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date: 26 November 2020

West Virginia Mine Warsfree

  • Lou MartinLou MartinHistory Department, Chatham University


In the early 20th century, West Virginia coal miners and mine operators fought a series of bloody battles that raged for two decades and prompted national debates over workers’ rights. Miners in the southern part of the state lived in towns wholly owned by coal companies and attempted to join the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) to negotiate better working conditions but most importantly to restore their civil liberties. Mine operators saw unionization as a threat to their businesses and rights and hired armed guards to patrol towns and prevent workers from organizing. The operators’ allies in local and state government used their authority to help break strikes by sending troops to strike districts, declaring martial law, and jailing union organizers in the name of law and order. Observers around the country were shocked at the levels of violence as well as the conditions that fueled the battles. The Mine Wars include the Paint Creek–Cabin Creek Strike of 1912–1913, the so-called 1920 Matewan Massacre, the 1920 Three Days Battle, and the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain. In this struggle over unionism, the coal operators prevailed, and West Virginia miners continued to work in nonunion mines and live in company towns through the 1920s.

West Virginia Mine Wars

The West Virginia Mine Wars were a series of battles in the early 20th century between coal miners and mine operators over unionization. Facing dangerous working conditions, low wages, and oppressive company towns, miners attempted to join the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), but mine operators saw unionization as a threat to their businesses and their rights as property owners. They hired armed guards and enlisted the assistance of the local, state, and federal government to prevent unionization, and the conflict turned increasingly violent.

After two decades of growing frustrations and organizing efforts, the bloody Paint Creek–Cabin Creek Strike of 1912–1913 resulted in a contract signed by the UMWA and the local operators. The strike also led to the election of new officers for UMWA District 17, which included all of southern West Virginia. The new officers were rank-and-file miners who had been radicalized by their experiences during the strike. Over the next several years, the union attempted to organize the mines in the state’s southernmost counties—Boone, Raleigh, Logan, Mingo, and McDowell—and made considerable gains during World War I. After the war, the UMWA’s national leaders saw completing the unionization of southern West Virginia as critical to the organization’s future, but coal operators were determined to stop the union’s expansion at all costs.

These events culminated in the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain. A miners’ army numbering some 10,000 marched south toward Mingo County where the governor had declared martial law, union organizers had been jailed, and striking miners had clashed with state police. At Blair Mountain, the miners’ march encountered 3,000 to 4,000 deputies and National Guardsmen, and the ensuing battle lasted five days until the US Army arrived. Many miners surrendered their weapons, and others simply retreated back to their homes. The US Senate investigated the causes of the violence, but little changed. Hundreds of miners were indicted and tried, and the operators succeeded in ending the unionization drive. To many, the West Virginia miners’ struggles epitomized the failures of American capitalism and the need for industrial democracy. The Mine Wars occurred at the end of “the age of industrial violence,” prompting progressives and conservatives alike to seek solutions to the escalating labor–management conflicts. The UMWA’s defeat was one of several that debilitated the national labor movement, but the battles lived on in the memories of coal miners and their families for decades to come.1

Roots of the Conflict

In the 1840s surveyors and land speculators reported on the rich bituminous coal seams that lay beneath the mountains of southern West Virginia. But the construction of railroad lines in the 1870s and 1880s that connected the mountains to markets marked the region’s emergence as a center of coal mining. Companies often began by hastily constructing rustic camps near an outcropping of coal and later built shaft mines that required timbers and ventilation as well as tracks to haul the coal out of the mine. There were a little more than 3,000 miners in West Virginia in 1880, but the industry grew rapidly in the coming decades. Above ground, companies built simple four-room houses, opened company stores to sell supplies, and began recruiting labor from across the country and in port cities where new immigrants disembarked. In 1887 West Virginia miners produced 4.9 million tons of coal, and by 1917 nearly 90,000 miners dug some 89.4 million tons of coal.2

Figure 1. Kelly Creek, West Virginia. Coal Mine Tipple, ca. 1920.

(Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-H824-T-0917)

The coal boom resulted in a wave of land speculation in southern West Virginia. By 1810 land speculators already held title to as much as 93 percent of the land that now constitutes West Virginia, but squatters, overlapping titles, and piecemeal land laws led to numerous contests for ownership. Along with the railroads came land company agents and attorneys who fanned out across the mountains to acquire land titles and timber and mineral rights.3 At the same time, “local color” writers created a new genre of fiction and travel writing that presented Appalachia as an isolated, desolate place populated by “backwards” mountain farmers who understood little about the modern world. In these stories, hillbillies were a primitive people who were prone to violence and an obstacle to the advance of civilization.4

Coal helped transform the United States. As a low-cost fuel, it was critical to rise of railroads and the fast, cheap transportation of raw materials and finished goods, encouraging the growth of new industries. It replaced wood as the dominant source for home heating in the nation’s rapidly growing cities, and it became a key ingredient in the manufacture of steel for the rails to carry the trains, for the skeletons of skyscrapers, and for industrial machinery everywhere. In 1875, one author observed, “Coal is to the world of industry what sun is to the natural world.”5

At the turn of the century, miners were paid by the ton. They began their shift by walking to their “room” where they would undercut the coal seam with a pick, drill a hole near the top with an auger, fill the hole with blasting powder, light the fuse, and retreat a safe distance. If done properly, the blast would break the coal loose from the top and leave it in a pile on the floor. The miner would load the coal into his cart with a shovel, and a mule driver would haul it to the surface. In West Virginia in the early 1900s, companies began installing electric ventilation fans, replacing mules with trolley-operated locomotives, and experimenting with undercutting machines to eliminate pick work.6

Figure 2. Miners at the entrance of a mine in Gary, West Virginia, 1908.

(Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-nclc-01054)

As companies increased the pace of production and recruited thousands of workers with no prior mining experience, the risk of fatal accidents increased. Between 1890 and 1907, 26,434 miners were killed on the job. In 1907, a particularly deadly year, 3,242 died. The most common cause of death underground, as many as eight in ten, stemmed from roof falls, but explosions that killed dozens or even hundreds shocked the public, although little action was taken to regulate working conditions.7

Despite the difficult and deadly conditions in coal mines, miners earned lower wages than most industrial workers, faced frequent layoffs, and typically lived in poverty in dilapidated company houses. In 1890 the UMWA formed at a convention in Columbus, Ohio, and began to organize miners into locals for the purpose of bargaining collectively with employers. In 1897 the union had a little more than 10,000 members, about 7,700 of them in Ohio, and only 75 members in West Virginia.8

Coal operators faced uncertain markets as demand and prices fluctuated wildly, often bankrupting overextended companies. The operators that survived such downturns became obsessive about maintaining tight control of their operations and keeping costs down, particularly labor costs. In remote areas, building new towns may have been an expediency, but operators soon realized the great power they wielded by holding deeds to all the houses and businesses, running the only store, paying the miners in scrip that could only be redeemed at the company store, and overseeing the church and school. Having such power over the miners helped operators stop union campaigns in their infancy. Some 90 percent of West Virginia miners lived in company towns, more than in any other state. Operators also recruited workers strategically, seeking to employ what one operator called a “judicious mixture” of native-born whites, African Americans, and immigrants. Their differences and enmity toward one another, operators believed, would prevent them from organizing. Whereas in 1880 there was not a single African American miner and only 924 European miners, by 1910 there were 12,000 and 20,000, respectively. The immigrants included about 7,600 Italians, 4,000 Hungarians, 1,900 Slavs, 1,200 Austrians, and 1,000 Russians.9

Northern coal operators in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois, where company towns were less common, viewed a national wage contract as one path to a less chaotic industry. On the Fourth of July, 1897, the UMWA called a nationwide strike, and 150,000 miners answered the call. At the end of the strike, many northern coal operators signed an agreement at the interstate joint conference, which became the basis for collective bargaining in the industry for the next thirty years. According to the agreement, while wages would vary due to transportation costs and seam thickness, they would be based on a standard set for comparable coalfields in each of four states: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. For the operators, it was just as important to have an agreement among themselves as with the union, but the tenuous agreement rested on the UMWA’s ability to organize other nonunion operations, which is why some viewed West Virginia as a “gun pointed at the heart of the industrial government in the bituminous coal industry.” Owners of nonunion operations in central Appalachia believed that if they entered such an agreement, higher wages added to their higher freight would bankrupt them, not to mention that many of them opposed unionism on principle.10

In 1901 the UMWA launched a union drive in West Virginia, focusing on mines near the state capital of Charleston. One of their most famous organizers, Mary Harris Jones, also known as Mother Jones, traveled through the coal camps exhorting men to stand up for their rights and join the union. Harris was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1837, migrated to America, lost her husband and four children to yellow fever as a young woman, and found new purpose in the 1870s as a union organizer in Chicago.11 She had been part of the 1897 campaign and led the 1901 drive in southern West Virginia from her headquarters in Montgomery. She and her team spent months promoting unionism in the upper Kanawha River valley.12

In 1902 UMWA officials called a strike in anthracite coalfields of eastern Pennsylvania, and UMWA President John Mitchell told West Virginia members that they did not have to strike, having only recently formed their locals. They voted to join the strike anyway, and 16,000 miners shut down more than 400 mines in the state. In the upper Kanawha River valley, owners quickly conceded and signed UMWA contracts, hoping they might win new customers during the anthracite strike. In the New River coalfield, operators decided to hold out. Justus Collins, a particularly imperious operator, hired armed men from the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency of Roanoke, Virginia, to protect his property and the nonunion miners crossing the picket lines. This escalated the conflict and set a precedent followed by many operators during the Mine Wars. While the strike in the anthracite field ended in October 1902, it dragged on in the New River coalfield. Determined to stop production, strikers shot at nonunion miners from cover, which led to a gun battle that left two miners and two Baldwin-Felts agents dead.13 In February 1903, several months into the strike, the Raleigh County sheriff accompanied by Baldwin-Felts agents entered the village of Stanaford to arrest several miners who had violated a court injunction. The company agents ambushed the miners, starting what became known as the Battle of Stanaford, in which six miners died.14 Two strikers escorted Mother Jones to Stanaford shortly after the battle. As she later described in her autobiography, she heard sobs coming from a miner’s shack, and when she opened the door she saw a woman grieving over her husband, his mattress “wet with blood.”15 Collins and the operators ultimately succeeded in breaking the strike.

Paint Creek-Cabin Creek

While the UMWA gained a foothold during the 1902 strike in southern West Virginia’s upper Kanawha River valley, operators on Paint Creek refused to sign a second contract in 1904, and for the next several years the UMWA failed to organize miners in southern West Virginia. According to historian David Corbin, the failure stemmed from the oppressive nature of the company town but also from the failure of union officials to recognize that the miners’ top priority was not winning higher wages but ending the mine guard system.16 Mine guards were armed company men, typically from the Baldwin-Felts agency, who patrolled the coal camps ostensibly to keep “law and order” in the unincorporated towns but mainly to prevent unionization. They bullied the miners, insulted families, prevented them from picking up mail or boarding trains, and threatened them with violence if they disobeyed orders. Miners were especially troubled by the government’s tacit approval of the mine guards, helping to legitimize the mine guard system.17

In 1912 Mother Jones returned to the area, cussed the men out for letting the operators break the union, and then helped them reform union locals along Paint Creek and Cabin Creek. While miners had several grievances—corrupt check weighmen, prices at the company stores, wage rates, and blacklisting miners among them—many equated the mine guard system with a loss of basic freedoms, and they flocked to the new locals. In April the northern operators agreed to a 5-cent wage increase and an 8-hour day, but when UMWA District 17 officials asked for a contract with the same conditions for miners on Paint Creek, the operators refused. The UMWA called a strike that soon spread to previously nonunion operations along both Paint Creek and Cabin Creek.18

Figure 3. Mother Jones around the time of the Paint Creek–Cabin Creek Strike.

(Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ggbain-15973)

In an era of violent strikes, the Paint Creek–Cabin Creek Strike stood out as one of the most tragic and bloodiest. In May, shortly after the strike began, the companies evicted the miners from company housing, and the UMWA supplied them with canvass tents and helped them set up tent colonies on private land. That same month, Baldwin-Felts agents fired randomly at the Holly Grove tent camp, but remarkably no one was injured. In retaliation, miners fired from the hills on the mine guards’ headquarters in the town of Mucklow. When it seemed that the miners were returning for a second attack on June 4, the Baldwin-Felts agents crept into the woods to meet them, and in the resulting gun battle, one Italian immigrant miner was killed. On July 26 another shootout at Mucklow raged for two hours and, according to a reporter, left six strikers and four guards dead.19 Gun battles raged off and on for several months. In early February 1913 miners once again took positions above the town of Mucklow and fired down at the mine guards’ headquarters. Quinn Morton, president of the Paint Creek Operators’ Association, happened to be there when the bullets started flying and ordered an assault on Holly Grove. On February 7 agents rode by Holly Grove on an armored train dubbed the Bull Moose Special, and several agents fired rifles at the tent colony while one fired a Gatling gun. A Holly Grove miner named Cesco Estep ran out the front door of a cabin when he heard the gunfire, turned and yelled to his wife to take their baby into the cellar, then was killed by a bullet striking him in the face. The Bull Moose Special attack became national news and led to a federal investigation of conditions on Paint Creek, while the West Virginia governor declared martial law in the strike district.20

