Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel

Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel

Morganfield, Union County, Kentucky, USA
Death 30 Oct 1862 (aged 57)
Port Royal, Beaufort County, South Carolina, USA
Burial Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA
Plot Section 149, Plot 13045
Memorial ID 4767 · View Source
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Civil War Union Major General. He received notoriety for his part in the “Great Locomotive Chase” of Andrews' Raiders on April of 1862 during the American Civil War. At the start of the Civil War, he was chief engineer of the Ohio and Mississippi railroad, when appointed Brigadier General of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He commanded a brigade in the Army of the Potomac, through campaigns of Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee. Due to his railroad knowledge, he was in charge of the raids on Confederate rail lines and is noted for ordering the civilian scout, James J. Andrews to fulfill a plan, which Andrews had conceived. A group of twenty-two men would capture a railroad locomotive, “The General,” at Big Shanty, Georgia in an attempt to destroy the bridges and tracks of the Western and Atlantic Railroads between Chattanooga, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia. Major Mitchel's forces would meet with “Andrew's Raiders” when the project was finished. On the morning of April 12, 1862, the plan began on the wrong foot when several men oversleeping and not reporting to duty including the train engineer, but an attempt to carry on began with the Union soldiers dressed in civilian attire. Soon Confederates were chasing the train, leaving little time to destroy bridges or tracks as planned. This mission was partially successful as communications were interrupted by cutting telegram wires. Eighteen miles from Chattanooga in Ringgold, Georgia, the train was abandoned as there was no more fuel. Within two weeks all were captured by Confederate forces. After a Confederate court-martial, six soldiers and two civilians were hung, others became prisoners of war and later, six soldiers were given the first Medal of Honor that were ever issued. For these services, he was promoted Major General in command of the Department of the South Carolina but died of Yellow Fever before assuming this post. Born Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, he graduated 15th in his class of 46 from West Point Military Academy in 1828, but was unhappy with military life and resigned his commission. He was a multi-talented man becoming an attorney in 1832; surveyor; professor at West Point and Cincinnati College in Ohio; orator and publisher. After helping to establish by soliciting funds the observatory at Harvard University, he published the first magazine in 1846 in the United States devoted to astronomy and published several books on the subject. After the Civil War started as a passionate orator, he gave patriotic speeches in New York for the Union enlistment that brought people to tears. Most recently for his part in the Civil War, the 1956 Walt Disney movie, “The Great Locomotive Chase” starring Fess Parker in the role of Andrews and the 1927 Buster Keaton comedy masterpiece, “The General” were based on this true historical event. At the Southern Museum of Civil War in Kennesaw, Georgia, an extensive exhibit of “Andrews' Raiders” can be found. There are recent books documenting this historical event including Russell Bond's 2007 text, “Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor.” Towns in Kentucky, Indiana, and South Carolina were named in honor of Mitchel, with one using the altered spelling of his name as “Mitchell.”

Bio by: Linda Davis

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 17 Mar 1999
  • Find a Grave Memorial 4767
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel (20 Jul 1805–30 Oct 1862), Find a Grave Memorial no. 4767, citing Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .