The Great Locomotive Chase: Part III, the Raiders’ Fate

The  General  at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History (photo by author)

The General at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History (photo by author)

Read Parts I and II here.

When the General ran out of steam past Ringgold, Andrews gave the orders to scatter, every man for themselves, with the goal to make it back to Union lines. As Fuller towed his recovered engine back to Ringgold he spread the news about the chase and the Union Raiders in a town where a local muster day was occurring for Confederate troops. Suddenly, many men seeking the glory of capturing the Raiders joined the hunt.

Campbell, Slavens, and Shadrach were the first to be captured. Robinson and Parrott were captured as a pair, and for unknown reasons, Parrott was singled out and whipped so severely that he carried the scars for the rest of his life. Even Hawkins and Porter, left behind in Marietta at the beginning of the day were captured. They tried to enlist in a Confederate unit to avoid detection as planned, but somehow word got out that two Raiders were left in Marietta and they were both arrested. Andrews, Knight, and Wollam made it the farthest towards safety, but were arrested twelve miles from Union lines near Bridgeport. Within days all of the Raiders were captured and jailed together in Chattanooga to await trial.

Andrews was tried first on crimes of spying and treason, but the following trials were disrupted by Mitchel who continued to move towards Chattanooga. At the beginning of May, the Raiders were transferred to Madison for a period of time and then returned to Chattanooga. At the end of May, twelve of the Raiders were transported to Knoxville for trial. The same day, Andrews received the result of his trial, a death warrant for his execution on June 7. The remaining ten Raiders tried to help Andrews escape, and they were successful in getting him and one comrade out of the jail, but Andrews was quickly recaptured and Wollam would be recaptured later.

Twelve Raiders were tried in Knoxville, one per day; seven were found guilty and sentenced to hand before the trials were disrupted by Mitchel’s movement once again. Back in Chattanooga, preparations went ahead for Andrews’ execution but this too was disrupted by Mitchel’s movements. On the date set for his hanging, the Raiders were transferred abruptly to Atlanta where the they were again confined and Andrews was taken for his execution. His death did not come smoothly. When the platform dropped, Andrews’ feet could touch the ground and, while the guards scrambled to make sure he could not do so, he strangled to death instead of his neck breaking. Exactly two months after the Raiders had met for the first time and started their journey, Andrews was dead. In the crowd watching was William Fuller.

Marker in Oakland Cemetery (previously the Atlanta Graveyard) noting the execution of the seven Raiders.

Marker in Oakland Cemetery (previously the Atlanta Graveyard) noting the execution of the seven Raiders.

The Raiders were all reunited in Atlanta when the twelve Knoxville prisoners were transferred there. With Andrews already dead, the Raiders talked about planning their escape. But, on June 18 a detail arrived where they were confined with the news that the seven Raiders already tried were to be executed immediately. The seven men—Campbell, Robertson, Ross, Scott, Shadrach, Slavens, and George Wilson—were taken to the Atlanta Graveyard and quickly hung. There was no announcement before the execution but word did get out and a crowd witnessed the scene, including, again, Fuller. This hurried execution did not go smoothly either; when the platform dropped two ropes snapped, causing Campbell and Slavens to fall to the ground and have to be hanged an hour later.

Close-up on the plaque of the Oakland Cemetery monument.

Close-up on the plaque of the Oakland Cemetery monument.

With eight of their comrades executed, the remaining thirteen Raiders were desperate to escape, their number soon turning to fourteen with the recapture of John Wollam after weeks on the run. They appealed to Jefferson Davis and Confederate General Braxton Bragg for reprieve with no reply and the Union army was similarly silent, the men listed in their units as on “detached” or “secret” duty. Up against the wall and fearing their own executions the Raiders decided to break out of the prison they were confined in. On October 16 a group of Raiders forced their way out of their cell, overpowered the jailer, released the rest of their comrades (plus a few other Union prisoners), and burst into the courtyards, surprising the guards. Raiders Brown, Bensinger, Dorsey, Hawkins, Knight, Mason, Porter, “Alf” Wilson, Wollam, and Wood managed to escape the jail, but Buffum, Parrott, Pittenger, and Reddick were caught before they could escape. While most made their way towards Union lines, Bensinger and Mason were recaptured and returned to their four jailed comrades. The other eight escapees were successful in reaching Union lines and were all returned to their units.

The six still-jailed Raiders feared a swift execution in answer to the jailbreak, but instead they were traded in a prisoner exchange in March 1863. They were also returned to their units. All of the surviving Raiders continued to serve in the war and all survived, although some were wounded. Seven Raiders were awarded officers commissions and five were recaptured at the Battle of Chichamauga, all exchanged or escaped except Wollum who was recognized as a Raider and imprisoned. He was able to escape and survive the war.

While the Raiders’ ordeal was finally over, the would make one more mark on history…

Read the rest of the series here.

Further Reading:

Bonds, Russell S. Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor. Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, LLC, 2007.

Pittenger, William. Daring and Suffering: A History of the Andrew Railroad Rail. Cumberland Publishing House, 1999.

Rottman, Gordan L. The Great Locomotive Chase: The Andrews' Raid, 1862. New York: Osprey Publishing, Ltd., 2009.

The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, GA has an extensive exhibit on the Andrews' Raid, including the restored General.

Kathleen Logothetis Thompson graduated from Siena College in May 2010 with a B.A. in History and a Certificate in Revolutionary Era Studies.  She earned her M.A. in History from West Virginia University in May 2012.  Her thesis “A Question of Life or Death: Suicide and Survival in the Union Army” examines wartime suicide among Union soldiers, its causes, and the reasons that army saw a relatively low suicide rate.  She is currently pursuing her PhD at West Virginia University with research on mental trauma in the Civil War.  In addition, Kathleen was a seasonal interpreter at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park from 2010-2014 and has worked on various other publications and projects.