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Monument to honor William Pittenger

KNOXVILLE – The Great Locomotive Chase, a Civil War escapade that took place in April 1862, bringing fame but great hardship to a Jefferson County soldier, William Pittenger, will be remembered when a monument to Pittenger is dedicated at 2 p.m. Saturday at Knoxville Park.

Born and reared on a farm in New Somerset, Pittenger mustered into the 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry under a 90-day enlistment in 1861.

The Ohio History Connection tells that Pittenger fought at the first Battle of Bull Run and was the war correspondent for the Steubenville Herald. His written reports are captured in a book called “The Bully Boys” by Richard A. Baumgartner.

Upon re-enlistment, he participated in the ill-fated Andrews Raid of 1862, where attempting to disrupt enemy supply lines, 22 soldiers made their way through Southern lines to Marietta, Ga.

Dressed as civilians, their mission was to seize a train on the Western and Atlantic Railroad and racing north, destroying bridges and railroad equipment along the way.

The crafty soldiers stole a train while crew and passengers were having breakfast at the Big Shanty Hotel. But if stealing the train was easy, the rest of the trip was not.

The conductor took the theft as a personal affront and gave chase on foot. Then his crew and a crowd of spectators commandeered another locomotive and started a chase that endured for 90 miles.

The Federal soldiers had no time to do their planned damage and the raid was a failure. After running out of fuel and water, the soldiers took to the woods. with all being captured.

Eight were tried, found guilty and hanged. The rest were imprisoned, some, including Pittenger, for nearly a year before being exchanged.

While in prison, he began his recollections of the raid and the first edition of “Daring and Suffering: A History of the Great Railroad Adventure” appeared in 1863. It was so popular he published four more editions quickly.

He left the Army and became a minister, serving churches in his local area of New Somerset, Pa., New Jersey and California.

Pittenger died on April 24, 1904, at Fallbrook, Calif., but his memoirs live on.

Elements of the Great Locomotive Chase still survive – the two engines, the General and the Texas and are still intact in Georgia. And a monument to the raiders stands in Chattanooga’s National Cemetery, where the eight executed men are buried.

The ultimate tribute came in 1863, with the creation of an award for courage that is “above and beyond the call of duty.” This was the Medal of Honor and the raiders were its first recipients. It was presented by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

Rick Pittenger, full cousin to Harry and David Nicholson, will conduct an eulogy and Greg Pittenger will present a slide show and talk at the Grange Hall that is across from the park where the monument will remind others of a local hero.

Kurt and Virginia Glenn were able to get funding for the monument to be established.

“I have done my work on the program, now someone will take it from here,” Virginia Glenn said about the program. Knox Township workers helped in getting the monument erected, it was noted.

Those attending the unveiling are asked to bring lawn chairs, according to the Glenns.

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