In the attack’s aftermath, reporters catalogued the abuses of the company town system and the mine guards but sometimes also described the miners evoking stereotypes created by local color writers decades earlier. A Washington Times reporter noted that the “daring mountaineers” were “reckless” and “ready and persistent fighters.” Another observed that “nature made this region rich in coal and timber, but left it an ugly land for human habitation.” Half the miners, the article continued, were “descendants of the mountaineers . . . of whom little or nothing was ever heard except when the outside world was advised that a deadly feud was at its height.” The other half were a “strange conglomeration of Europeans and negroes [sic].” They insisted they “had rights to live in the hills” and armed themselves with the help of Socialist agitators and UMWA organizers.21

Socialist poet and troubadour Ralph Chaplin visited the strike district after the Holly Grove attack and encountered suffering and mourning but wrote that “these people are not objects of pity.” Like other Socialists and labor activists, he saw the miners and their families as a more noble people, pushed to violence by the excesses of industrial capitalism. He continued, “They are doing pretty well in their tents. There is no atmosphere of martyrdom about these fighting West Virginians—nothing but a grim good humor and an iron determination. There is no pretense about them—no display. They are in deadly earnest, and they mean business.”22 His experiences during the strike inspired him to write a song to the tune of “John Brown’s Body.” It began, “When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run, there can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun.” Titled “Solidarity Forever,” it would become a famous anthem of the labor movement.23

With tensions running high in the weeks that followed, a newly inaugurated West Virginia governor named Henry Hatfield decided to intervene. Hatfield allowed military court-martials of Mother Jones and several Socialist leaders to proceed, but he ordered the release of men being held by the National Guard on lesser charges. He then called a meeting of the mine operators and proposed a settlement that would allow union organizers in the company towns, allow miners to shop at independent stores, limit workdays to nine hours, and develop a grievance process. The operators agreed, appreciating that they would not have to give the UMWA formal recognition or eliminate the mine guard system. But many strikers were furious, especially when Hatfield threatened more restrictions on the union if they did not accept the agreement. UMWA District 17 officials knew that their members opposed the agreement but figured that this was the best deal they could get and approved it. That summer, Cabin Creek miners Frank Keeney and Fred Mooney helped lead a series of wildcat strikes to protest the Hatfield Agreement, and within months operators were willing to renegotiate, accepting an arbitration procedure and ending the blacklist, which had prevented many of the original strikers from returning to work.24

Figure 4. D. O. Baldwin (left) and Thomas Felts (right) of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, 1912.

(Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-hec-00715)

By the end of the year-long strike, ten company guards had been killed along with twelve miners. The UMWA had a foothold in southern West Virginia and UMWA District 17 officers were discredited, viewed by many of the rank and file as traitors. Over the next three years, Keeney and Mooney circumvented the UMWA District 17 officers and attempted to form their own district and their own union. In 1916 they defeated the old guard and became the president and secretary-treasurer of the district.25

World War I

The start of World War I effectively brought a ceasefire in the Mine Wars. In 1917, 70 percent of the nation’s mechanical energy came from burning coal, and 25 percent of the coal came from West Virginia.26 There was unprecedented coordination between federal, state, and local governments as well as in industry, schools, and churches to ensure “100% Americanism,” meaning total loyalty and support for the war effort from all sectors. The War Labor Board worked closely with industries and unions to prevent strikes. The UMWA agreed not to strike, and West Virginia coal operators agreed to allow UMWA organizers to sign up new members in southern West Virginia.27 Although organizers had little success in the southernmost counties of Logan, Mingo, and McDowell, District 17 gained 17,000 new members during the war.28 The war was also a boon for operators. With high wartime demand, the price of southern West Virginia coal quadrupled from about $1 per ton in 1915 to more than $4 per ton by 1917. With the federal government keeping wages low, profits skyrocketed.29

When Armistice Day came in November 1918, the nation celebrated, but coal consumption dropped precipitously, and the operators and miners were once again in conflict. Miners in southern West Virginia demanded a raise, and those who were not already UMWA members were eager to join. In 1919 Frank Keeney told a convention of miners, “Organize Logan and Mingo Counties we will, and no one shall stop us. If our organizers come back in pine boxes, neither heaven nor hell will stop the miners.”30 In September, there were rumors that organizers in Logan County were being beaten and killed, and in response thousands of miners amassed near the town of Marmet on the Kanawha River. Their plan was to march south, end the mine guard system by force, and restore civil liberties. After the governor promised to look into their grievances, they called off the march.31 In November, the UMWA called a nationwide strike, demanding a wage increase, and 50,000 West Virginia miners joined the effort. A federal judge issued a sweeping injunction, and President Woodrow Wilson offered to use 100,000 federal troops to reopen the mines, but the strike continued and the economy faltered. In December, UMWA President John L. Lewis agreed to a 14 percent wage increase and the possibility of more after a study of the industry, and he called off the strike. In January 1920, Lewis and Keeney held a rally in Bluefield and announced that it was time to unionize all of southern West Virginia. In March 1920 the US Coal Commission announced the results of their study: a recommendation for an additional 27 percent wage increase for union miners. When operators of nonunion mines in Mingo County refused to consider it, miners began joining the union by the hundreds.32

Coal operators, determined to prevent unionization and roll back wartime union gains, enlisted the help of local governments. The Logan County Coal Operators’ Association paid an extraordinary $30,000 salary to Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin, who organized local men into a militia they called the Logan Defenders. Chafin and his deputies became notorious for jailing and threatening union organizers and even beating an official from the State Department of Miners.33

Bloody Mingo

To the south, Mingo County officials were divided in their response to unionization. Their responses were partly based on divided loyalties in the 1920 presidential election and on local business and political affiliations. These divisions came to the forefront in the spring of 1920 when miners began joining the UMWA, and companies began firing and evicting miners for union activity. In the independent town of Matewan, Mayor Cabell Testerman and his chief of police, Sid Hatfield, took office on a reform ticket that sided with unionized miners. When Albert Felts and several Baldwin-Felts agents attempted to evict striking miners from Stone Mountain Coal Company housing in May 1920, Hatfield and Testerman informed him that Felts’s authorization from a county magistrate was insufficient within town limits and that he would be arrested if his men proceeded. Felts drew his gun, saying that he had been ambushed on Cabin Creek in 1912 and would not be “bluffed out” into the open to be shot by hidden attackers. Hatfield replied that in Mingo County, “the man that kills you’ll be lookin’ you right in the eye.”34

