This Labor Day weekend, in honor of it being a long weekend, and it being my birthday weekend, we wanted to do something special. We decided to take a day trip into Georgia, and visit some Civil War sites and museums.
I love Civil War history, and there is no shortage of it in Tennessee and Georgia. When we first moved to Chattanooga, my dad told me about the Great Locomotive Chase. He let me borrow a book about it, “Stealing the General.”
Here is a short history lesson: The Great Locomotive Chase (also known as Andrews’ Raid) happened on April 12, 1862. James Andrews, a civilian and scout for the Union Army, and volunteers from the Union Army stole a train, the General, in Kennesaw, Georgia, (back then known as Big Shanty). The train at the time was stopped to allow passengers to have breakfast at the Lacy Hotel.
The goal was to drive the train to Chattanooga, destroying the Western and Atlantic Railroad track as they went. Railroads were vital in the south and the Civil War. Gaining access to the railroads would cut off supplies to and from southern cities, and badly damage the south’s chances in winning the war.
Confederates gained access to different trains, including the Yonah, and the Texas, and pursued the General. Andrews and the Union soldiers made it as far as Ringgold, Ga., before the locomotive ran out of fuel, and they were captured. Some of the men were able to flee, but eight were hanged.
Our first stop of the day was Kennesaw Georgia, about an hour and a half drive away. We visited the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, which houses the original engine, the General.
The General was the main draw of the museum, but we also learned a lot about the railroads and how they were used and impacted by the Civil War.
There was a neat section in the museum where you learned about the work in foundries, and what it takes to make a locomotive.
The second Great Locomotive Chase and Civil War related stop of the day was in Tunnel Hill, Ga., where we visited the Tunnel Hill Heritage Center and Museum.
A major part of the Great Locomotive Chase was the chase through the Western and Atlantic Railroad tunnel. The Texas was actually chasing the General backwards!
As part of this tour, we rode on a golf cart the whole length of the tunnel, back and forth. This was really cool. The tunnel is no longer used, but the newer tunnel, built in 1928, is right along side of it. We were lucky enough to see a train come through while we were here.
We also got to see the Clisby Austin house, built in 1848. Austin was the post master in Tunnel Hill, and he also owned general stores. He was married twice — his first wife died — and he had 19 children! Austin was a Union sympathizer, so when the war broke out, he sold the home and left.
General Sherman stayed in the home for a week during the start of the Atlanta Campaign. Later on, after the Battle of Tunnel Hill, the home was turned into a hospital.
One thing that I found interesting in this home was that the stairs were original. You could see the dips in the wood, from all of the people who have walked on it over time. I took the same steps as General Sherman!
I enjoyed the Tunnel Hill Heritage Center and Museum, because it was a bonus to learn about Clisby Austin, and the home.
There were other stops on this day trip, so stay tuned!