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The General
About North Georgia

Born December, 1855, Paterson, New Jersey
Current residence:Kennesaw, Georgia

The General from front
That The General captures the heart and soul of Civil War and railroad enthusiasts is a fact. The "why" is a little harder to explain. Early in the Civil War, spies rode this combined freight-passenger train into history in an event now popularized as "The Great Locomotive Chase." It was nearly destroyed as General John Bell Hood burned the railyard and some of the city before he left Atlanta, a scene vividly recreated in Gone With the Wind. For the next 135 years this locomotive would earn a place in the hearts of many Americans, train-lovers and Civil War veterans and buffs alike.

The General and her sister locomotive The Texas were born in December, 1855 and January 1856, respectively, in the city of Paterson, New Jersey. Although some aficionados dislike the word "sister" the term is frequently used to describe the two engines.

She made the journey to Georgia by ship from Philadelphia, then by rail to her home, the yard of the Western and Atlantic Railroad in Atlanta. The American 4-4-0 would run on the W&ARR throughout most of her life, occasionally straying outside the 138 miles of track belonging to the state-owned railroad between Chattanooga and Atlanta.

Civil War

See also: Western and Atlantic Railroad in the Civil War

On April_12, 1862, 21 men stole The General from Big Shanty and ran her to Ringgold, Georgia, where she slowed to a stop some two miles north of the depot. The spies hastily disembarked and fled. Unable to move to a side track under her own power, the General got an assist from her "sister" The Texas, who pushed the engine to Greysville for wood and water, then pulled her to Ringgold for repair. After the capture of Andrews' Raiders in the forests of North Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama, The General hauled them back to Atlanta on May 2.

As the Atlanta Campaign moved William Tecumseh Sherman's army closer and closer to Atlanta, The General had fewer miles it could travel. Finally, almost all of the W&ARR route was under Union control so the General was impressed and put on workhorse duty between Atlanta and Macon. She pulled the last train out of Atlanta on September_1, 1864. She never made her destination, halting at Rough and Ready and returning because of heavy artillery fire.

By the time it returned, the evacuation of Atlanta by Hood's Army of Tennessee was nearly complete. General Hood had one last job for the locomotive. He ordered it, along with five other engines, run into the 81-car munitions train that could not be moved since all rail lines to Atlanta had been severed.

Although badly damaged from the resulting explosion and fire, The General survived and ran on the United Stated Military Railroad Service (USMRS), continuing her service to the Western and Atlantic after the USMRS returned the W&ARR equipment. During this time the practice of naming trains had been replaced by the practice of giving them numbers. The General was now No. 39. The numbers were assigned based on the age of the locomotives.

During the 1870's and 80's she continued her service, surviving new owners and a railroad crash in Kingston, finally moved into "accommodation service." Her job here was to pull excursions, frequently groups pertaining to the Civil War. Another popular group was the "car accountants," photographed with the aging locomotive at Allatoona Pass (Hike it) on a number of occasions.

On May 30, 1891, The General was pulled out of service for one last time. A new marker known as the "Ohio Monument" was to be dedicated to the seven raiders buried in Chattanooga National Cemetery. No longer did she run for the Western and Atlantic; the lease had been picked up by the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad the year before. And it did not carry the familiar #39; she was now #3.

After her appearance at the dedication, the General retired to a siding in Vinings, where the old locomotive languished for a year when a photographer "discovered" the old lady and convinced the president of the NC&StL to refurbish her and send the locomotive to the Chicago Exposition. Starting in September, 1892, it was common for the newly outfitted General to visit reunions and dedications. In 1895 The Cotton States and International Exhibition counted The General as one of its visitors.

On May 16, 1901, the aging lady was put on permanent display at Union Depot in Chattanooga. Throughout the years, a number of films were made about her adventure including Railroad Raiders of '62, The General starring Buster Keaton (VHS,DVD), and The Great Locomotive Chase (VHS, DVD). None of these are considered historically accurate and none of them used The General.

Invitations abounded for her to leave her berth at Union Station and venture around the country. In 1927 she helped celebrate the 100th anniversary of the railroad in America at a festival in Maryland. In 1939, she visited the New York World's Fair. It would be a big year for the locomotive. In December, "Gone With the Wind" (VHS, DVD)premiered and once again The General was in the spotlight. She had been offered a part in the film but the cost of moving the old lady west for filming was prohibitive.

For more than 60 years the General had been a centerpiece of the Union Depot in Chattanooga. In June, 1961, the Louisville and Nashville moved her under cover of darkness from Chattanooga to Nashville. It was not the first time or last that a city suffered "General-envy." Stone Mountain, Atlanta, Marietta, the Chickamauga Battlefield, and Paterson, N. J. had expressed various levels of interest in the locomotive or actually made an attempt to take her.

Nashville's theft of the engine, though, was well intentioned. The L&N rebuilt The General to exhibit her for the Civil War Centennial. On a cool February day in 1962 she came out of her stall and moved under her own power for the first time in more than 50 years. After returning to Louisville as the Centennial ended the debate arose as to who should have the General. The state of Georgia expressed an interest but 60 years in Union Station gave Chattanooga the rights to the locomotive. Or so they thought.

On a trip south, America's Scenic City seized The General in 1967. For three years a legal battle was waged over a locomotive and would be carried all the way to the Supreme Court, who refused to hear the case. It let stand a lower court ruling that the L&N Railroad owned The General and can dispose of it as they wished.

The state of Georgia had long desired The General, and had made it well known to the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. With the help of Gov. Jimmy Carter The General returned to the most appropriate place, in a cotton gin about a hundred yards from the site of the original theft of the engine, Kennesaw, Georgia.

Since April 12, 1972, The General has spent her retirement in the perfect place, the Kennesaw Civil War Museum (formerly the Big Shanty Museum), protected from the elements not far from the start of America's most famous train story!

County: Cobb County

Current location of The General (locomotive)


From Atlanta Take I-75 13.5 miles north from the intersection with I-285. Take Exit 273 (Wade Green Road), turn left at the end of the ramp. Wade Green Road immediately becomes Cherokee Street. Follow this for 2.6 miles and turn left, into the Southern Museum of Railroad and Civil War History. From Cartersville Take I-75 south for 14.2 miles. Take Exit 273 (Wade Green Road), turn right at the end of the ramp. Wade Green Road immediately becomes Cherokee Street. Follow this for 2.6 miles and turn left, into the Southern Museum of Railroad and Civil War History.

Biographies of famous, not so famous and infamous people from the North Georgia area or who had an effect on North Georgia
The Civil War in Georgia
Beginning with the Great Locomotive Chase and the battle of Chickamauga, to the Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea

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Atlanta Campaign
Chickamauga Battlefield
Gone With the Wind
John Bell Hood
The Great Locomotive Chase
Western and Atlantic Railroad in the Civil War
William Tecumseh Sherman

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