Hatfield and the mayor returned to Matewan and again approached Felts and his agents as they were waiting for their train. Hatfield announced that he was going to arrest the agents for carrying weapons in town, but Felts said he intended to arrest Hatfield and take him to Bluefield. Hatfield later testified that Felts shot the mayor in the stomach and that Hatfield then drew both his pistols and killed Felts. General shooting commenced, and at the end of the battle, seven Baldwin-Felts agents, including Albert and Lee Felts, plus two unarmed miners were dead and the mayor was mortally wounded. The “Matewan Massacre,” as it became known, once again drew the nation’s attention to violence in the coalfields of West Virginia.35

In the weeks after the battle, miners enthusiastically joined the UMWA up and down the Tug River, and District 17 President Frank Keeney demanded that the mine owners negotiate a contract. When they refused, Keeney called for a general strike in Mingo County, and on July 1, 1920, thousands walked out of mines, were evicted from their company houses, and formed tent colonies outside of company town limits.36 When the operators imported nonunion workers, more violence followed, and six nonunion miners were killed. The operators first appealed to the governor, who refused to send state police, and then to the president, who sent federal troops to protect the nonunion workers. By late August, production in the mines had resumed. As miners tried to shut down the operations, the governor declared martial law in Mingo County, and a judge issued a nearly unprecedented injunction that prohibited union members from approaching nonunion miners and the mines themselves. On Christmas Eve, the army commander in charge relaxed the rules of martial law so that miners and their families, who had been living in the tents for nearly six months, could join the townspeople of Williamson to sing Christmas carols in the courthouse square. Just after Christmas, a reporter from the Nation who visited the Lick Creek tent colony near Matewan described their dreadful living conditions, calling it “Labor’s Valley Forge.”37

Nearly a year into the strike, miners were desperate to stop the nonunion operations, and on May 12, 1921, they opened fire on the White Star Mining Company at Merrimac and dynamited the company power plant. Over the following two days, gun battles broke out up and down the Tug River on both the West Virginia and Kentucky sides, pitting unionized miners against the West Virginia State Police, Kentucky National Guard, and Baldwin-Felts agents. Saboteurs dynamited coal tipples and bridges, snipers on the mountainsides exchanged fire with company guards, and three people died in the gunfights of what became known as the “Battle of the Tug” or the “Three Days Battle.” The governor of West Virginia again called on the president to send federal troops, but his request was denied. On May 15 a local physician brokered a ceasefire, and the governor appointed Major Thomas B. Davis to command some 800 special police and 250 civilian deputies and to oversee an even more stringent martial law, giving his force the power to jail any suspicious person.38

Authorities’ attention turned to the camp at Lick Creek, where they believed many of the combatants lived. On June 5, 1921, State Police Captain James Brockus got a report of Lick Creek miners firing at an automobile, and his troopers arrested forty people at the camp. On June 14, 1921, Brockus and Major Davis and approached the tent colony with another warrant, and a miner fired at their vehicle, while gunmen hidden on a hillside opened fire as well. Davis ordered his troops to strafe the hillside with Thompson machine guns. They returned to Williamson, organized a larger force, and raided Lick Creek a second time, approaching from multiple fronts. One trooper reportedly ordered a miner named Alex Breedlove to put his hands up, but even though Breedlove obeyed, the trooper still shot and killed Breedlove with his hands in the air. Since the previous year’s shootout in Matewan, twenty-six men had died in the fighting, but Breedlove’s death was particularly infuriating to the miners. Brockus’s men also cut holes in the miners’ tents, destroyed food stores, and smashed furniture.39

In July 1921 the US Senate began hearings to investigate events in “Bloody Mingo,” as the press called it, but little came of them. With the strike dragging on, the towns of the Tug Valley living under martial law, some thirty union organizers in jail, and miners’ families still living in tent colonies, Frank Keeney seethed, “By the eternal gods, before I sacrifice them, I will go and fight myself.”40

In late July, Sid Hatfield learned that he was being charged in connection with the dynamiting a coal tipple during the Three Days Battle. On August 1 he traveled by train with his wife Jessie, Deputy Ed Chambers, and Chambers’s wife Sally to appear in court in neighboring McDowell County, which was notoriously under the control of the coal operators. As Hatfield, Chambers, and their wives walked up the courthouse steps, Jessie Hatfield recognized Charles E. Lively, a Baldwin-Felts agent who had posed as a miner to try to gather incriminating evidence against Sid. Lively and a handful of Baldwin-Felts agents behind him drew pistols and shot and killed Sid Hatfield and Ed Chambers in front of their wives. Both men were unarmed. Lively was arrested but released on bail.41

The Red Neck Army

Many coal miners in West Virginia saw the murders of Sid Hatfield and Ed Chambers as conclusive evidence that the state’s political system was corrupt, designed to enslave the miners. Keeney and the union leadership met with Governor Ephraim Morgan and demanded that he condemn Lively’s actions and form a joint labor–management commission to investigate. Instead, Morgan blamed all the recent trouble on union agitators and insisted that the state police and mine guards were blameless. Three weeks after Hatfield’s death, miners began gathering again at Marmet and formed an encampment on Lens Creek. On August 22 journalist Heber Blankenhorn toured the camp and saw miners wearing overalls and red bandanas around their necks, all carrying rifles. This army of “mountaineers,” as he described them, was a quarter African American, although many public places in West Virginia were segregated, including schools.42 Wearing the red bandana helped the self-described “Red Neck Army” identify members but also symbolized their solidarity across ethnic and racial lines.43

On August 24 Mother Jones arrived on Lens Creek and told miners that President Warren Harding sent her a telegram, promising to use the powers of his office to end the mine guard system. Suspicious, miners contacted Fred Mooney and Frank Keeney, who had known Jones for nearly two decades, and when Keeney arrived and reached for the telegram, Jones said, “Go to hell.” He later reported back to the encampment that the White House had sent no such telegram. Clearly, Jones feared the miners would be slaughtered and desperately wanted to prevent it. Her long saga in West Virginia was over. Feeling betrayed and humiliated, she left the state. The miners demonstrated that they were determined to march on Mingo County and would not be turned around by rumors and hollow promises. That night an advance unit of six hundred miners headed south toward Logan County.44

