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A Union spy tries to destroy the Confederacy''s rail system.
In 1862, Union Army corporal William Pittenger is summoned to Washington, D.C. by War Department Secretary Edwin Stanton, who awards William and his men the first Congressional Medals of Honor ever conferred, for conspicuous bravery. Although William accepts with pride, he feels unworthy of the honor, recalling his fallen comrades and leader, James J. Andrews: William's company has been ordered by Maj. Gen. Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel to guard Nashville, but they are frustrated that they are not allowed to engage in active fighting in Chattanooga. When James visits Mitchel, William greets him respectfully, knowing that he is a civilian spy for the Union who poses as a Confederate sympathizer. Mitchel explains to James that Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and P. G. T. Beauregard, who are stationed in Virginia and Tennessee, respectively, are connected by one vulnerable stretch of railroad. James and Mitchel form a plan to sabotage the tracks and bridges along the railroad, thus allowing Mitchel to proceed south unimpeded. Although James had hoped to quit the secret service and join the Army, Mitchel convinces him that this mission could shorten the war significantly, and needs an experienced leader. James contacts William, who gathers a group of about twenty men for a secret meeting. There, James explains the first steps of the mission: Posing as Confederate soldiers, they must travel by twos and threes on a dangerous trip over mountains and rivers and meet behind enemy lines, in Marietta, Georgia. Although James gives the men a chance to back out, no one does. William partners with hotheaded William Campbell, who hates having to pose as a conspirator against the Union. When they find the river impassable, they must stay the night at a nearby inn, where each of their compatriots eventually joins them. James arrives later and, known to the inn owners as a Confederate, leads a chorus of "Dixie," which Campbell almost refuses to sing. In their room that night, Campbell apologizes, and William laments the necessity of pretending to support slavery. James agrees, but reminds him that their goal, of curtailing the war's bloodshed, is the most important consideration. The next day, they board a train, where Campbell's anger at the passengers' Confederate songs, coupled with Robert Buffum's Boston accent, almost gives them away, but James's quick thinking saves them. In Marietta, they go over the next part of the plan, to hijack the first three cars of the Western & Atlantic railroad train, then take off and destroy the tracks, telegraph wires and bridges all the way into Virginia. Although Campbell wants to fight the Rebels directly, James warns the men that they will accomplish the most by finishing their mission without killing. When they board the W & A, Campbell at first refuses to join them, but jumps on at the last possible moment. Quick-witted conductor William A. Fuller, who suspects the motley group may be deserters, questions James, who reluctantly "admits" that they are carrying out secret orders from Beauregard. Mollified, Fuller leaves the group alone at a breakfast stop, and they are able to unhook the first cars and flee, stranding the Confederates. They travel north, and under the guise of Beauregard's "special forces," are able to borrow tools and receive special treatment at each of the stations. The men exult, not realizing that Fuller has run to the next station, where he has sent a message about the raid to the Confederate forces and borrowed a handcar to pursue them personally. At the next station, the tense men are forced to wait for a southbound train to clear the tracks. Just as Campbell is inciting some of the men to question James's leadership and the stationmaster is offering to contact Beauregard himself for special help, the southbound train leaves, and they are able to move on without incident. Fuller arrives soon after, and although he tries to send a message to the next station, James has already cut the wire. Fuller then commandeers a freight train to chase the Unionists, picking up men along the way to help him. Upon realizing that they are being pursued, James orders the last train to be uncoupled, forcing Fuller to slow down to remove the car from his path. James overrules Campbell's insistance on attacking the freight train, while at the same time managing to slow Fuller's process. The conductor, however, remains unflagging in his pursuit, and soon James's train is running out of wood fuel. They reach a bridge, where they light the last train car on fire and move on, not realizing that Fuller has managed to push the burning car out of harm's way. When James sees Fuller behind them once again, he announces that it is time to fight, but they soon hear cavalry troops approaching, and instead James orders them to run. Within weeks, all are captured, imprisoned and eventually sent to Atlanta to be court-martialed. There, they manage to unlock their shackles, and plan a breakout. James wants to sneak out but defers to William's plan to fight like soldiers, hand-to-musket against the guards. The men consider James an inferior fighter, but just as the fight seems lost, the civilian sacrifices himself to hold off the guards, allowing some men to escape. Campbell joins James, but both are overtaken and captured, as are many of the fleeing Unionists. Weeks later, before their scheduled hanging, James tells Campbell that they must now show the Confederates that they know how to die like men. Although Fuller at first refuses James's invitation to see him, he finally visits, and reluctantly agrees to shake hands, as a symbol of the divided nation that will soon have to reunite. Back in Stanton's office, William recalls James with pride and admiration, glad that he will be remembered throughout time as a hero.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 26 Jan 1956; Atlanta, GA opening: 8 Jun 1956|
|Release Date:||1956||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||Buena Vista Film Distribution Co., Inc.|
|Sound:||Mono (RCA Sound System)||Production Co:||Walt Disney Productions|
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great locomotive chase
kevin sellers 2015-07-03
Typical Disney action/adventure movie, which means there's virtually no death (Fess Parker and Jeff York's hanging occur offscreen, which...