During the Atlanta Campaign William Tecumseh Sherman would use the same all-weather supply line to move 100,000 men from Chattanooga to Atlanta, taking the besieged city on September_2, 1864. Sherman captured Western and Atlantic track as he moved south and the railroad lost the Western and Atlantic designation and became part of the United States Military Railroad.
As Sherman left on the March to the Sea, the track of the Western and Atlantic was destroyed to prevent its use by the Confederacy.
The Western and Atlantic Railroad served the Confederacy as a troop transport and a supply line to the troops battling in the Western Theater. For the first year of the war the line was relative undisturbed, but on April_12, 1862, Andrew's Raiders boarded a train in Marietta, Georgia, with the intent of disrupting supplies and support to Brigadier General Danville Leadbetter in the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Major General Ormsby Mitchel advanced from central Tennessee to Stevenson, Alabama intending to threaten the important rail hub in Chattanooga and severing the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, a supply line for Albert Sidney Johnston in Corinth, Mississippi. Although cutting the railroad did not have an immediate effect on Johnston's forces, preparing for the Battle of Shiloh at the time, it sent the Western and Atlantic Railroad into overdrive transporting troops and supplies to Chattanooga.
When James Andrews attempted to sever the Western and Atlantic on April_12, 1862, the increased traffic forced the train to be delayed repeatedly, probably helping the Confederates to capture Andrews and his 19 Union spies. Present-day historians believe that Andrews complex plan of riding the General through Chattanooga and across enemy lines would not have work.
In June, 1862, Braxton Bragg decided to use the Western and Atlantic Railroad as part of a complex plan to take the Army of Mississippi to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where it would advance north into Kentucky. It was both the largest and longest single troop movement at the time. When his men arrived in Chattanooga they had traveled almost 700 miles, the last 108 on the Western and Atlantic.
Taking a page from Bragg's book, General Robert E. Lee ordered James Longstreet's Corps south to Georgia to assist Bragg in September, 1863, then fighting a superior force under William S. Rosecrans, first in the Tullahoma Campaign and later, the Chickamauga Campaign. Longstreet's vanguard under Bushrod Johnston reached Ringgold depot on September_18, 1863 and began marching west to engaged Union forces. Longstreet would not arrive until the evening of September 19.
The causalities at Chickamauga returned to Ringgold and other stations including Dalton and Resaca, where they boarded trains to hospitals. A city park next to the depot in Atlanta was used as a triage center and men were either treated in Atlanta or moved east or south on other railroads.
As General William Tecumseh Sherman moved south, closely following the
Western and Atlantic Railroad bed, he used the road to take 100,000 men and their supplies deep into the heart of Georgia. The Battle of Dalton, the Battle of Resaca, and the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain were fought on or near the tracks of the Western and Atlantic and each shortened the operating distance of the line. After Joe Johnston abandoned the Smyrna line, most of the Western and Atlantic rolling stock and locomotives began operating on the Macon and Western.
On September 2, 1864, the Western and Atlantic Railroad ceased to exist when the city of Atlanta surrendered. John Bell Hood destroyed the roundhouse on the evening of September 1, 1864 with an explosion so loud that Sherman heard it in Rough and Ready.
The most famous event in railroad history occurred in 1862 when a group of 20 men tried to steal the General, a locomotive on the Western and Atlantic. Boarding the train in Marietta, James Andrews and his men boldly stole the locomotive in Kennesaw because that depot (actually the Lacy Hotel) did not have a telegraph.
Andrews made his way quickly to Kingston, stopping to cut telegraph lines or repair the engine, but the increased traffic from the battle of Shiloh and General Ormsby Mitchel's seizure of Stevenson, Alabama forced a layover of more than a hour in the Kingston railyards.
Pursuing the General, William Fuller and others advanced on foot, then on a pole car, and took the Yonah at Etowah Station to advance on the raiders. By the time Fuller reached Kingston he was less than an hour behind Andrews and his men. Fuller took the William R. Smith, a Rome Railroad locomotive in order to chase the General.