Many of the 3,000 to 4,000 miners who gathered near Marmet were from Paint Creek or Cabin Creek, including the general of this army, Bill Blizzard. Blizzard was born on Cabin Creek and, at the urging of his mother Sarah Blizzard, joined the United Mine Workers of America and participated in the Paint Creek–Cabin Creek Strike when he was twenty years old.45 Union activists organized platoons of dozens and even hundreds of miners from their locals and left for Marmet. Ed Reynolds, president of UMWA Local 404 of Raleigh County, led some three hundred on the march.46 The army was well organized and disciplined, and many veterans of World War I even wore their uniforms. The Red Neck Army added thousands more as they marched, eventually numbering an estimated 10,000. Their goals were to march through Logan County, hang Sheriff Don Chafin, overthrow martial law in Mingo County, free their organizers from jail, end the mine guard system, and help fellow miners win union recognition.47

Needless to say, reports of the approaching miners’ army alarmed Chafin and other law enforcement officers. Chafin mobilized his deputies and asked the governor to send the National Guard. The “Logan Defenders,” as they called themselves, set up defenses on Blair Mountain. Its twenty-five-mile ridge was the dividing line between the union mines to the north and nonunion mines to the south. The Defenders dug trenches and placed .30-caliber machine guns in strategic locations. They also possessed a number of newly invented Thompson submachine guns, which became known as “Tommy Guns.” An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 Defenders lined the ridges of Blair Mountain with resupply lines heading back to the town of Logan.48

President Harding dispatched World War I hero Brigadier General Harry H. Bandholtz, who met with Keeney and Mooney on August 27 and urged them to recall the men, concerned that an uprising could spread to millions of unemployed across the nation.49 The three traveled to Madison, where Keeney warned the miners that they now faced the full might of the US government. A voice vote from the crowd favored disbanding, but the next day, after Bandholtz left, the miners heard that State Police Captain James Brockus, carrying out orders from Chafin, had battled miners in the town of Sharples, killing two and taking five prisoner. Miners who had been on their way home now decided to resume their march toward Blair. The following day, Governor Morgan once again called on the president to send federal troops.50

The Battle of Blair Mountain

Reverend John Wilburn, a part-time coal miner and Baptist minister in Blair, heard about the Sharples battle and told his friends, “The time has come for me to lay down my Bible and pick up my rifle and fight for my rights.”51 On the evening of August 30, Wilburn led a patrol of seventy volunteers up White Trace Branch toward the ridge, and at dawn on August 31, they encountered three armed men. Wilburn asked for the password, but the three deputies, led by John Gore, gave the Logan Defenders’ password. Wilburn and his men opened fire, and the deputies fell. After Gore hit the ground, he fired a shot that fatally wounded an African American miner named Eli Kemp. Wilburn stepped forward and shot Gore in the head.52

That same day, two columns of miners left Blair and headed up the mountain. One moved along Spruce Fork Ridge and the other up Hewett Creek toward Crooked Creek Gap. Bert Castle from Cabin Creek led eighty volunteers up Hewett Creek and ran into machine gun fire. Two miners wearing their army uniforms attempted to flank the position but were spotted and killed by the Defenders. Ed Reynolds and his column passed Castle and headed up toward Crooked Creek Gap where some three hundred deputies were entrenched. One notorious Baldwin-Felts agent, Tony Gaujot, kept the miners pinned down with machine gun fire. Gaujot was a veteran of the Filipino-American War and had commanded Baldwin-Felts agents on Paint Creek in 1912. Eventually his machine gun overheated, and some of the deputies retreated to a secondary defensive position.53 Early Ball, an ex-Army schoolteacher who lived on Hewett Creek and knew the terrain well, was pressed into service as the “generalissimo” of the miners trying to reach Crooked Creek Gap. He later said that if he had had a thousand men, they would have taken the ridge.54 Archaeological evidence demonstrates that the miners were on the verge of breaking through the line there.55 On September 2, Labor Day, multiple squads of miners renewed their attack on the ridge. One Associated Press reporter accompanying the miners saw two of them cut down by machine gun fire and watched as men scrambled to recover their bodies, bullets still hitting the ground around them.56

One of the most surprising incidents also occurred on Labor Day. As miners continued to battle their way up to Crooked Creek Gap, they saw biplanes fly in low and pull up into a climb. Shortly thereafter explosions rocked the mountainside. The famous William “Billy” Mitchell, brigadier general of the Air Service of the US Army, had just days earlier talked to reporters about the possibility of using aerial bombardment against the miners. Mitchell’s squadron never engaged in the battle, but Sheriff Chafin hired private pilots to aid his Logan Defenders by dropping homemade bombs made from four- to six-inch oil well casings.57

In addition, the secretary of war mobilized one hundred US infantrymen on Labor Day to deploy to southern West Virginia. While Reynolds and the miners on the frontline continued their assault the following day, Blizzard met a US Army captain in Madison to negotiate disbanding the Red Neck Army. Blizzard agreed to a ceasefire, and on Sunday, September 4, miners began surrendering their weapons to the US Army in Blair. However, gunfire could still be heard up near Crooked Creek Gap that day. Evidently word of the ceasefire reached them last, but by the end of the day, the largest armed uprising since the Civil War was over.58

The Aftermath

Several hundred unionized miners were indicted for their roles in the Battle of Blair Mountain, including Frank Keeney, Fred Mooney, Bill Blizzard, and the schoolteacher Early Ball. Some five hundred named defendants were charged with treason against the state of West Virginia, while a few like John Wilburn were brought up on specific murder charges. On April 25, 1922, far from the coalfields at the Jefferson County Courthouse in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle, the prosecutors tried Bill Blizzard for treason as a test case. The trial lasted more than three weeks. To dramatize what they faced, miners displayed an unexploded bomb that had been dropped on them during the battle. To the astonishment of prosecutors and coal operators, the jury found Blizzard not guilty.59 Next, they prosecuted John Wilburn and his sons, who were found guilty of murder and each sentenced to eleven years in prison. After that, Walter Allen was found guilty of treason against West Virginia. The union posted a $10,000 bond for Allen by the union, but he left the state, never to be heard from again. He was the only miner found guilty of treason.60 Other trials dragged on, but little came of them. Keeney’s trial was relocated to Morgan County, where a sympathetic jury found him not guilty of treason, and he was later found not guilty of murder in Mingo County.61

Figure 5. Fred Mooney (left) and C. Frank Keeney (right) after their arraignment, 1922.

(Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ds-07482)

Meanwhile, the strike in the Tug Valley continued with many still living in tents. When US Senator William Kenyon held hearings to investigate the violence in southern West Virginia, he spoke to George Echols, an African American man who was born a slave, became a coal miner, moved to Mingo County, joined the union, and was elected vice-president of his racially integrated local. After he was evicted from his house, Echols moved to the Lick Creek tent colony, which was also racially integrated at a time when coal camps and public schools were not.62 By the time of the Battle of Blair Mountain, miners like Echols had been on strike and living in tents for more than a year.

In the spring of 1922 the unionization campaign in southern West Virginia dragged on, but nonunion coal continued to flow out of the state. In April, when some northern coal operators insisted on wage cut, UMWA President John L. Lewis called a strike and some 600,000 miners across the country walked out.63 That summer, the violence touched coalfields outside of southern West Virginia as miners fought for union recognition elsewhere. For example, in West Virginia’s northern panhandle, some three hundred armed miners in Cliftonville tried to prevent nonunion workers from going into the mine and encountered the sheriff, twenty deputies, and private mine guards. Nine died in the gun battle that followed.64

In August 1922 coal operators and the UMWA agreed to a contract that preserved the 1919 wage increase, but it did not extend union recognition to 70,000 miners who went on strike without a union contract, such as miners like George Echols in Mingo County, who had been on strike for more than two years. While Keeney and Mooney remained loyal to Lewis, many were outraged. The miners and their families at Lick Creek ultimately voted to end their strike, and most looked elsewhere for work rather than return to Mingo County mines as nonunion workers.65

After its failure in southern West Virginia, the United Mine Workers of America struggled to maintain its contracts and its membership, which declined from 600,000 in 1923 to 200,000 by the end of the decade.66 The inability of the UMWA to organize southern West Virginia coincided with a series of failed strikes by steelworkers, meat packers, railway workers, and potters. Previously powerful unions struggled to stay solvent in the coming years. In 1924 Lewis pressured District 17 officers into surrendering their autonomy to the international office, and the UMWA had little influence in West Virginia for the rest of the decade. In 1930 Keeney joined a group of dissidents and formed the West Virginia Mine Workers Union, focusing his efforts on miners along Kellys Creek, only a few miles from Cabin Creek. They lost their first strike in 1931, but the union continued to advocate for the hungry miners for the next two years. Ultimately, Keeney drifted away from the labor movement.67 Through the 1920s and early 1930s, the miners of West Virginia continued to live in company towns, earn lower wages than other industrial workers, and face dangerous conditions underground. They, along with industrial workers across the country, would have to wait until federal labor laws changed before they had another opportunity to bring the union to the Mountain State.

Discussion of the Literature

For decades, the West Virginia Mine Wars were intentionally omitted from state histories that instead tended to focus on the economic development of the Mountain State. Even the UMWA’s 1950 official history included very little about the lost battles that preceded the union’s sharp decline in the 1920s. Between the 1940s and 1970s, a number of West Virginia authors wrote about the Mine Wars, and often implicit in the accounts was the idea that either the miners were a source of lawlessness or that they were fighting an unjust system for their rights. Charles Anson’s 1940 dissertation “A History of the Labor Movement in West Virginia” was one of the first to portray the miners in a positive light. Then in 1952 and 1953, Bill Blizzard’s son, William C. Blizzard, wrote a series of articles for Labor’s Daily that narrated the events of the Mine Wars but received little attention at the time. In 1967, West Virginia University published the late Fred Mooney’s autobiography Struggle in the Coal Fields at a time when labor historians were rediscovering the militancy and radicalism of the early 1900s. Two years later, Howard B. Lee, a retired prosecuting attorney, published his book Bloodletting in Appalachia, a well-researched account of what he called the “most horrifying story you’ve ever read.”

During the 1970s, historians began exploring the Mine Wars through a variety of lenses. Fred Barkey’s 1971 dissertation “The Socialist Party in West Virginia, 1898–1920” examined the extent to which Socialist organizers reached the miners fighting for unionism in southern West Virginia, and in 1973, Kenneth Bailey wrote an influential journal article that revealed coal operators’ plan to hire a “judicious mixture” of native whites, immigrants, and African Americans to thwart unionization. And Richard D. Lunt’s 1979 Law and Order vs. the Miners, 1907–1933 focused on the legal history of the Mine Wars, especially influential court cases. These scholars placed the Mine Wars in the broader context of American history, recognizing that they were not an aberration, nor was the violence an outgrowth of a dysfunctional mountain culture. Instead, they were one of the major conflicts of the early 20th century over the rights of citizenship and the regulation of industrial capitalism.

Three trends in academic history influenced study of the Mine Wars. First, “new labor history” focused historians’ attention on, among other things, class consciousness. Influenced by new labor historians, David Corbin’s 1981 book Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields: The Southern West Virginia Miners, 1880–1922 argued very powerfully that the sporadic conflicts of the early 1900s, which became more frequent and culminated in the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain, represented the emergence of a class consciousness that welded together miners across mountainous terrain and across ethnic and racial lines. Corbin’s findings mirrored studies of other groups of workers who experienced industrial capitalism in the same period and also joined the labor movement, but at the same time challenged popular representations of a “backwards” region. In the 1960s, books like Jack Weller’s Yesterday’s People: Life in Contemporary Appalachia had perpetuated the notion of a deficient Appalachian culture, plagued by fatalism and either pathological individualism or pathological family orientation. Corbin’s study emphasized miners’ ability to organize and their rational response to oppression.

Second, the 1970s witnessed the emergence of Appalachian studies as a formal, multi-disciplinary subfield, largely in response to books like Yesterday’s People. Ronald Eller’s 1982 book Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers described the creation of company towns and the incorporation of Appalachians into industrial capitalism, seeing it as another example of the exploitation of Appalachians.

A third trend was Appalachian historians’ greater focus on the region’s often overlooked diversity. Ronald Lewis and Joe Trotter studied African American coal miners of the era. Trotter’s Coal, Class, and Color: Blacks in Southern West Virginia, 1915–32 examined African Americans’ migration to the region and class and community formation. Janet Greene wrote about women’s strategies for survival in company towns of southern West Virginia. And Fred Barkey studied Italian miners’ participation in the labor movement and strikes.

In the 1980s, popular histories of the Mine Wars reached a broader audience than ever before. In 1986, Lon Savage’s Thunder in the Mountains recounted the events of 1920–1921 in a very readable format that made a larger-than-life figure of Sid Hatfield. In 1987, Denise Giardina’s Storming Heaven told the story of fictional West Virginians whose lives were interwoven with the history of the coal industry and the Battle of Blair Mountain. And that same year writer-director John Sayles’s independent film Matewan brought the miners’ struggle to national audience.

