Brig. Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel asked one of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell's best spies, James J. Andrews, to take some men, capture a train, and isolate Chattanooga by burning bridges on the northern section of the Georgia State Railroad and the East Tennessee Railroad near the Georgia state line. Andrews recruited 24 Union Army volunteers with no difficulty. On the 12th, out of uniform, they broke up into small groups to make their seperate ways to Marietta, Georgia. Heavy rains, swollen streams, and muddy roads delayed them. The men planned to board the train at marietta and ride to Big Shanty (now Kennesaw), Georgia, a meal stop without telegraph communicatios.
Unknown to Andrews, the Confederates had established a camp at Big Shanty, and his mission (to seize the train and drive 100-200 mile burning bridges, destroying railbeds, and cutting telegraph wires) was now complicated by the precense of hundreds of Confederate soldiers. At Big Shanty, all the passengers went into the station for breakfast except Andrews and his men, who left the train from the side opposite the station, dashed to the engine, uncoupled it its tender, 3 boxcars, and took off with wheels screaching. William A. Fuller, the conductor, and Anthony Murphy, foreman of the railway shop at Atlanta, realized instantly what had happened and started in pursuit--first on foot, then in a handcar, and finally in an engine they found with its steam up.
Andrews discovered that bridges soaked by rain did not take fire easily. The best his men could do was to cut telegraph lines and throw obstacles on the tracks, but Fuller and Murphy were gaining rapidly. Finally, out of fuel 18 miles souyh of Chattanooga, they abandoned the train and took to the woods, but all were captured within a week. Within 2 months of the raid, Andrews and 7 of his men were court-martialed and executed--Andrews on June 7, and the others on June 18. The fate of the rest had to be postponed because Union forces were advancing rapidly. 8 men escaped but the rest were held as prisoners of war until they were exchanged through a special arrangement with Sec. of War Edwin M. Stanton.