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On April 12, 1862 -- one year to the day after Confederate guns opened on Fort Sumter and started the Civil War -- a tall, mysterious smuggler and self-appointed Union spy named James J. Andrews and nineteen infantry volunteers infiltrated Georgia and stole a steam engine called the General. Racing northward at speeds near sixty miles an hour, cutting telegraph lines, and destroying track along the way, Andrews planned to open East Tennessee to the Union army, cutting off men and materiel from the Confederate forces in Virginia. If they succeeded, Andrews and his raiders could change the course of the war.
But the General's young conductor, William A. Fuller, chased the stolen train first on foot, then by handcar, and finally aboard another engine, the Texas. He pursued the General until, running out of wood and water, Andrews and his men abandoned the doomed locomotive, ending the adventure that would soon be famous as The Great Locomotive Chase. But the ordeal of the soldiers involved was just beginning.
In the days that followed, the raiders were hunted down and captured. Eight were tried and executed as spies, including Andrews. Eight others made a daring escape, including two assisted by a network of slaves and Union sympathizers. For their actions, before a personal audience with President Abraham Lincoln, six of the raiders became the first men in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor the nation's highest decoration for gallantry. Americans north and south, both at the time and ever since, have been astounded and fascinated by this daring raid. But until now, there has not been a complete history of the entire episode and the fates of all those involved.
Based on eyewitness accounts, as well as correspondence, diaries, military records, newspaper reports, deposition testimony, and other primary sources, Stealing the General is a blend of meticulous research and compelling narrative that is destined to become the definitive history of the boldest adventure of the war.
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“The Great Locomotive Chase has been the stuff of legend and the darling of Hollywood. Now we have a solid history of the Andrews raid. Russell Bonds' stirring account makes clear why the raid failed and what happened to the raiders.”—James M. McPhersonAbout the Author:
RUSSELL S. BONDS is an in-house lawyer at the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta and a lifelong resident of north Georgia. He was born in Atlanta and grew up in Marietta, just a few blocks from the spot where James Andrews and his men first boarded the General on the morning of April 12, 1862. He received a B.S. with honor from Georgia Tech and a law degree magna cum laude from the University of Georgia, where he was the executive articles editor of the Georgia Law Review. He has published several articles and reviews on Civil War topics in national publications, including Pawn Takes Bishop: The Death of Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk and Lieutenant Tecumseh: Sherman's First March through Georgia, 1844. He lives in Marietta, Georgia, with his wife and three daughters.
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