William Hunter Campbell was born September 9th 1839 in Fox, Carroll, Ohio the son of Samuel and Sarah (Hunter) Campbell. He was described at the time of the Civil War as “a man of two hundred twenty pound, handsome as Apollo, and of immense physical strength, which he was slow to use when roused, though good-natured and clever.”
Campbell was in Kentucky in 1862 visiting friends in the 2nd Ohio, when he was recruited to steal a train from Confederate territory and bring it through Union lines. The man who recruited him was James J Andrews, who was also a civilian. Andrews also brought in 22 soldiers from the 2nd, 21st and 33rd Ohio. All the men went south, wearing civilian clothing and met up in Marietta, Georgia. They all got on a train pulled by the locomotive called The General, except two on April 12th 1862. When the train stopped in Big Shanty, Georgia, Andrews, Campbell and the other Ohio men stole the train. The train was chased as it moved north in what has been called the “Great Locomotive Chase”. When the train ran out of fuel near Chattanooga, Tennessee the raiders were captured.
Campbell being a civilian was placed on trial and was convicted as a spy. He was taken; along with six of other men, to the corner of Fair ST and South Park Ave in Atlanta, Georgia on June 18th 1862 and hung. Campbell’s execution didn’t go quite right, it was described that “two of the seven, Campbell and Slavens, being very heavy men, broke the ropes, and fell to the ground insensible. In a short time they recovered, and asked for a drink of water, which was given them. Then they requested an hour to pray before entering the future world, which lay so near and dark before them. This last petition was indignantly refused, and as soon as the ropes could be adjusted, they were compelled to re-ascend the scaffold, and were again turned off!" Campbell was buried first near where he was hung, but was moved April 25th 1866 to the Chattanooga National Cemetery, Chattanooga, Hamilton, Tennessee and reinterred near the Ohio Memorial.