.mariettaga.gov/departments/parks_rec/cemeteries.aspx).
In nearby Kennesaw, the 2,888-acre Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park (www.nps.gov/kemo/index.htm) preserves the battleground where the Confederate army stopped General Sherman’s advance southward to Atlanta for two weeks.
This battle occurred in June 1864 as the Union Army marched from Chattanooga to Marietta. It was met by Confederates entrenched along the ridge tops of Kennesaw Mountain.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield now has self-guided cell phone audio tour. To download instructions on how to take the audio tour, click this U.S. National Park Service link which requires an Adobe Reader to view: (Kennesaw Mountain NBP Self-Guided Cell Phone Audio Tour -433K File Size)
If You Go
Want to know more? Contact the Marietta Welcome Center and Visitors Bureau at http://MariettaSquare.com.
Also, visit Marietta’s new Civil War Web site at www.MariettaCivilWar.com, to travel the Marietta Civil War timeline, read Marietta stories relating to the Civil War and learn about Civil War events and heritage sites.
And Georgia's official Civil War Sequicentennial Web site is at http://gacivilwar.org.
This Southern Travel Tales Blog by Kathy Witt is the writer's "personal travel blog" about the sights and sounds of fun places to visit within the South. Reader opinions are welcome; submit your comments here.
*Photo Credits: Photos shown above are owned, copywrighted and used for editorial purposes only by this online magazine. They are courtesy of the organizations mentioned above or the author. Among those entitites are Kathy Witt, Russell Bonds, Marietta Visitor Center, Marietta's Gone With The Wind Museum, Marietta History Museum, the U.S. National Park Service and others. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos.