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Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Battle of Blair Mountain

Battle of Blair Mountain
August 25 to September 2, 1921
Logan County, West Virginia, United States
Result: Setback of miners' rights until early 1930s when Federal Government recognized labor unions
(posted on Facebook by Gloria Torres)
no copyright infringement intended

The Battle of Blair Mountain was one of the biggest civil uprisings in United States history and the largest armed insurrection since the American Civil War. For five days in late August and early September 1921, in Logan County, West Virginia, between 10,000 and 15,000 coal miners confronted an army of police and strikebreakers backed by coal operators during a struggle by the miners to unionize the southwestern West Virginia coalfields. Their struggle ended only after approximately one million rounds were fired, and the United States Army intervened by presidential order
The Battle of Blair Mountain was the result of a generation of social transformation and extreme exploitation in the southern West Virginia coalfields. Beginning in 1870-1880, coal operators had established a system of oppression and exploitation based around the company town system.To maintain their domination and hegemony, coal operators paid private detectives as well as public law enforcement agents to ensure that union organizers were kept out of the region.In order to accomplish this objective, agents of the coal operators used intimidation, harassment, espionage and even murder.Throughout the early 20th century, West Virginia coal miners attempted to overthrow this brutal system and engaged in a series of strikes, such as the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike of 1912, and which coal operators attempted to stop through violent means. Mining families lived under the terror of Baldwin-Felts detective agents who were professional strikebreakers under the hire of coal operators. During that dispute agents drove a heavily armored train through a tent colony at night, opening fire on women, men and children with a machine gun.They would repeat this type of tactic during the Ludlow Massacre in Colorado the next year, with even more disastrous results
By 1920, most of West Virginia had been organized by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). The southern coalfields, however, remained non-unionized bastions of coal operator power. In early 1920, UMW president John L. Lewis targeted Mingo County for organizing. Certain aspects of Mingo made it more attractive to union leaders than neighboring Logan County, which was under the control of the vehemently anti-union Sheriff Don Chafin and his deputized army.Mingo’s political structure was more independent, and some politicians were pro-union. Cabell Testerman, the mayor of the independent townof Matewan was one supporter of the union cause. He appointed 27-year-old Sid Hatfield as town sheriff. As a teenager, Hatfield had worked in the coalmines, and was sympathetic to the miners’ condition. He also claimed to be a member of the notorious Hatfield family of the Hatfield and McCoy “feud”, but was not. These men provided union organizers an opportunity to gain a foothold, and unionizing accelerated rapidly in the county.

This is a rough draft version of a longer documentary on Blair Mountain.




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