The Southern Museum of civil War and Locomotive history is located in Kennesaw, GA, just north of Atlanta. It provides insight into a number of civil War activities centered in GA, but perhaps is most noted for the extensive coverage of the Great Locomotive Chase that occurred in 1862. The short version of this adventure was that volunteers, both civilian and military, from the Union stole a train out of Atlanta area with the idea of moving it north along the supply lines of the Confederacy destroying the infrastructure as they moved north. This wild plan might well have succeeded except for the exceptional determination of one man-the conductor of the train that was stolen. In the end, the Union mission failed and all the Union operatives were captured.
The engine of this train-“The General” became famous and has been preserved in the museum along with the full story of the event.
The seven leaders of the raid were convicted of spying and were hanged. The others were eventually released or exchanged for confederate prisoners. The then recently approved Medal of Honor, which remains the highest honor for military heroism, was first awarded to several of the Union members of this raid. The leader of this group –James Andrews, could not receive this award, as he was a civilian volunteer. The museum proudly displays one of these Medal of Honor awards.
The other major section of the museum is the Glover Machine Works display that displays how this company helped rebuild the south after the Civil War with quality locomotive train engines production. The museum has the only full scale reproduction of a belt driven assembly line for train engines including the pattern shop.
Another unique display is the Georgia “merci box car”. These railroad cars referred to as 40X 8 cars because they carried either 40 persons or eight horses were spruced up and one was presented to each state by the French government as a thank you for the vital help the French received during WWI and WWII. We had not seen any of these cars in other states and will now add them to the list of things to look for in our travels.
During our visit, there was a special photographic display on loan from the Smithsonian Institute called “How we worked”. These pictures were taken in the course of government work and stored in the national archives. It was a very interesting look back at work life in America.
We arrived just after two busloads of elementary school children. This was not a problem for us and we enjoyed watching the preparations on the front lawn for their lunch. Like us, they seemed to enjoy the visit.
This museum is definitely worth the visit for both local and Civil War history.