Kenny King’s Blair Mountain Collection

Kenneth King is the leading archeologist and studier of the battlefields that surround Blair Mountain and has collected many artifacts from various sites. These particulars can be found at the Coal Heritage Museum in Madison, WV. What makes this impression is the collection of various bullets, AEF buttons, spoons, whistle, etc. Also, this makes note of the Gatling Gun that the miners had successfully stolen from one of the mining companies and used it against Don Chafin’s militias. Of other interest is the Coca Cola bottle.

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Published in: on April 29, 2011 at 9:20 pm  Comments Off on Kenny King’s Blair Mountain Collection  
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Harry Hill Bandholtz

Major General Harry Hill Bandholtz (1864 – May 11, 1925)was born in Constantine, Michigan and a graduate of the United States Military Academy. In 1902 he served as Provincial Governor in Tayabas Province in the Philippines. He was promoted to Brigadier General and served as Chief of the Philippines Constabulary between 1907-1913 supporting America’s colonial government in the Philippines during the Filipino-American War. He served in NY as Chief of Staff in the NY National Guard and went with it to the border in Mexico during the Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villia in 1916. In 1917 he became commander of the 58th Brigade of the 29th Division. He went with his unit to France in June of that year and served with it for three months. On September 27 he was named Provost Marshal General to General John J. Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force in France serving through the end of hostilities and beyond. In 1919, he became the US representative of the Allied Military Mission in Hugary in 1919, making sure that the Romanians and Serbian armies left in a timely manner.

After Sid Hatfield’s murder, the Mine Wars grew into the Battle of Blair Mountain. With a 2,000-man detachment from four U.S. Army regiments and 14 bombers commanded by the military aviation pioneer, Gen. Billy Mitchell, Bandholtz quickly reestablished law and order in the coalfields without firing a shot. Bandholtz’s smoothly executed double envelopment on September 3 and subsequent disarming of the combatants at the Battle of Blair Mountain effectively ended the Mine Wars. Neither side wished to exchange fire with federal soldiers. Bandholtz expressed disgust that West Virginia state and local government in the aftermath.

Published in: on April 26, 2011 at 11:07 pm  Comments Off on Harry Hill Bandholtz  
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Don Chafin’s Militia

Most of Don Chafin’s private army was made up of the recently created WV State Police, WV National Guard, hired guns, citizens from Logan, members of the American Legion, strike breakers, and a variety of others. For those that wanted to wear a uniform, khaki was the most common color. Khaki generally meant what we would consider Olive Drab now a days. Like the miners, many of these men were also veterans of the Great War and would have worn their service uniforms. In many pictures, these men are seen wearing the campaign hats, which was a common head gear for the state police and soldiers of the US Army. The other option was to wear a white armband to “counter” the red scarves that the union men would wear. Since these men were armed by the coal companies, they were almost exclusively armed with the M1903 Springfield rifle and to a lesser extent, the M1917 Enfield rifle. In addition, they were also armed with Winchester lever action rifles, Thompson sub-machine guns, Colt and Browning machine guns, and even ex-military light artillery. In the end both sides did minimal damage to each other since both sides were under disciplined and many were not trained in military warfare; over a million rounds were fired in five days resulting in less than 50 dead on both sides.

Matewan Massacre

Bullet Holes from Battle

In January 1920, the United Mine Workers of America launched a major campaign to organize the non-union coalfields of southern West Virginia. Along the West Virginia-Kentucky line, some 3,000 miners responded by joining the union and, under coal company policies forbidding employment of union miners, were discharged from their jobs. Hundreds also were forced to vacate their company-owned homes, and many who refused were forcibly evicted by hated Baldwin-Felts detectives.

On May 19, 1920, 13 Baldwin-Felts detectives, including Al and Lee Felts, brothers of one of the agency founders, arrived in the Mingo County town of Matewan on the Tug River to evict striking miners and their families from company houses. The detectives, under an intermittent drizzle, forced several families, including women and children, from their homes at gunpoint and dumped their belongings out on the road. Word of the evictions enraged area miners, who began arming themselves.

Matewan’s police chief, Sid Hatfield, 27, a strike supporter, tried to stop the evictions as being unauthorized by law. At 4:00 p.m., as the detectives prepared to leave, Hatfield, accompanied by Matewan Mayor Cable C. Testerman and a host of angry miners, confronted Al Felts near the Matewan railroad station and tried to arrest him. Felts, in turn, tried to arrest Hatfield. As the men argued, shooting started.

Hatfield admitted he fired but said Al Felts shot first. A number of the miners and several detectives joined in. When it ended a minute or two later, ten people—seven Baldwin-Felts detectives (including both Felts brothers), two miners, and Mayor Testerman—had been fatally shot.

Hatfield and 17 strikers were tried for murder in early 1921 and were all acquitted; such was the hatred of the detective agency. The Matewan Massacre is often cited as the opening of the West Virginia Mine War of 1920–21, which escalated into an armed conflict involving thousands after Hatfield’s murder at Welch later in 1921.

