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Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor
     

Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor

by Russell S. Bonds
 

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Selected by Civil War Interactive as One of the Top Civil War Books of All Time

"The definitive book about the Great Locomotive Chase."-Charlotte Observer

"Magnificent and definitive."-Wall Street Journal

"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.

Overview

Selected by Civil War Interactive as One of the Top Civil War Books of All Time

"The definitive book about the Great Locomotive Chase."-Charlotte Observer

"Magnificent and definitive."-Wall Street Journal

"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 S. Bonds' stirring account makes clear why the raid failed and what happened to the raiders."-James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

"In this gripping, smooth-running account, Bonds zooms effortlessly from broad-stroke overviews of Civil War strategy to minute-by-minute scrutiny of unfolding events on the ground. He sets up the story with a quick, punchy outline of the first year of the war. What follows is a fast-paced, extremely well-told tale of espionage, capture, trial and escape."-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Phenomenally well written, organized, and presented."-Civil War Books and Authors

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 north Georgia and stole a steam engine called the General. Racing northward at speeds approaching 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 matériel 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 "engine thieves" were hunted down and captured. Eight were tried and executed as spies, including Andrews. Eight others made a daring escape to freedom, 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: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor by Russell S. Bonds is a blend of meticulous research and compelling narrative that is now considered to be the definitive history of "the boldest adventure of the war."

Editorial Reviews

Few Americans know much, if anything about the Great Locomotive Chase of April 12, 1862. What they do know probably derives from Buster Keaton's 1927 silent film The General, a brilliant fictionalization of the actual events. The real story is at least as exciting and suspenseful as Keaton's romantic comedy concoction: Self-appointed Union spy James J. Andrews and 19 infantry volunteers stole a steam engine, The General, in Georgia and desperately raced it North, cutting telegraph lines and destroying track as they went. Andrews's plan to change the course of the war ended when he was forced to abandon his engine just a few miles from Chattanooga. But as this truly breathtaking narrative shows, that was only the beginning of the story of "the engine thieves."
The New Yorker
On April 12, 1862, twenty Union soldiers in disguise boarded a train in Georgia to execute a scheme that was meant to bring a quick end to the Civil War. The plan, devised by a quinine-smuggling Union scout and an astronomer turned general, was to steal a locomotive and drive it to Chattanooga, capturing a key railroad connection whose loss would cut the Confederacy in half. The raid might have succeeded if not for the train’s conductor, who pursued the hijackers on foot (“this seemed to be funny to some of the crowd,” he said later, “but it wasn’t so to me”) and then by handcar and a series of three engines. The Union men were captured, and eight were hung as spies; some of the survivors were later the first-ever recipients of the Medal of Honor. The chase became a contemporary legend—it’s now best known as the basis of a Buster Keaton film—and Bonds’s account, the first major study in decades, is thoroughly worthy of an expedition that, a Union officer wrote, “had the wildness of a romance.”
Publishers Weekly
A spy and trader in contraband led an ill-fated commando mission during the first year of the Civil War with these words: "Now my lads, you have been chosen by your officers to perform a most important service, which if successful, will change the whole aspect of the war, and aid materially in bringing an early peace to our distracted country." The episode, which formed the basis for one of Buster Keaton's best-known films, took place in April 1862, when 20 Union soldiers crossed Confederate lines to steal a locomotive called the General and destroy a critical Confederate supply line. In this gripping, smooth-running account of the raid and its aftermath, Atlanta lawyer and Civil War historian Bonds zooms effortlessly from broad-stroke overviews of Civil War strategy to minute-by-minute scrutiny of unfolding events on the ground. He sets up the story with a quick, punchy outline of the first year of the war. What follows is a fast-paced, extremely well-told tale of espionage, capture, trial and escape. Half the team was executed; the half that escaped received the newly established Medal of Honor. With its authoritative tone and refreshing accessibility, this should find a place on the nightstand of the general reader as well as the bookshelf of the Civil War enthusiast. BOMC, History Book Club and Military Book Club selections, Borders' Original Voices selection. 20,000 first printing. (Oct. 15) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594160332
Publisher:
Westholme Publishing
Publication date:
10/28/2006
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
443,651
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.90(d)

Meet the Author

Russell S. Bonds is an attorney in Atlanta and author of War like the Thunderbolt: The Battle and Burning of Atlanta, available from Westholme Publishing. He is an honor graduate of Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia School of Law.

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