North of Kingston, the raiders raised a track, ending Fuller's use of the William R. Smith, but two miles further north they came upon the Texas, which sat on a sidetrack while the General went by. Engineer Peter Bracken, a transplanted Yankee, picked up Fuller and Andrew Murphy four miles south of Adairsville, then returned to Adairsville to drop his freight cars.
Bracken continued north, driving the Texas at full-speed in reverse. About 2 miles north of the Ringgold Depot the chase came to an end when a brass fitting failed just as the wood supply was used up. "Every man for himself," came the order from Andrews. It took two weeks for the raiders to be caught and returned to Atlanta for trial. Their fates varied, but Andrews was hung on a site near present-day Juniper Street.
As the final leg of a 631-mile trip from Corinth to Chattanooga, the Western and Atlantic Railroad delivered the Army of Mississippi under Braxton Bragg to Chattanooga. The stunning, strategic shift of manpower on such a grand scale had never been accomplished before and blindsided the Union armies in the Western Theater.
From Chattanooga, Bragg would work with E. Kirby Smith to advance into the border state of Kentucky in search of volunteers.
The greatest Confederate victory in The Civil War was fought in northwest Georgia between the Confederate Army of Tennessee and the Union Army of the Cumberland. During both the Tullahoma Campaign and the Chickamauga Campaign the Western and Atlantic Railroad transported munitions and supplies to Bragg's beleaguered army. When Rosecrans entered Georgia, Bragg was forced to withdraw from Chattanooga to protect the W&ARR. Robert E. Lee sent James Longstreet to help win the battle. James Longstreet's Corps from the Army of Northern Virginia rode the Western and Atlantic from Atlanta to Catoosa Station, Ringgold and other stations in the area to enter the field of battle.
As Bragg advanced to the hills around Chattanooga, the Western and Atlantic moved the Confederate wounded to hospitals.
Following the Battle of Missionary Ridge Confederate forces under Patrick Cleburne fought a rear-guard action along the Western and Atlantic at Ringgold Pass, near the Ringgold Depot. After delaying Fighting Joe Hooker, Cleburne withdrew along the railroad.
In the Spring of 1864 General William Tecumseh Sherman had one order, to follow Joe Johnston and the Army of Tennessee "wherever they went." Johnston used the Western and Atlantic Railroad as his supply line, so most of the battles were fought at stops on the railroad: Dalton, Resaca, Cassville, Kennesaw (Big Shanty). As Yankees moved the front line south, the track of the Western and Atlantic was rebuilt and operated under the United States Military Railroad.
In his memoirs, Sherman would later write The Atlanta Campaign of 1864 would have been impossible without the... Western and Atlantic Railroad ...that all our battles were fought for its possession, and that the Western and Atlantic Railroad of Georgia should be the pride of every true American because by reason of its existence the Union was saved. Every foot of it should be sacred ground because it was moistened by patriotic blood, and that over a hundred miles of it was fought a continuous battle of 120 days, during which, day and night, were heard the continuous boom of cannon and the sharp crack of the rifle. March to the Sea
When Sherman and his men left for "salt water," they only left the railroad operating from Chattanooga to Dalton. Track from Dalton to Allatoona Pass was raised and removed to Dalton for later use. As Sherman left from Cartersville on the March to the Sea his men started tearing up the track south of Allatoona Pass all the way to the Zero-mile marker in downtown Atlanta.
The United States Military Railroad(USMRR) was organized in 1862 and David McCallum became the Military Director and Superintendent of the Union Railroads. McCallum had been superintendent of the New York and Erie Railroad. Herman Haupt, whose name is closely associated with the railroad, was its chief engineer.
Sections of the Western and Atlantic were moved into the USMRR
Chattanooga to Ringgold, February 2, 1864
Ringgold to Dalton, May, 1864
Dalton to Calhoun, June, 1864
Calhoun to Marietta, July 1864
Marietta to Atlanta, October, 1864