On April 12, 1862, 24 volunteers from the Union Army, led by civilian scout James Andrews, commandeered a Confederate locomotive named “The General” outside of Big Shanty, Georgia (now Kennesaw) and took it northward toward Chattanooga, Tennessee – doing as much damage as possible to the vital Western and Atlantic Railroad line as they went.  Out of fuel, Andrews and his men abandoned the locomotive and scattered into the woods before being captured by Confederate troops.  All were put on trial and convicted for “acts of unlawful belligerency” or being unlawful combatants and spies.  Shortly thereafter, Andrews and seven of the Raiders were executed by hanging with the remaining held as prisoners of war. For their acts of valor in “The Great Locomotive Chase,” six members of Andrews’ Raiders were awarded the first Medals of Honor in our country’s history on March 25, 1863. Ultimately, 19 of the 24 members of Andrews’ Raiders would receive the Medal of Honor for their incredible acts of valor on that day.

These First Medals are why Chattanooga is recognized and known as the birthplace of the Medal of Honor.

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