From: Savage, Lon. Thunder in the Mountains. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990.

Published in: on April 24, 2011 at 11:40 pm  Comments Off on Matewan Massacre  
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Battle of the Tug

The Tug River Valley just outside of Matewan

“In January 1920, the United Mine Workers of America launched a campaign to unionize southern West Virginia, including the Tug Fork coalfield. The local coal operators were determined to keep the UMW out. Miners who joined the union were fired, evicted from their company-owned houses, and replaced by nonunion workers. Many fought back with guns in what developed into the Battle of the Tug, or the Three Days Battle of May 1921. Violence usually involving gunfire from the mountains at working miners in the valley, erupted sporadically through much of 1920 and into the spring of 1921.

On May 12–14, 1921, bullets peppered down on about a dozen mining towns in the Matewan-Williamson area, and nonunion miners fired back. Deputy sheriffs, mine guards, the recently created West Virginia State Police, and Kentucky National Guardsmen joined the fray. Thousands of shots were fired from rifles, pistols, and even machine guns. Bullets clipped telephone wires and ripped through homes as families cowered in fear. Bridges and tipples were dynamited. Businesses and schools closed. Three people were shot and killed. Sid Hatfield was involved in the battle, though he was noted as punching one of the coal operators adding yet another charge against him.

The Battle of the Tug ended on May 15 when State Police arranged a truce, with the aid of a physician who crawled under fire through the Kentucky mountains to make contact with the insurgents. During the fighting, Governor Ephraim Franklin Morgan asked President Harding to send federal troops ‘‘to prevent wanton slaughter of innocent citizens.’’ Although Morgan’s request was denied, it set the stage for sending federal troops into West Virginia in September.”

From: “Savage, Lon. Thunder in the Mountains. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990.”

Published in: on April 24, 2011 at 11:16 pm  Comments Off on Battle of the Tug  
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Woodrow Wilson

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856 – February 3, 1924) was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. He led the United States into the First World War in 1917. Wilson’s administration did not plan for the process of demobilization at the war’s end. Though some advisers tried to engage the President’s attention to what they called “reconstruction”, his tepid support for a federal commission evaporated with the election of 1918. Republican gains in the Senate meant that his opposition would have to consent to the appointment of commission members. Instead, Wilson favored the prompt dismantling of wartime boards and regulatory agencies.

The Great War had brought labor new powers and could threaten to go on strike if these demands weren’t met since a majority of the workers had gone off to fight. In promising not to strike, the workers got higher wages and better working conditions. In the post war years this would change.

Fears of German sabotage led to the political supression of another, but more militant, union the IWW. By the fall of 1917, over 200 leaders were charged with sedition and espionage. Then in 1917, the Red Revolution began in Russia; to many industrialists, they viewed this a connection between labor and violent revolution. By 1919, these fears of Red Scare spread through the US, already fueled by fears of German spies. Several pipe bombs were sent to political leaders homes resulting in the Palmer Raids and establishing an ever greater paranoia to the US public. Wilson’s government soon started to abandoned their Progressive connections to the unions, leaving them to find for themselves.

He was still President when the shootings at Matewan broke out between Sid Hatfield and the hired thugs. With ever increasing demands from the unions for Wilson to intervene, he soon began to ignore their requests making his focus on the affairs in Europe. To many in the UMWA this was a stab in the back since they helped him win the election of 1916. However by this point in his presidency, he had lost most of the function in his body due to a stroke.

It was clear in the elections of 1920, Americans were no longer going to accept liberalism aboard or at home with the election of Harding as the 29th President.

Published in: on April 24, 2011 at 11:01 pm  Comments Off on Woodrow Wilson  
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Warren G. Harding

Warren Gamaliel Harding (November 2, 1865 – August 2, 1923) was the 29th President of the United States (1921–1923). During his presidential campaign, in the aftermath of World War I, he promised a return of the nation to “normalcy”. This “America first” campaign encouraged industrialization and a strong economy independent of foreign influence.

On May 12, 1921, just two months into Harding’s presidency, violence was initiated near Matewan. The miners cut down telephone and telegraph lines and trained their guns on the mines, strike breakers and buildings. This was know as the Three Day’s Battle; some 10,000 rounds were fired. Ephraim Morgan, Governor of West Virginia, pleaded in person to Harding for federal military support. Harding, who was keeping track of the situation, would only send in troops if state militia could no longer handle the striking miners.

On August 1, Sid Hatfield, a prominent Union organizer and Matewan chief of police, was assassinated by mining company agents. On August 28, four days of fighting broke out on a 15 mile front at Blair Mountain. President Harding, having issued two proclamations to keep the peace. Federal troops arrived on September 2, forcing the miners to flee to their homes and hostilities ended on September 4. After the battle, 985 miners were tried and imprisoned for crimes against the State of West Virginia. Many were tried for treason, but most were acquitted.

