Stealing the General

  • by Russell S. Bonds
  • Narrated by Bronson Pinchot
  • 15 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

On April 12, 1862—one year to the day after Confederate guns opened on Fort Sumter and started the Civil War—a tall, mysterious smuggler and self-appointed Union spy named James J. Andrews and 19 infantry volunteers infiltrated Georgia and stole a steam engine called the General. Racing northward at speeds near 60 miles an hour, cutting telegraph lines, and destroying track along the way, Andrews planned to open East Tennessee to the Union army, cutting off men and materiel from the Confederate forces in Virginia. If they succeeded, Andrews and his raiders could change the course of the war.
But the General’s young conductor, William A. Fuller, chased the stolen train - first on foot, then by handcar, and finally aboard another engine, the Texas. He pursued the General until, running out of wood and water, Andrews and his men abandoned the doomed locomotive, ending the adventure that would soon be famous as “The Great Locomotive Chase.” But the ordeal of the soldiers involved was just beginning.
In the days that followed, the raiders were hunted down and captured. Eight were tried and executed as spies, including Andrews. Eight others made a daring escape, including two assisted by a network of slaves and Union sympathizers. For their actions, before a personal audience with President Abraham Lincoln, six of the raiders became the first men in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor—the nation’s highest decoration for gallantry. Americans North and South, both at the time and ever since, have been astounded and fascinated by this daring raid. But until now, there has not been a complete history of the entire episode and the fates of all those involved.
Based on eyewitness accounts, as well as correspondence, diaries, military records, newspaper reports, deposition testimony, and other primary sources, Stealing the General is a blend of meticulous research and compelling narrative that is destined to become the definitive history of “the boldest adventure of the war”.

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Audible Editor Reviews

The story at the heart of Stealing the General has all the hallmarks of a timeless action tale – burgeoning wars, a hijacked locomotive, undercover spies, violent deaths – which is what has made it such a favorite of authors and filmmakers in the past. But in this new non-fiction book, author Russell S. Bonds traces the tale of the threatened train from start to finish, adding new layers to the story, while narrator Bronson Pinchot adds depth and character to the cast of real-life soldiers.
In 1862, civilian plotter James J. Andrews came up with a plan to advance the Union army's plans to take over the South: he and a team of men would hijack the General, a Southern locomotive, and use it to help the Northern army capture Chattanooga. After they took control of the train, its conductor, William Fuller, set out in pursuit of the raiders on foot and by rail in an attempt to take back the General. The pursuit had a less-than-happy ending for Andrews, but many of his men escaped and became the first recipients of the Medal of Honor.
Though the story takes several hours to really pick up steam, Pinchot keeps listeners engaged with varying inflections, plenty of personality, and dynamic tones: adding the right note of incredulity to the truly shocking parts of the plot, tossing off a slow Southern drawl when the dialogue calls for it, and effortlessly blending the story's lineup of research, quotes, and description. There are no clear heroes in a tale about the war between the states, but the narration creates a world where listeners can feel anger, sympathy, and sadness for the men on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line – all of whom thought they were doing what was right for the country. —Blythe Copeland

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Sometimes Facts can be more exciting then Fiction

Well researched account of James Andrews who led a group of 20 Union soldiers (or spies) into Georgia to steal a Locomotive, cut telegraph lines and generaly create havoc as they made their way north to Chatanooga Tennesee where they were to link up with the Union Army.
If things had gone as planned, this would just be another forgotten chapter in Civil War history; they did not and what we were left with was one of the most action packed tales I've heard in a long time.
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- Arthur

A Civil War reenactment.

As one who is deeply interested in American Civil War history, I had heard this story many times prior to Bonds's work. Well narrated, I found it hard to put this one down. The tragedy that was our "Civil" War had some bright, humorous moments, and this story captures one of them. Here's this band of Yankees daring to go deep into Rebel territory not to assassinate someone, but rather to steal a hissing, rattling, tooting, steam engine--ultimately pursued by another steamer running backwards. Outright laughter is tempered by lots of human despair, but this is a great read. It's difficult to keep all the characters clearly in place, but anyone interested in the tragedy of the Civil War needs to have this book.
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- James

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-21-2011
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.