April 12, 1862

On April 12, 1862, 22 volunteers from the Union Army, led by civilian scout James J. 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.  Among those who perished were Private George D. Wilson and Private Philip G. Shadrach. These eight Raiders made the ultimate sacrifice on June 18, 1862, at the corner of Fair Street (now Memorial Drive) and South Park Avenue, Atlanta, GA.

For their acts of valor in “The Great Locomotive Chase,” six members of Andrews’ Raiders were awarded the first Medals of Honor in our nation’s history on March 25, 1863. Ultimately, 19 of the original 24 members of Andrews’ Raiders would receive the Medal of Honor for their incredible acts of valor that day.

Andrews raiders climbing ladder
The great locomotive chase andrews raiders 3

The six recipients to first receive the Medals of Honor gave a deposition before Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of the United States Army about this “Chase.” Included, and corroborated, in these retellings were the actions of all the Raiders who took part in the famed raid.

In the years to follow, 19 of the 24 total Raiders would receive the Medal of Honor. Samuel Llewellyn, who did not participate in the raid itself, did not receive the decoration. James J. Andrews and William Campbell were ineligible as the two civilians in the party. However, neither Private Shadrach nor Private Wilson received the Medal of Honor. Although eligible as full participants in the Raid and as personnel of the U.S. Army, the two soldiers mysteriously were never posthumously awarded.

US Army 52023 An Honored Medal copy
Shadrack Tombstone
Pvt. Philip G. Shadrach

On January 28, 2008, legislation was signed into law by President George W. Bush authorizing the President of the United States to award the Medal of Honor to both of these Andrews’ Raiders. Over 16 years and four administrations, Private Shadrach and Private Wilson remained unrecognized.

 

Until July 3, 2024.

On Wednesday, July 3rd, 2024, Private Philip G. Shadrach and Private George D. Wilson posthumously received our nation’s highest award for military valor, the Medal of Honor, in recognition of their Patriotism, Citizenship, Courage, Integrity, Commitment, and ultimately, their Sacrifice.

Wilson Tombstone
George D. Wilson

The First Medal of Honor Recipients

Click the link below to learn more about our individual First Medal of Honor Recipients.

Photo of some Andrew's Raiders with ex-confederate soldiers posing in front of a memorial commemorating the Great Locomotive Chase
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