Friday, June 17, 2005

The Andrews Raid

I meant to talk about this a couple of weeks ago when I first saw Harper Harris on the History Channel talking about it.

For those folks not from the South (or who've never seen the Disney movie), you may not know the story, the Andrews raid was the brainchild of a civilian named James Andrews. He had the bright idea of cutting the Confederate supply line to Chattanooga by stealing a train in Atlanta and burning the bridges 'twixt here and there. So he and about twenty or so volunteers from the 21st Ohio Infantry traveled from Nashville to Atlanta, got on a train (the General) and stole it when the train stopped at Big Shanty (Kennesaw) for breakfast.

They would have most likely gotten away with it were it not for the tenacity of the conductor and the train crew, who pursued the train on foot until they were able to obtain a push cart, then a switch locomotive and finally another locomotive.

I've heard the stories about the General all my life, read about it in school, seen the Disney movie (which actually is fair to middlin' accurate) probably twenty times, and traveled down to Kennesaw to see the General a few times, so I thought I had a pretty fair knowledge of the Andrews raid, but I did learn a couple of new things that made me think.

Couple of things struck me. When Fuller (the conductor) took off running up the tracks after the train, the people on the platform laughed at him. Did he stop? Hell no he didn't stop. He wasn't worried about what all of the hecklers and onlookers thought, he wanted his train back. The man (along with the engineer and another man) ran for something like two miles before they ran across the guys with the push cart, which they used to continue their pursuit. I would liken this to pursuing (afoot) a car up the interstate today.

The other thing I thought interesting was that although they (Andrews and his men) stopped and acquired tools to wreck the rails with at Moon Station, they did not obtain the proper crowbar for pulling rails, they were only able get a simple prybar (one which lacked a claw on the end), which made it difficult to pull more than a few rails at a time because they had to pull the spikes out by hand.

They needed one of these.
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By the time they got serious about wrecking rails, Fuller was too close for those yankee boys to do anything with the tools they had. It's a interesting thing to me that something as simple as a crowbar may have caused their downfall... if they'd had the right crowbar, things may very well have turned out differently in spite of Fuller.

I think there should be a murky moral about having the right tool for the job, but it's not like Andrews and his men had much choice. They did what they could with what they had.