I recently posted that I was reading a very interesting book called Stealing the General. I finished it today. I read this one in just a few days so I got a real sense of the flow of the story.
This is the true story of twenty Union soldiers, mostly from Ohio, who started in Shelbyville, Tennessee, and walked to Chattanooga then to Big Shanty (Kennesaw Mountain), Georgia, where they stole a steam locomotive (The General) in April 1862. They stole it right out from under the noses of the Confederates.
An insuing chase took place as Yankee boys fled north toward Chattanooga in hopes of destroying telegraph wires, pulling up track, and destroying important bridges along the way. The ultimate goal was to cut off Chattanooga from the Southern connection to Atlanta, thereby sufficiently paralyzing the Confederacy’s ability to ship men and materiel from Atlanta to Richmond.
The amazing thing is that the Yankee boys nearly succeeded. They missed it by “that much”. Some of the boys would be hanged for their “crime”; some would serve a very severe prison term, and few would escape.
The true story is worthy of the time it takes to read this book. Besides just a great story worth being told, and hopefully re-told on the big screen again some day, one of the really interesting things about this true Civil War tale was that some of the Yankee boys involved in stealing the General received the very first award of the Medal of Honor.
It’s not just that they were the first soldiers to ever receive that coveted award that makes the story interesting. But learning about the origin of the Medal of Honor – initiated by Abraham Lincoln – and why the Yankee boys were given the award, added a nuance to the real train chase that compelled me to keep reading this book until the last page.