Andrews’ Raid

Nineteen Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor for their courageous conduct in executing a daring raid into Georgia in April of 1862. It was for this action that some of these men received the first Medals of Honor ever awarded.

“Someone…has stolen our train,” William Fuller, the engineer of the General as he watched it pull away.

On April 12, 1862, a band of Union soldiers and 2 civilians, led by James J. Andrews, moved into Georgia. They embarked from the Union position in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Their mission: To destroy the Western & Atlantic Railroad, a crucial link between Atlanta, Georgia and Chattanooga, Tennessee. If successful, the bold mission would prevent reinforcements from reaching beleaguered Confederate forces in Tennessee. This action came to be known by two names: Andrews’ Raid and the Great Locomotive Chase.

At 6 a.m. on April 12 the General, a locomotive, arrived in Kennesaw (then known as Big Shanty). Many of the crew and passengers disembarked the train here to eat breakfast at the nearby Lacey Hotel. Unbeknownst to the Confederates, Andrews and his raiders had been among them for hours. They had disguised themselves in civilian clothing, bought tickets, and boarded the train well before it reached Kennesaw. Now they were poised to seize control of the train. They had waited patiently until arriving in Kennesaw for one crucial reason: there was no telegraph in the town, so news of their theft would be slow to broadcast.

James J. Andrews, the namesake of Andrews’ Raiders. He was hanged as a spy by the Confederacy for his part in capturing the train engine General.

With the train nearly empty, Andrews and his raiders seized control of the General and began driving the train north, away from Atlanta and towards Tennessee. As they moved north the men tore up rails behind them and cut telegraph lines. Their Confederate pursuers chased them on foot, by handcar, and eventually by using three separate locomotives. This tenacious chase would prove to be the undoing of the operation.

Not even seven hours later at 1 p.m. about two miles north of Ringgold, the Great Locomotive Chase came to an end. The Union soldiers and raiders had been chased from outside Atlanta to nearly the Tennessee border. The raiders abandoned the General, having run out of wood and water to power the engine. They were captured before they could return to Union lines. Eight of the raiders, including Andrews himself, were hung by Confederate forces for being spies.

Less than year later, six of the prisoners had been exchanged and freed. Those men were presented the Medal of Honor by Secretary of War Edward M. Stanton on March 25, 1863. Among them, one Jacob Parrott, who is recognized as the first recipient of the Medal of Honor. The other five were William Bensinger, Robert Buffum, Elihu Mason, William Pittinger, and William Reddick. Following the ceremony these six were received at the White House by President Lincoln.

As a result of this action, 19 of the 22 men who participated received the Medal of Honor. Every soldier who received a Medal of Honor for their participation in Andrews’ Raid has an identical citation. They read: “One of the 19 of 22 men (including 2 civilians) who, by direction of Gen. Mitchell (or Buell) penetrated nearly 200 miles south into enemy territory and captured a railroad train at Big Shanty, Ga., in an attempt to destroy the bridges and tracks between Chattanooga and Atlanta.”

 

Andrews’ men abandon the General

 

WILLIAM A. BENSINGER

Rank at Time of Action: Private

Service: US Army

Birthday: January 14, 1840

Birthplace: Waynesburg, Ohio

Unit: 21st Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: March 25, 1863

 

WILSON W. BROWN

Rank at Time of Action: Private

Service: US Army

Birthday: December 25, 1837

Birthplace: Logan County, Ohio

Unit: 21st Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: September 1863

 

ROBERT BUFFUM

Rank at Time of Action: Private

Service: US Army

Birthday: July 7, 1828

Birthplace: Salem, Massachusetts

Unit: 21st Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: March 25, 1863

 

DANIEL A. DORSEY

Rank at Time of Action: Corporal

Service: US Army

Birthday: December 31, 1838

Birthplace: Lancaster, Ohio

Unit: 33rd Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: September 1863

 

MARTIN J. HAWKINS

Rank at Time of Action: Corporal

Service: US Army

Birthday: 1830

Birthplace: Mercer County, Pennsylvania

Unit: 33rd Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: September 1863

 

WILLIAM J. KNIGHT

Rank at Time of Action: Private

Service: US Army

Birthday: January 24, 1837

Birthplace: Apple Creek, Ohio

Unit: 21st Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: September 1863

 

ELIHU H. MASON

Rank at Time of Action: Sergeant

Service: US Army

Birthday: March 23, 1831

Birthplace: Wayne County, Indiana

Unit: 21st Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: March 25, 1863

 

JACOB PARROTT

Rank at Time of Action: Private

Service: US Army

Birthday: July 17, 1843

Birthplace: Fairfield County, Ohio

Unit: 33rd Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: March 25, 1863

 

WILLIAM PITTINGER

Rank at Time of Action: Sergeant

Service: US Army

Birthday: January 31, 1840

Birthplace: Knoxville, Ohio

Unit: 2nd Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: March 25, 1863

 

JOHN R. PORTER

Rank at Time of Action: Private

Service: US Army

Birthday: November 14, 1838

Birthplace: Delaware County, Ohio

Unit: 21st Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: September 1863

 

WILLIAM H. REDDICK

Rank at Time of Action: Corporal

Service: US Army

Birthday: September 18, 1840

Birthplace: Locust Grove, Ohio

Unit: 33rd Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: March 25, 1863

 

SAMUEL ROBERTSON

Rank at Time of Action: Private

Service: US Army

Birthday: 1843

Birthplace: Muskingum County, Ohio

Unit: 33rd Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: September 1863

 

MARION A. ROSS

Rank at Time of Action: Sergeant Major

Service: US Army

Birthday: October 9, 1832

Birthplace: Christianburg, Ohio

Unit: 2nd Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: September 1863

 

JOHN M. SCOTT

Rank at Time of Action: Sergeant

Service: US Army

Birthday: January 1, 1839

Birthplace: Stark County, Ohio

Unit: 21st Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: August 4, 1866

 

SAMUEL SLAVENS

Rank at Time of Action: Private

Service: US Army

Birthday: 1830

Birthplace: Pike County, Ohio

Unit: 33rd Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: July 28, 1883

 

JAMES SMITH

Rank at Time of Action: Private

Service: US Army

Birthday: November 9, 1844

Birthplace: Fredericksburg, Virginia

Unit: 2nd Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: July 6, 1864

JOHN A. WILSON

Rank at Time of Action: Private

Service: US Army

Birthday: July 25, 1833

Birthplace: Columbus, Ohio

Unit: 21st Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: September 1863

 

JOHN WOLLAM

Rank at Time of Action: Private

Service: US Army

Birthday: 1838

Birthplace: Hamilton, Ohio

Unit: 33rd Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: July 20, 1864

 

MARK WOOD

Rank at Time of Action: Private

Service: US Army

Birthday: 1839

Birthplace: England

Unit: 21st Ohio Infantry

Date of Action: April 12, 1862

Awarded Medal of Honor: September 1863

 

 

The General, Western & Atlantic RR Locomotive Stolen in Andrews’ Raid, 1862 currently on display in the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia