A year later almost to the date, another event would become one of the most celebrated and exciting stories in the entire war. It involved a fellow by the name of James Andrews, approximately 33, born at Weirton Kentucky. He was a civilian in the employ of the Union army, working some times as a scout and others as a spy. He had hatched a plan that might well have resulted in the Civil War ending very quickly. But it and a second failed miserably.
His idea was to send a handful of soldiers in civilian clothing deep into enemy lines in Georgia, capture a train and drive it north burning bridges, cutting telegraph cables and pulling up some railway ties enroute. He presented the idea to Union General Buell in Tennessee and the general thought it could work. He knew that if bridges and rail and telegraph are destroyed it would have a devastating effect on the enemy. Blown bridges took men to repair..and thus out of battle. Destroyed rail lines prevented the enemy from moving troops and supplies around quickly. And of course downed telegraph lines would have a horrible effect on communications with other troops.
Everything was set in place. Almost!
At the apppointed time the troops headed off and even made it to their targeted start point. All but one that is. And he was the very fellow who had railroad experience and was to be the train's conductor. Without him the train could not move. Andrews had to abandon the plan and disperse his men ASAP back to friendly lines. It was later learned that the fellow chosen, who lived in Georgia, got called up for service in the Confederate army and thus could not participate with the mission.
Soon Andrews would again try to set off on a mission. This time, with General Buell off on other duties, Andrews appoached General Mitchell with a similar plan. This one would have many more soldiers and would start not at Atlanta, but north a few miles at Marietta Georgia.
The mission would later become famous as the ...Andrews Raiders, and sometimes called the Mitchell's Raiders.
Mitchell altered the plan so that it would allow him to head off from Shelbyville Tn, move his soldiers south some 60 miles and attack Huntsville Alabama. He would attack on the same day that the Raiders were to board a train from Marietta and head northboud to Chattanooga Tn. Burning bridges and destroying telgraph lines would be of great help as the South would not be able to call for more troops, nor send them westbound to head of the Mitchell attack at Huntsville. Once the Union took Huntsville, Mitchell would move his troops north east to Chattanooga and meet up with the Raiders after their successful run north with a train operating on the Western and Atlantic rail line. From there all would move forth onto Richmond, take it and end the war.
So everybody thought!
To co-ordinate the two seperate actions Mitchell held off on moving south for a few days to allow the Raiders to get to Marietta. But that required herculean tasks. First, it required the Raiders to travel about 800 miles, over half by foot and the rest by train. They also had to travel throught very rugged country and climb the massive Cumberland Mountain range and get down over the other side. To complicate things they had horrendous rain storms that caused delays in their advance.
The Raiders started out with the number of 23, but 2 soon dropped out. The rest split up into little groups, all with practiced stories if caught by Southern troops. Their 3 1/2 days and nights allowed to be used up was mostly gone before they even got to Chattanooga from Shelbyville Tn. Meeting up with Andrews, they were told that the delays because of the storms probably also delayed Mitchell's soldiers enroute to Huntsville. It didn't!
Andrews told the men to relax for a night then get to Chattannoga in time for the 100 mile southbound railway ride to Marietta the next morning. So being good soldiers they took the night off. When they finally arrived at Marietta, it was late at night and they stayed in seperate hotels so as to not alarm the Southerners whose midst they were in the middle off.
The next morning they were to board the train at different points and with different destinations, also so as to not tip of the enemy of their possible plans. All boarded except two. They forgot to tip the innkeeper and so he in return forgot to wake them, and thus the Raiders heading off were now down to 19 men.
The first stop on the train ride northbound back to Chattanooga was just a few miles along the track at a place called Big Shanty. There the train stoped for a quick morning breakfast for all on board. All except the Raiders who stayed on the train. A few immedatiely were dispatched to the engine, and others to the last car on the track... a passenger car. It was unhooked and the second last being a box car, many of the Raiders jumped into that and the race was on.
The train under the control of the General, the engine made famous by books and movies, pulled out of Big Shanty as all looked on in disbelief and horror. Of more concern to the Raiders, right beside the station was a camp for Southern soldiers... some 4,000 strong.
Regardless, most looked on in disbelief. Some soldiers thinking ti was just a couple of deserters. But then a few of the crew, somwhat chagrined to seeing their train travel down the track without them, started to shoot at it. A few others, more adventurous started to race after it. On foot if you can believe!
More of this tomorrow.
(NOTE: the computer program is on the fritz again and prevented me from posting a map and some other pics re this blog, Hopefully tomorrow it will be working correctly.)