The Andrews Raid of April 12, 1862, brought the first Union soldiers into north Georgia and led to an exciting locomotive chase, the only one of the Civil War (1861-65). The adventure lasted just seven hours, involved about two dozen men, and as a military operation, ended in failure.
In early spring 1862 Northern forces advanced on Huntsville, Alabama, heading for Chattanooga, Tennessee. Atlanta, steal a locomotive, and race northward, destroying track, telegraph lines, and maybe bridges toward Chattanooga. The raid thus aimed to knock out the Western and Atlantic Railroad, which supplied Confederate forces at Chattanooga, just as Mitchel's army advanced.
On April 7 Andrews chose twenty-two volunteers from three Ohio infantry regiments, plus one civilian. In plain clothes they slipped through the lines to Chattanooga and entrained to Marietta; two men were caught on the way.
Pursuit began immediately, when three railroad men ran after the locomotive, eventually commandeering a platform car. Ringgold, with the Southerners, aboard the Texas, fast upon them. The Confederates rounded up all the raiders. Only eight of the twenty (Andrews among them) were tried as spies and executed in Atlanta. The rest either escaped or were exchanged.
Though it created a sensation at the time, the Andrews Raid had no military effect.
In the postwar years several raiders, notably William Pittenger, published thrilling recollections of their adventures. In Atlanta, William Fuller testily challenged Anthony Murphy over who was in charge of the train pursuit. The escapade made its way into film with Buster Keaton's silent comedy The General (1927) and Walt Disney's The Great Locomotive Chase (1956). That a failed historical footnote should kindle such drama fairly attests to the Civil War's emotional spark.
Media Gallery: Andrews Raid