Is this a little known battle of the Revolutionary War? The War of 1812 maybe? How about a decisive battle of the Civil War?
To be honest none of those would be accurate.
As a former labor activist and union organizer I am well aware of this “battle”……this is the battle of coal miners against the exploitative coal mine owners…….
The year is 1921…….
The Battle of Blair Mountain was the result of years of bitter labor disputes between the miners and coal companies of southern West Virginia. Since the late 1800s, the coalfields of the state’s Mingo, Logan and McDowell Counties had operated under a repressive company town system. Workers mined using leased tools and were paid low wages in company currency, or “scrip,” which could only be used at company stores. Safety conditions were often deplorable, yet despite the efforts of groups such as the United Mine Workers (UMW), the mine operators had kept unions out of the region through intimidation and violence. Companies compelled their workers to sign so-called “yellow dog contracts” pledging not to organize, and they used armies of private detectives to harass striking miners and evict them from their company-owned homes.
The hostilities only ramped up in 1920, when the UMW finally started to organize workers in Mingo County. On May 19 of that year, members of the Baldwin-Felts detective agency arrived in the town of Matewan to evict union miners from houses owned by the Stone Mountain Coal Company. After catching wind of the detectives’ activities, Matewan Mayor Cabell Testerman and a pro-union sheriff named Sid Hatfield raised a small posse and confronted them near the local train station. A verbal argument quickly escalated into a gunfight, and when the smoke cleared, seven Baldwin-Felts agents had been killed along with Mayor Testerman and two local miners.
Labor history is one part of the American history experiment that is seldom taught in our schools….sadly because it was an important part of our history…..
For the lazy among us….a short videos explaining the Battle Of Blair Mountain……
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