Published in: on April 24, 2011 at 10:37 pm  Comments Off on Warren G. Harding  
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Don Chafin

Don Chafin (June 26, 1887 – August 9, 1954) was the sheriff of Logan County, West Virginia and a commander in the Battle of Blair Mountain. As sheriff of Logan County, Chafin was a fierce opponent of unionization and received hundreds of thousands of dollars from coal mine operators in return for his violent suppression of the United Mine Workers union.

Chafin’s most notable anti-union measures came during the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain, when he organized an effort to
prevent armed miners from crossing through Logan County. He assembled a force of thousands of local townspeople, sheriff’s deputies, and militias. His forces halted the miner’s advance on Logan in certain areas around Blair Mountain. Chafin hired bi-planes to drop anti-union propaganda against the miners and later on, home made bombs were dropped upon the miners; with little effect. His forces also surrendered their fire arms when Federal troops arrived. As a result of his actions, Chafin became a hero of the mine operators and an enemy of the miners.

Drunk with power after the battle he became more arrogant about his position as sheriff of Logan County. In 1924, Chafin was arrested in connection with moonshining and sentenced to two years in prison. Chafin was tried and convicted of violation of the Volstead Act at the federal courthouse in Huntington, West Virginia on October 14, 1924. He was given the maximum sentence of two years in prison, and ordered to pay a fine of $10,000. The judge in the case also took special precautions to protect the witnesses against Chafin, due to his potentially violent nature. Chafin appealed the verdict, but it was upheld in April 1925, and he was sent to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta.

After his release, he became an important figure in the Democratic Party of West Virginia, and a lobbyist for the coal industry. In 1936, he moved to Huntington, West Virginia where he was a wealthy and well-known figure until his death in 1954.

Published in: on April 24, 2011 at 5:55 pm  Comments Off on Don Chafin  
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Mother Jones

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones (August 1, 1837 – November 30, 1930), born in Cork, Ireland, was a prominent American labor and community organizer, who helped co-ordinate major strikes and co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World. She worked as a teacher and dressmaker but after her husband and four children all died of yellow fever and her workshop was destroyed in a fire in 1871 she began working as an organizer for the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers union.

She was a very effective speaker, punctuating her speeches with stories, audience participation, humour and dramatic stunts. From 1897 (when she was 60) she was known as Mother Jones and in 1902 she was called “the most dangerous woman in America” for her success in organizing mine workers and their families against the mine owners.

In 1913, during the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike in West Virginia, Mother Jones was charged and kept under house arrest in the nearby town of Pratt and subsequently convicted with other union organizers of conspiring to commit murder, after organizing another children’s march. Her arrest raised an uproar and she was soon released from prison, after which, upon motion of Indiana Senator John Worth Kern, the United States Senate ordered an investigation into the conditions in the local coal mines.

At a rally on August 7, 1921 Mary Harris “Mother” Jones called on the miners not to march into Logan and Mingo counties and set up the union by force. Accused by some of losing her nerve, she rightly feared a bloodbath in a battle between lightly armed union forces and the more heavily armed deputies from Logan County. Many miners said that she was losing her nerves and continued on the March. When the battle was waging she supported the miner’s cause.

Published in: on April 24, 2011 at 5:27 pm  Comments Off on Mother Jones  
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William Lendrum “Billy” Mitchell

William Lendrum “Billy” Mitchell (December 28, 1879 – February 19, 1936) was a United States Army general who is regarded as the father of the U.S. Air Force. He is one of the most famous and most controversial figures in the history of American airpower.

Born in Nice, France, to John L. Mitchell, a wealthy Wisconsin senator and his wife Harriet, Mitchell grew up on an estate in what is now the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, Wisconsin. Mitchell served in France during the First World War and, by the conflict’s end, commanded all American air combat units in that country. After the war, he was appointed deputy director of the Air Service and began advocating increased investment in air power, believing that this would prove vital in future wars. He argued particularly for the ability of bombers to sink battleships and organized a series of bombing runs against stationary ships designed to test the idea.

Mitchell was dispatched by president Harding to West Virginia. His mission was to stop the warfare that had broken out between the United Mine Workers, Stone Mountain Coal Company, the Baldwin-Felts Agency, and other groups after the Matewan Massacre. When fighting broke out, he flew to Kanawha City, where citizens from Charleston and other nearby communities went out to see the airplane in a carnival like setting. He later promoted the idea of using airplanes at Blair Mountain as scouting tools and if need be weapons of war. General Bandholtz ordered Mitchell’s planes disarmed and allowed their use only for reconnaissance missions. This episode marks the only time in U.S. history that air power was deployed against domestic civilian forces.

Published in: on April 24, 2011 at 5:15 pm  Comments Off on William Lendrum “Billy” Mitchell  
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