published Monday, February 7th, 2011

LaFayette: Great Locomotive Chase exhibit rolls into Chattooga Academy

By Timothy Bradfield, Correspondent
  • photo
    A train passes a 108 year old monument marking the end of the Great Locomotive Chase outside of Ringgold in Catoosa County.
    Staff Photo by Andy Johns

LaFAYETTE, Ga. -- Where better to get a history lesson than at what's believed to be the oldest standing brick schoolhouse in Georgia?

An exhibit of the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862 is on display at Chattooga Academy, just north of the downtown square in LaFayette.

The academy's advisory board created the exhibit, which consists of a model train-size display of the General locomotive, information about trains involved in the chase and photographs of the raiders.

"One of the raiders was captured in LaFayette," said Catherine Edgemon, LaFayette's Main Street and economic development director.

That raider was William Pittenger, city officials say, and they heavily based the exhibit on his story of the events.

"He wrote a book about it," Edgemon said. "That's how we know about it today."

The Great Locomotive Chase ensued when Union spy James Andrews and a band of Union soldiers stole the General in an attempt to disrupt the rail line between Atlanta and Chattanooga, because the railroads were vital to the Confederacy.

All of the raiders were caught. Although some were hanged as spies, Pittenger lived to tell his story.

The rotating exhibit, the third at Chattooga Academy, is for "educating the people here in our community" about local history, Edgemon said.

The exhibits and the 1836 schoolhouse where they are displayed also serve another purpose, officials said.

"We're trying to use Chattooga Academy as a drawing card to be able to get tourists to come in," LaFayette Mayor Neal Florence said. "We're close enough to Chickamauga Park to pull on the Civil War thing."

Tourism is on the rise, Florence said.

"The increase in the number of tourists in Walker County is not only beneficial to the tourism industry and entities in Walker County but is also helpful to small- business owners around the area," said Carrie Fitzsimmons, director of tourism and public relations with the Walker County Chamber of Commerce.

"Walker County has a lot to offer, including walking trails and a rich tradition of Civil War history."

Timothy Bradfield covers Walker County. Contact him at timothyb2010@gmail.com

IF YOU GO

* What: The Great Locomotive Chase exhibit

* Where: Chattooga Academy, 304 N. Main St., LaFayette

* When: Sundays 1-3 p.m. and Monday through Friday 8:30-5 p.m. (most days) through April 3

* Admission: free

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