There were few studies of the Mine Wars during the late 1990s and early 2000s, but more recently there has been renewed interest in them. Rebecca Bailey’s 2008 book Matewan Before the Massacre challenges historians to remember new labor historian Herbert Gutman’s words: “All history is local.” In her careful analysis of Mingo County history, she asks: If oppressive company towns had radicalized miners, then why did the shootout took place in Matewan, an independent town? And how did pro-union candidates get elected if coal companies had complete control over state and local government? In answering these questions, Bailey examines the ways that the union drive intersected with a multitude of local struggles for power that had previously been overlooked in favor of region-wide explanations of the conflict.

Finally, the Mine Wars have once again reached a national audience with the 2015 publication of James R. Green’s The Devil Is Here in These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom. This carefully researched history is both broad in its scope—beginning with the late 1890s and ending with the 1933 unionization drive—as well as detailed, providing in-depth descriptions of events that other histories have only summarized. Green’s book inspired the PBS American Experience documentary The Mine Wars, which aired on January 26, 2016.

Primary Sources

The Mine Wars, as one would expect, generated thousands of pages of trial transcripts, government investigations, and congressional hearing. Journalists from major newspapers as well as from Socialist and labor periodicals wrote numerous articles at the time. Two of the best known accounts were New York journalist Winthrop Lane’s Civil War in West Virginia and James Cain’s articles in the Atlantic Monthly. There are autobiographies by participants like Mother Jones and Fred Mooney. And there have been oral history projects, most notably the 1989–1990 Matewan Oral History Project at the archives of Appalachian State University. The West Virginia and Regional History Collection in Morgantown hold the paper collections of office holders like Governor Ephraim Morgan and coal operators like Justus Collins. Paper collections of national labor leaders like John Mitchell and John L. Lewis contain correspondence from organizers and UMWA officials. Finally, two projects have focused on the archaeological record of the Mine Wars, but much work remains to be done.

Further Reading

  • Bailey, Rebecca J. Matewan Before the Massacre: Politics, Coal, and the Roots of Conflict in a West Virginia Mining Community. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2008.
  • Barkey, Fred. Working-Class Radicals: The Socialist Party in West Virginia, 1898–1920. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2012.
  • Blizzard, William C. When Miners March. Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2010.
  • Corbin, David Alan, Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields: The Southern West Virginia Miners, 1880–1922. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981.
  • Corbin, David Alan, ed. Gun Thugs, Rednecks, and Radicals: A Documentary History of the West Virginia Mine Wars. Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2011.
  • Gorn, Elliot. Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America. New York: Hill & Wang, 2001.
  • Green, James R. The Devil Is Here in These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015.
  • Lee, Howard B. Bloodletting in Appalachia: The Story of West Virginia’s Four Major Mine Wars and Other Thrilling Incidents of Its Coal Fields. Parsons, WV: McClain Printing, 1969.
  • Lunt, Richard. Law and Order vs. the Miners, 1907–1933. Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1979.
  • Savage, Lon. Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War, 1920–21. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990.
  • Shogun, Robert. The Battle of Blair Mountain: The Story of America’s Largest Labor Uprising. New York: Basic Books, 2004.
  • Sullivan, Ken, ed. The Goldenseal Book of the West Virginia Mine Wars. Charleston, WV: Goldenseal Magazine, 1991.


  • 1. The phrase was the title of a book by Graham Adams Jr., Age of Industrial Violence, 1910–15: The Activities and Findings of the United States Commission on Industrial Relations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1966). Chuck Keeney explores the memory of the mine wars in his essay “The Mind Guard System: Mine Wars and the Politics of Memory in West Virginia,” West Virginia History: A Journal of Regional Studies 12 (Spring and Fall 2018): 47–70.

  • 2. Ronald L. Lewis, “Coal Industry,” West Virginia Encyclopedia, October 13, 2016. Also, see Jerry Bruce Thomas, “Coal Country: The Rise of the Southern Smokeless Coal Industry and Its Effect on Area Development, 1872–1910” (PhD diss., University of North Carolina, 1971); and Charles Kenneth Sullivan, “Coal Men and Coal Towns: Development of the Smokeless Coalfields of Southern West Virginia, 1873–1923” (PhD diss., University of Pittsburgh, 1979).

  • 3. Steven Stoll, Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia (New York: Hill & Wang, 2017), 160–169; Wilma Dunaway, The First American Frontier: Transition to Capitalism in Southern Appalachia, 1700–1860 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), chap. 3. For percentages of out-of-state owners, see Dunaway, First American Frontier, 57.

  • 4. Darlene Wilson, “A Judicious Combination of Incident and Psychology: John Fox, Jr. and the Southern Mountaineer Motif,” in Dwight Billings, Katherine Ledford, and Gurney Norman, eds., Back Talk from Appalachia: Confronting Stereotypes (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000), 98–118; Henry D. Shapiro, Appalachia on Our Mind: The Southern Mountains and Mountaineers in the American Consciousness, 1870–1920, 2nd ed. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986).

  • 5. Priscilla Long, Where the Sun Never Shines: A History of America’s Bloody Coal Industry (New York: Paragon House, 1991), 4.

  • 6. Long, Where the Sun Never Shines, 24–42; Paul H. Rakes, “Coal Mine Mechanization,” The West Virginia Encyclopedia, June 19, 2012; and “Mining Methods in the Hand-Loading Era,” The West Virginia Encyclopedia, October 20, 2010.

  • 7. Paul Rakes, “A Combat Scenario: Early Coal Mining and the Culture of Danger,” in Culture, Class, and Politics in Modern Appalachia, eds. Jennifer Egolf, Ken Fones-Wolf, and Louis Martin (Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2009), 56–87.

  • 8. Michael K. Rosenow, Death and Dying in the Working Class, 1865–1920 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015), 172, n. 93; U.S. Industrial Commission, Reports of the Industrial Commission, Vol. 12, Report of the Industrial Commission on the Relations and Conditions of Capital and Labor in the Mining Industry (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1901), 90.

  • 9. David Alan Corbin, Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields: The Southern West Virginia Miners, 1880–1922 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 8; Kenneth R. Bailey, “A Judicious Mixture: Negroes and Immigrants in the West Virginia Mines, 1880–1917,” West Virginia History 34 (1973): 141–161; Bailey, “Strange Tongues: West Virginia and Immigration to 1920,” in Transnational West Virginia: Ethnic Communities and Economic Change, 1840–1940, eds. Ken Fones-Wolf and Ronald L. Lewis (Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2002), 246. Note that there were an additional 7,545 miners of unknown origin: Bailey, Transnational West Virginia, 246.

