To See the General in Downtown Kennesaw
In This Issue: Touring Cobb County
While Marietta certainly has its fair share of historical and cultural landmarks worth visiting, the town itself is only so big. That’s why we’re expanding the scope of this article series to include attractions worth seeing throughout all of Cobb County. Just to the northwest of Marietta is the town of Kennesaw, and in downtown Kennesaw you’ll find the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History. This museum is the final resting place of the General, a massive steam locomotive that was briefly captured by Union Soldiers during the Civil War.
The General was built in 1855 and transported freight and passengers between Chattanooga and Atlanta. During the Civil War, it was the centerpiece of what came to be known as the Great Locomotive Chase. On April 12, 1862, a group of 22 Union soldiers — known later as Andrews’ Raiders because they were led by a man named James J. Andrews — hijacked the train with the intent of steaming north, while burning bridges and disrupting communications as they went.
The Raiders arrived in Marietta and then traveled separately in small groups to Kennesaw to avoid arousing suspicion. Then, when the General’s crew and passengers disembarked to eat and refuel, the soldiers took control of the locomotive and headed north — but they were never to complete their mission. They ran out of water and wood two miles north of Ringgold and had to abandon the mission. They were later captured by Confederate troops, and some of them were shot. However, some of the Raiders who lived to the end of the war became the first recipients of the Medal of Honor.
The General escaped the burning of Atlanta a few years later and then remained in service until 1891, when it retired to Vinings, Georgia. The following year, it went on a tour that included a stop at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. After changing hands a few times, in 1972, the General ended up on display in Kennesaw, and it is now listed on Georgia’s National Register of Historic Places.