Their mission was to steal the locomotive the General and drive it north to Chattanooga while doing as much damage to the railroad along the way as they could. They didn’t make it to Chattanooga. They didn’t do that much damage to the railroad, and most of them were captured. But their daring won some of them the very first Medals of Honor, and the “Great Locomotive Chase” has been immortalized in films such as “The General” and “The Great Locomotive Chase.”
The Dalton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) and Dalton Civil War 150th Anniversary Commemoration Committee will celebrate the chase on Saturday, April 14, just two days after the 150th anniversary of the hijacking of the train.
“It will be a bus tour that starts at the Dalton Depot with a continental breakfast and an overview of the Great Locomotive Chase and the sites we’ll be seeing,” said CVB Executive Director Brett Huske.
The tour will stop first at the Silver Shoe Ranch in southern Whitfield County. The ranch is the site of Green’s Wood Station where the raiders stopped to refuel but their efforts were cut short by Confederates pursuing them in the locomotive the Texas.
The old railroad bed is still visible on the ranch as is the site of the wood station, and one of the old trestles across the Conasauga River still stands there. Near the old railroad bed is the site of an old ferry crossing of the Conasauga.
The tour will then return to the Dalton Depot, where Confederates dropped off a telegraph operator with instructions to alert Southern forces in Chattanooga. Those taking the tour will have lunch there.
The final stop will be the historic Western & Atlantic railroad tunnel at Tunnel Hill. The raiders had hoped to destroy the tunnel. Instead, it was the site where the General began to run out of steam. The tour will look at the tunnel as well as the nearby battlefield, the Tunnel Hill Heritage Center and the Clisby Austin house, where Gen. William T. Sherman headquartered during the opening of his Atlanta Campaign in 1864.
The tour will be led by Robert Jones, president of the Kennesaw Historical Society and author of 12 books on the Civil War and two on trains. Jones also lectures at Kennesaw’s Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, which houses the General.
In addition to the Great Locomotive Chase tour, the CVB and the 150th committee have teamed up with the Dalton Little Theater for a “Spirit Walk” walking tour of West Hill Cemetery in Dalton, the resting place of more than 400 Civil War soldiers. Along the route, several actors will portray historical icons from the Civil War and interact with guests.
The Great Locomotive Chase tour is $49 per person. Tickets can be bought online at glctour.eventbrite.com.
Tickets for the Spirit Walk will be $15, or $12 for those who also do the Great Locomotive Chase tour.
“We’ve pushed out through the state (tourism office) internationally to the United Kingdom and Germany, hoping to attract some of the Civil War enthusiasts overseas. We’ve also pushed out nationally through the state office, and of course we have been pushing the event locally and regionally,” he said.
The Dalton Comfort Inn and Suites is setting up a lodging discount for the tour at $83 a night.
Huske said the CVB has already been advertising the tour, and he expects a big turnout.
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