The Unknown Story of the Great Locomotive Chase
The 9th Louisiana Infantry had earned a reputation of being a hard fighting unit especially after the battle of 1st Manassas. As a reward for signing up for three years members of Company K were allowed to go home to Jackson Parish, Louisiana in an effort to recruit additional men for their Company. The new soldiers were given $50.00 as a bounty and many knew that talk of a Confederate draft had been mentioned. Some of the new members were:
Graves/Monday/Stegall/Stringer/Toler/Walker/Wilson all of Jackson Parish. Many were family men. Benjamin F. Stegall was a brother-in-law to E.A. Wilson as an example. They enlisted in March of 1862 and Company K was then ordered to join their new regiment in Northern Virginia. They would travel by rail.
On the flip side General Ormsby Mitchell along with a spy named James Andrews had been holding secret meetings in Tennessee in March of 1862. Known in history as Andrews Raiders these handful soldiers from Ohio would steal a train at Big Shanty, Georgia while General Mitchell would capture Huntsville, Alabama. Andrews would burn bridges and destroy the Western and Atlantic Railroad thus cutting off Chattanooga, Tennessee. The raid would take place on April 11, 1862 but because of rain Andrews felt that Mitchell would be delayed one day and postponed his raid by 24 hours. That was a mistake as Mitchell had marched all night long to take Huntsville, Alabama.
Back to the soldiers of Company K 9th Louisiana. The soldiers felt they were far behind Confederate lines as their train pulled into the depot on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad yard in Huntsville, Alabama on April 11, 1862. The majority of Company K 9th Louisiana were captured by General Mitchell that day. They were taken to the 3rd floor of the depot and held for days, where according to local history some of their names can be seen to this day written on the walls. Company K 9th La. would be taken to Camp Chase and be held there as prisoners until the Dix-Hill Cartell allowed them to be exchanged at Vicksburg, Mississippi in August of 1862.
Ironically, General Mitchell had just authorized the building of Prison # 2 at Camp Chase. It was built over the lowest ground at Camp Chase. These prisoners would be some of the first to see prison #2. Seven men of Company K 9th Louisiana would die at Camp Chase before the exchange was made. Rather than to join the 9th Louisiana in Virginia the decision was made to have Company K join the 12th Louisiana Infantry in Mississippi. At this point Company K 9th Louisiana was no more. They were now known as Company M2 of the 12th Louisiana Infantry. For the majority of these men from Jackson Parish Louisiana they had already lost seven of their members and had not yet been in a battle. For them the War had just started. Men like Samuel Stegall might have looked back upon Columbus toward the Southeast Cemetery where his brother-in-law E.A. Wilson had died and his brother Benjamin before boarding the train in Columbus, Ohio that would take them to their sailing vessel the "John H. Done" that would take them back to Vicksburg. If letters were received at Camp Chase to these men they would hear about the news after their departure from Jackson Parish was not any better. In April of 1862 the South had lost its largest city, New Orleans, Louisiana.
As for Andrews Raiders, they were captured in what history now calls the "Great Locomotive Chase" Because of the day delay trains were coming back from Huntsville and Chattanooga toward Atlanta, Georgia causing many delays. Six of the men were hanged in Atlanta and the others either escaped or were also exchanged. All were to receive the very first Congressional Medals of Honor. The term "lying thieving Yankees" also came from a result of this raid. They lied about who they were and stole the engine the "General" while the crew was at breakfast.
Much has been told of Andrews Raiders, however, nothing has been written about these 7 Confederates who died at Camp Chase who were in the wrong place and the wrong time.
According to a newspaper article from the "Daily Democrat" in Louisville, Kentucky dated April 24, 1862 this is how Company K 9th Louisiana Infantry were captured."CAPTURE OF HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA" "An advance force of a hundred and fifty cavalry , together with a section of the battery, in charge of Captain Simonson himself, assisted by Lt. M. Allen, commanding the section, the whole directed by Colonel Kennett, first caught sight of Huntsville, and the lovely cedar surrounding it. They were advancing upon the town at a double-quick, when two locomotives, with trains attached, suddenly made their appearance upon the railroad. They were moving in the direction of Stephenson. A shot from one of Simonson's guns brought the first one to" [this is an error as the sentence just stops. I would speculate that the sentence should say brought the first one to a stop] "The Captain then turned to pay his respects to the second. A shot or two induced it also to haul up. In the meantime, the engineer of the first train was quietly getting on a full head of steam, and when nobody was suspecting such a thing, he suddenly started off. The cavalry went in pursuit, and actually chased the locomotive for a distance of ten miles. A few horsemen tried their carbines upon the second train, and an unfortunate colored person received one of the bullets in his neck. It was said, too, by the Secesh, that a rebel from Corinth, going home slightly wounded, was instantly killed. I am not certain whether this is true or not. I presume, however, that it is. The infantry had come up while this was going on, and Col. Mihalotzi, of the twenty fourth Illinois, sent a detachment to tear up a portion of the track in the direction of Decatur. The escape of any more trains was thus effectually prevented. Three cavalrymen rushed into the town, found a large number of rebel soldiers sleeping in and around a number of cars, and actually made prisoners of one hundred and seventy men, including a major, six captains and three lieutenants. The most of these fellows belonged to the Ninth Louisiana regiment, and were on their way to join it in Virginia. The Major's name was Cavanaugh. His regiment did not all re-enlist when their time of service (one year) expired, and he had been home for recruits. He had succeeded in obtaining a hundred and forty, and was taking them to the Old Dominion, to fill up the ranks of his regiment. When he found both himself and his recruits were prisoners in the hands of the Yankees, his mortification was visibly expressed all over his countenance. When our troops advanced into the town, they found they had made a prize of seventeen locomotives (sixteen of them in fine running order), and about one hundred and fifty cars, passenger and freight. I shall not attempt to enumerate the other articles captured, and your readers may estimate the value of the rolling stock. The prisoners captured are a wretched looking set of men, and evidently belong to the lowest class of Southern society-which is, I admit, putting them down pretty low. They are nearly all sick of the business in which they are engaged. Many of them say they were forced to enlist. Others admit that they were influenced by leaders whom the believe to be bad men; and there is scarcely one who does not regret that he was induced to take up arms against the Government. One of them told me that if he were home once more, he would die in his tracks before he would again consent to fight against the old Union. ""I foolishly thought,"" said he ""that I was fighting for my country when I obeyed the mandates of Jeff Davis! now I see plainly that I was fighting against it""
"SOUTHERN ACCOUNT OF THE CAPTURE OF HUNTSVILLE" (from the Augusta Chronicle and Sentinel, April 13, 1862) posted in the Louisville, Kentucky Daily Democrat April 29, 1862.
