18 April 2013

Brave Confederate Peter Bracken Dead

From Wikimedia
Just a short seven months before the death of Anthony Murphy, the last known Confederate survivor of those involved in the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862, the grim reaper came calling for Peter Bracken. He rests in Rose Hill Cemetery, near the Oak Ridge section.

He Was a Locomotive Engineer and Took a Prominent Part in the Capture of the Famous "General" -- Born in Philadelphia and Came to Macon When a Young Man.

There died in Macon yesterday a quiet, unassuming man, who had played a prominent part in the closing days of the Confederacy.

This was Mr. Peter J. Bracken, one of Macon's oldest locomotive engineers, and a man always and universally respected by the people. He was an engineer on the old Macon & Western railroad between Macon and Atlanta, when Mr. W. A. Huff was the conductor of the train. Between the two men there has been always the strongest ties of friendship, and the news of his death will be read by Mr. Huff this morning with genuine sorrow.

Mr. Bracken took a prominent part in the capture of the famous "General," the old wood-burning locomotive that is still preserved because of the great raid that was one of the important events of the closing scenes of the war. As he was so closely connected with the raid a brief recital of the main facts will not be out of place in this announcement of his death.

On the morning of April 12, Capt. W. A. Fuller left Atlanta in charge of the passenger train on the Western and Atlantic railroad. When he reached Marietta a party of strangers, dressed in citizens' clothes, boarded the train and paid their fares to different points. They claimed to be refugees from the federal lines joining the Confederate army, but were disguised soldiers, volunteers from Sill's brigade, Mitchell's corps, U. S. A., commanded by James J. Andrews.

At Big Shanty [Kennesaw] the train stopped for breakfast, and most of the passengers and train crew left the train. The passengers had taken their seats at the table, Capt. Fuller facing the train. He saw through the window some strangers get on the engine in an excited manner and start off rapidly. He remarked to his engineer, Jeff Cain, and Anthony Murphy, then foreman of the Western and Atlantic shops, that "some one who has no right to do so has gone off with our train." All three arose and hurried out of the house, just as the engine passed out of sight.

Capt. Fuller, Murphy and Cain commenced pursuit on foot. They soon secured a hand car and, in spite of the obstructions placed on the track by the raiders, made rapid progress. At Etowah they found the engine "Yonah" and the pursuit then was at such a rapid pace that serious damage to the railroad by the raiders was impossible.

The "General" was abandoned by the raiders at a point about half way between Ringgold and Graysville, on account of lack of fuel and the close pursuit of Fuller and his party. When the fugitives abandoned the engine their leader said, "everyone take care of himself," and they left in squads. Four of them were run down in the fork of the Chickamauga river at Graysville, and one was forcibly persuaded to tell where they were. Later there was a trial by military court, and eight of the number were executed in Atlanta as spies, six were paroled at City Point, Va., and eight escaped from prison at Atlanta...

...Prominent among the pursuers were -- Smith, Steve Stokely, Peter Bracken, engineer; Fleming Cox, fireman; Alonzo Martin, wood-passer, and H. Haney.

The Southern Confederacy, published in Atlanta at the time, said: "Peter Bracken, the engineer on the freight train, ran his engine fifty and a half miles -- two of them backing the whole freight train up to Adairsville -- made twelve stops, coupled to two cars dropped by the fugitives, and switched them off on sidings in one hour and five minutes. Capt. Fuller fully corroborates the invaluable service rendered by the veteran Bracken."

...The survivors of the Andrews' Raiders have erected a monument to their fallen comrades, and it stands today in the National cemetery at Chattanooga...

Mr. Bracken was in his seventy-sixth year. He was born in Philadelphia and came to Macon when he was quite a young man. He is survived by three daughters and two sons: Mrs. F. C. Benson, Mrs. Charles B. Smith, Mrs. A. [G?] James, Desoto; W. P. Bracken, Arkansas, and J. W. Bracken, Lakeland, Fla.

The funeral will take place this afternoon at 5 o'clock, from the residence of his daughter, Mrs. Charles B. Smith, 208 High street. Revs. W. H. Rudd and T. W. Callaway will officiate. [Macon Telegraph (Georgia), 27 May 1909, pg. 7]
Peter James Bracken
Born Oct. 31, 1833 Philadelphia, PA.
Died May 26, 1909 Macon, GA.
Engineer of the Locomotive Texas During the
Great Locomotive Chase on the Western &
Atlantic Railroad April 12, 1862

Rose Hill Cemetery, Macon, Georgia
Photo © 2010-2013 S. Lincecum

According to AndrewsRaid.com, Bracken was originally buried in an unmarked grave. The granite marker above was erected and dedicated in 1971.

To add a bit of specificity to the article above, Peter Bracken joined the chase at Adairsville, GA as the engineer of the Texas locomotive. A map of the chase is here. The detailed engraving of Bracken's Texas engine is at the top of his tombstone.

Photo © 2010-2013 S. Lincecum

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