  • 10. David Brody, In Labor’s Cause: Main Themes on the History of the American Worker (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1993), 140–142. Other sources on the origins of the UMWA and the 1897 strike include Long, Where the Sun Never Shines, 154–156; James R. Green, The Devil Is Here in These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015), 40; and J. E. George, “The Coal Miners’ Strike of 1897,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 12 (1898): 186–208; and Corbin, Life, 43–45.

  • 11. Rosemary Feurer, “Mother Jones: A Global History of Struggle and Remembrance, from Cork, Ireland to Illinois,” Illinois Heritage (May 2013): 28–33. For Jones’s organizing in West Virginia, see Elliot Gorn, Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America (New York: Hill & Wang, 2001), chaps. 4, 7, and 9.

  • 12. Edward M. Steel, “Mother Jones in the Fairmont Field, 1902,” Journal of American History 57 (September 1970): 290–291.

  • 13. Green, The Devil Is Here, 46–53.

  • 14. Lois C. McLean, “Battle of Stanaford,” The West Virginia Encyclopedia, October 29, 2010.

  • 15. Mother Jones, The Autobiography of Mother Jones, edited by Mary Field Patron (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 1925), 69–70, quoted in Green, The Devil Is Here, 53.

  • 16. Corbin, Life, chap. 2.

  • 17. For testimony on these abuses, see U.S. Senate, Conditions in the Paint Creek District, West Virginia (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1913).

  • 18. Green, The Devil Is Here, 83–85.

  • 19. Green, The Devil Is Here, 87–89, 94–95. According to Green, this is what newspapers reported, but they could not provide an accurate list of the casualties from the battle.

  • 20. Testimony of Lee Calvin, Conditions in the Paint Creek District, West Virginia, Committee on Education and Labor, U.S. Senate (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1913), 665–680; Green, The Devil Is Here, 132–137.

  • 21. Washington Times, June 8, 1913; and St. Louis Dispatch, March 20, 1913.

  • 22. Ralph H. Chaplin, “Violence in West Virginia,” International Socialist Review 13 (April 1913): 729–735, quote on 729.

  • 23. Green, The Devil Is Here, 152.

  • 24. Green, The Devil Is Here, 141–151.

  • 25. Green, The Devil Is Here, 151, 157–164.

  • 26. Corbin, Life, 177.

  • 27. John Hennen, The Americanization of West Virginia: Creating a Modern Industrial State, 1916–1925 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996), chap. 3.

  • 28. Green, The Devil Is Here, 182.

  • 29. Corbin, Life, 183.

  • 30. Corbin, Life, 199.

  • 31. Corbin, Life, 199–200; Green, The Devil Is Here, 188–189.

  • 32. Green, The Devil Is Here, 194–196, 202–206.

  • 33. Green, The Devil Is Here, 183–185; Corbin, Life, 115.

  • 34. Green, The Devil Is Here, 208–209.

  • 35. Rebecca J. Bailey, Matewan Before the Massacre: Politics, Coal, and the Roots of Conflict in a West Virginia Mining Community (Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2008), 1–7.

  • 36. Green, The Devil Is Here, 214.

  • 37. Green, The Devil Is Here, 215–221.

  • 38. Green, The Devil Is Here, 227–231; Lon Savage, “Battle of the Tug,” The West Virginia Encyclopedia, November 5, 2010; Corbin, Life, 205–206.

  • 39. Green, The Devil Is Here, 236–238; Corbin, Life, 208.

  • 40. Green, The Devil Is Here, 240–243, quote on 243.

  • 41. Green, The Devil Is Here, 243–248, 254.

  • 42. Green, The Devil Is Here, 253–256.

  • 43. Brandon Nida, “Patterns of Liberation: Archaeological and Spatial Analysis at the Blair Mountain Battlefield, 1921” (PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2014), chap. 4; Boyden Sparkes, “Jack Dalton vs. Bill Blizzard,” in Gun Thugs, Rednecks, and Radicals: A Documentary History of the West Virginia Mine Wars, ed. David A. Corbin (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2011), 169.

  • 44. Green, The Devil Is Here, 258–260, quote on 259.

  • 45. Shae Davidson, “Mother Blizzard,” The West Virginia Encyclopedia, September 26, 2012; and William C. Blizzard, When Miners March, ed. Wess Harris (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2010).

  • 46. Green, The Devil Is Here, 261–262.

  • 47. Corbin, Life, 218–221.

  • 48. Nida, “Patterns of Liberation,” particularly chaps 6 and 7; Joe W. Savage, “Stopping the Armed March: The Nonunion Resistance,” in The Goldenseal Book of the West Virginia Mine Wars, ed. Ken Sullivan (Charleston, WV: Goldenseal Magazine, 1991), 73–79.

  • 49. Green, The Devil Is Here, 266.

  • 50. Green, The Devil Is Here, 266–271.

  • 51. Lon Savage, Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War, 1920–21 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990), 123, quoted in Green, The Devil Is Here, 272.

  • 52. Green, The Devil Is Here, 272–273.

  • 53. Green, The Devil Is Here, 273–275; and Nida, “Patterns of Liberation,”

  • 54. Michael M. Meador, “The Siege of Crooked Creek Gap,” in The Goldenseal Book of the West Virginia Mine Wars, ed. Ken Sullivan (Charleston: Goldenseal Magazine, 1991), 68.

  • 55. Nida, “Patterns of Liberation.”

  • 56. Green, The Devil Is Here, 276–278.

  • 57. Green, The Devil Is Here, 266, 278. On the bombing, see Meador, “The Siege,” 69–70, and 72 for an image of one of the bombs.

  • 58. Green, The Devil Is Here, 280–282.

  • 59. Green, The Devil Is Here, 294–298.

  • 60. Lon Savage, “Walter Allen,” The West Virginia Encyclopedia, August 17, 2017; and Shae Davidson, “Blizzard Treason Trial,” The West Virginia Encyclopedia, June 24, 2015.

  • 61. Green, The Devil Is Here, 300–302.

  • 62. Green, The Devil Is Here, 302–303.

  • 63. Green, The Devil Is Here, 303.

  • 64. J. W. George Wallace, “Cliftonville Mine Battle,” The West Virginia Encyclopedia, June 20, 2012.

  • 65. Green, The Devil Is Here, 303.

  • 66. Justin McCarthy, Brief History of the United Mine Workers (Washington, DC: United Mine Workers Journal, 1950), 11.

  • 67. Jerry Bruce Thomas, An Appalachian New Deal: West Virginia in the Great Depression (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1998), 44–46.