"Sergeant E.E. Pritchard, of the Washington Artillery, arrived here last evening, and gives us some further particulars of the occupation of Huntsville. He was on his way to join his company at Corinth, but was turned back at Stevenson by the intelligence that the Federals had possession of Huntsville, and had cut off the railroad communication with Corinth. Mr. P informs us that he had a conversation with an engineer who succeeded in running the ""gauntlet,"" and who gave him the following statement.: He said that early of Friday morning, he came up the road from Decatur; that on arriving at Huntsville, he found the telegraph operator in waiting, who threw his apparatus on board and informed him that the Federalists were just coming into the town. The engineer then started his train, but before getting through the town he was fired upon by the Federal force and a shot was also fired at the train, but did not succeed in hitting it. His brother, also an engineer, was just behind him, with a long train of empty cars, which was returning from carrying troops to Corinth. The Federal Infantry fired a volley into the cab of the engine, and it was supposed killed the engineer, as the train was stopped and had not been heard from at Stevenson. The Federal force could not be ascertained, but consisted of cavalry, infantry and one piece of artillery. They have possession of the city, and have effectually cut off all communication by the route. The 5th Georgia regiment had passed over the road but a short time previous, and were all safely beyond Huntsville, except some few who were detailed to bring on baggage. Passengers by the Georgia Railroad last night report that Huntsville has been occupied by eleven thousand Federal troops. Two locomotives and trains of cars, loaded with troops going to reinforce Beauregard, were captured. All communication, except by way of Mobile, is cut off, if the report is true. "
Captain Peter Simonson in the first article was the same officer who ordered the fatal artillery shell against Confederate General Polk in Georgia in 1864. Simonson would himself be killed a few weeks later. My research indicates while both articles are in error the Southern account tends to be more accurate. Research has found that at least three Captains of the 5th Georgia were taken as prisoners at Huntsville, Alabama on April 11, 1862. It did not make any sense to me why only Captains were captured with the 5th Georgia Infantry and now it does, they were waiting on their baggage for their various companies. Among those captured with the 5th Georgia were: Captain Council B. Wooten, Company E 5th Georgia Infantry and Captain John H. Hull Company C 5th Georgia Infantry and Captain James M. Cole Company B 5th Georgia Infantry. 87 members of Company K 9th Louisiana Infantry were captured that day, 88 if you included Major Kavanaugh. I can't speak for the officers but the enlisted appeared to be taken to the 3rd floor of the Charleston and Memphis depot floor and held for up to two weeks. According to local history of Huntsville, Alabama some of their names can still be found written on the walls. The normal transfer would have been to Nashville, Tennessee and then to Louisville, Kentucky. They are mentioned at being at Louisville, Kentucky and arrived at Camp Chase on May 1, 1862. 7 would die at the Camp Chase prison. So far I have not run across anything that would indicate any members of Company K 9th Louisiana Infantry asking for or being paroled at Camp Chase. They of course would be paroled according to the Dix-Hill Cartel in August of 1862 and sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi and waited in Jackson, Mississippi before being exchanged on November 10, 1862. Lieutenant Kidd of Company K 9th Louisiana did make his escape along with some other members of the Company from Huntsville, Alabama. His accounts differ from anywhere from 8 to 15 soldiers. He marched them to the 9th Louisiana Infantry in Virginia and arrived there in April of 1862 and reported to his Colonel. I know who some of the men were who escaped with Lt. Kidd but I'm not finished with that research as of yet. According to the first article only 3 cavalrymen went into the town of Huntsville and reported capturing over 100 sleeping Confederates. It does not sound correct if you're going to capture a town the size of Huntsville that you would only send in 3 soldiers. At any rate it appears that Lt. Kidd was thinking quickly and escaped capture.