WINTERSVILLE - This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Great Locomotive Chase or Andrew's Raid that unfolded in northern Georgia during the Civil War.
It's a part of history that might not mean a lot to most people, but it does to Judy Schmidt of Wintersville, vice president of the Jefferson County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society.
Schmidt's relative, William Hunter Campbell, was among eight Raiders who were hanged for their involvement in the plan to go deep into enemy confederate territory in April of 1862, steal a train called "the General" and use it to destroy the railroad between Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn., a route the southern army used to obtain food and ammunition.
A FAMILY-LINKED MOMENT IN HISTORY — What’s known as the Great Locomotive Chase or Andrew’s Raid that occurred April 12, 1862, in northern Georgia during the Civil War is of special interest to Judy Schmidt of Wintersville, whose relative, William Hunter Campbell, was one of the Raiders who was hanged for his involvement. Had the raid been successful, the course of the Civil War would have been quite different, according to Schmidt, who is shown with a variety of memorabilia on this 150th anniversary year of the raid. Schmidt attended a ceremony in Columbus in April in honor of the Raiders and was invited to participate in a nationwide honor held in Georgia over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
-- Janice R. Kiaski
Had the Raiders been successful, the Civil War would have ended immediately, and thousands of lives would have been saved, according to Schmidt, who attended a ceremony in April at the statehouse in Columbus as Ohio honored the Raiders.
She also was invited to participate in a nationwide honor for the Raiders that was held in Georgia over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
The heist seemed jinxed from the get-go. It rained so the bridges couldn't be burned behind them. They were ill equipped to remove pieces of the rail. Unbeknownst to them, they were being followed. The raiders grew "low on wood and water for their tender," with no time to stop for more. Ultimately, the General blew a valve, and it became a case of each man for himself.
The raiders were eventually captured, some immediately, and some were executed as spies, including Schmidt's relative. Some became the first recipients of the Medal of Honor, but not Campbell, who was a civilian.
Schmidt wasn't always so interested in this part of history in general or this relative in particular - her third great uncle who she had only a modest understanding of having been hanged at age 23 for his role.
The turning point, however, came about five years ago when Schmidt decided she wanted to do something special for her mother
"I knew she loved history, and she had often told others that her uncle had been hanged for stealing a train during the Civil War. She didn't seem to know much more about it either. We did know these train thieves were called Andrews Raiders," Schmidt said. "So when I heard that the Civil War Museum in Georgia was having a reunion of descendants of the Andrews Raiders, I decided to take Mom and some other family members down," she said.
The local delegation headed to Kennesaw, Ga., that September weekend with a moderate level of excitement.
"They gave us name tags with pictures of our ancestor William Campbell on them. Campbell was young when he died, had no descendants, only us, his nieces and nephews, descendants of his brother Harvey. We were wined and dined, toured and mingled with descendants of the other Raiders. We were told about the raid, saw the actual General and took a bus tour up the tracks to Ringgold. Our heads grew big and chests stood out with pride. We felt very important to be related to Bill Campbell," Schmidt said and has been known to relate in presentations on the subject, including to Civil War roundtables and in genealogy settings.
Schmidt began a conversation with one of the museum historians concerning information she had heard passed down in the family, specifically that Campbell was related to John Hunt Morgan.
The historian's comment angered her. He told her Campbell wasn't a good person.
"I immediately became defensive and asked him what he meant by that statement, but when he saw my response he just brushed my question off and clammed up. Later, I told my family what the historian had said, and they reacted as I did. How dare anyone say that about our hero, our family member who gave his life in such a daring way, someone we were so proud to be a part of," Schmidt recalled of the general consensus.
Schmidt spoke there with Col. James Bogle, a historian specializing in the Andrews Raid, who promised to let her know about her relative, even though she wouldn't be happy about it, "but history is history and must be told in truth and facts," he had said.
When Schmidt returned home from that trip to Georgia, she came back with an interest in genealogy for the first time and began her research about Campbell, who was born in Salineville, in Columbiana County on Sept. 9, 1839. His parents were Samuel and Sarah Hunter Campbell. His grandfather, John Hunter, was a captain in the War of 1812, and his great-grandfather, George Hunter, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. He had four brothers.
"About two weeks after I arrived home, I received the letters (from Bogle). They came from the collection of Wilbur Kurtz born 1882 and died 1967. Kurtz was an artist and historian who painted pictures of and researched the Andrews Raiders extensively," Schmidt said. "He and Col. Bogle became friends, and after Kurtz's death, Bogle took up the history and research of the Andrew's Raid. The letters were written by William Kerr, childhood friend of the Campbell boys and later a commissioner of Jefferson County, Ohio. Also by Mary Ann Campbell, my second great-grandmother, and Joseph Shane of Steubenville. They are dated 1903 to 1905," Schmidt said in explaining what she learned.
"William Kerr and the Campbell boys were playmates in Salineville. Kerr remembered that William's parents were fine, upstanding members and pillars of the Presbyterian church. However, all the Campbell boys were on the wild side," she said. All of them lawbreakers, the Campbell brothers would stand trial for assault and battery or for shooting the neighbor's dog just for the fun of it.
As one who developed his muscles more than his brain, William Campbell made a few trips on a canal boat from Pittsburgh to New Orleans in 1858. "He got a taste of the river life. Canal boatmen in those days were noted for their adventures. Campbell's great strength and size gave him a reputation among the boatmen. He was called a giant because he weighed at least 250 pounds," she said of her relative who gravitated to barging on the Ohio River.
He had left his home in Salineville for about two or three years before the Civil War started, his sympathies with the secession movement. "For several months, he had been keeping a house of ill fame in Louisville, Ky., Schmidt said.
Campbell had been in Louisville for about a year when he joined the 22 Andrews Raiders led by James J. Andrews. Why?
Never mind patriotism or loyalty, according to Schmidt's research. "He went for a love of adventure and daring, for a desire of notoriety and a hope of reward in case of success. He simply wanted the adventure with all the violent and exciting trimmings," she said.
Ironically, he also came on board out of fear, being a fugitive from justice as he had stabbed and killed a man in Louisville and would have been hanged if caught.
He had escaped south and sought refuge with the Second Ohio Regiment, proposing to go with them for a while and promising to help though he would not enlist.
That Campbell was heavy and well muscled is the only reason he was chosen for the raid, Schmidt said she came to discover.
It also was the reason that he was one of two raiders hung twice as their ropes broke and they fell to the ground, unconscious.
"They were revived and given a glass of water," Schmidt said. "They asked for an hour to make things right with God but were refused the hour and hanged a second time until death."
Their mission was important and could have had significant consequences, according to Schmidt.
"That year the Southern Confederacy Magazine wrote, 'The mind and heart shrink back appalled at the bare contemplation of the awful consequences which would have followed the success of this one act.' Nothing, it said, would have been so fatal a blow to the south as the burning of the bridges by these men," Schmidt said.
Steubenville native Edwin McMaster Stanton, Secretary of War under Abraham Lincoln, said that "the expedition failed for causes not reflected on the genius of the plan or by the actions of those engaged in it. It was the meeting of the extra trains, which could not have been anticipated. If the mission had been a success, the whole aspect of the Civil War would have been changed at once."
In 1866, after the war, the eight were removed from their graves in Atlanta and buried in a semi-circle at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.
A large granite monument was erected in 1891 that lists the names of the 22 Raiders. This monument is topped by a bronze likeness of the General.
Books written about the Raiders include "The Daring and Suffering" while movies include "The Great Locomotive Chase" by Disney in 1954.
"People often ask me if I am disappointed that my uncle was not a better person," said Schmidt of what constitutes an interesting branch on her family tree, one she hopes can be kept alive for her children and grandchildren to embrace.
"At first I told myself he was young and just a little ornery. Then I had to face the fact that murder and prostitution were more than a little ornery. Sure I wish I could tell you a different story. As Colonel Bogle warned me, I am not happy. But 'history is history and must be told in truth and facts.'"
(Kiaski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)