A General Strike

This article from the July 20, 1877 edition of the Baltimore American gives an account of the strike and notes the military's effectiveness at calming the mob, but the reluctance of railroad workers to return to work.

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A detachment of United States troops, numbering some three hundred men, arrived at Martinsburg yesterday morning, and disembarked from the cars in a drenching rain. They went into quarters, and were not called upon to suppress any riotous demonstrations during the day. Their presence in the town had a wholesome effect on the strikers, and if men could have been found to run the engines all the trains that now blockade the track might have been moved away without any hindrance from the mob. But the Company's employes are so completely intimidated by the strikers that they are afraid to return to work, even when the soldiers are standing by to protect them. Only two freight trains were started from Martinsburg yesterday. The eastward-bound train arrived at Baltimore about midnight without meeting with the slightest interruption or accident. The westward-bound train, when last heard from, was approaching Keyser, W. Va. It had some trouble with the strikers at Cumberland. The officers of the Baltimore and Ohio Company who are trying to break the blockade at Martinsburg exhibited both pluck and energy in their efforts to get the trains in motion.

For some reason or other the effort made to arrest the ringleaders of the strike at Martinsburg was anything but vigorous. An officer of the Company made information against ten of them, and warrants were put in the hands of the Sheriff for their arrest. That officer, accompanied by a squad of the Wheeling militia, started out to look for the persons named in the warrants; but the man who had connected to point them out lost his nerve and ran away. The Sheriff and his posse then marched off without executing the warrants. Thus far, only one man has been arrested. At the latest advices everything was quiet at Martinsburg.

The strike has extended to the Central Ohio and Chicago divisions of the Baltimore and Ohio Road, but the dispatches conveying this information gave no particulars of the movement. As far as heard from there have been no riotous demonstrations, but substantially the same tactics that proved so effective in preventing the running of freight trains on the Maryland and West Virginia divisions are being practiced in Ohio. The Governor has been applied to for troops.

A formidable strike has also broken out on the Pennsylvania road. Inasmuch as the alleged grievance of the Pennsylvania trainmen dates back to June 1st, it would seem that there has been some concert of action between the employes of the two companies. The "Trainmen's Union" had a meeting at Pittsburg last night, at which an order of the Company, which has been acquiesced in since June 1st, was put forward as the cause of the strike. It looks very much as if this were a mere pretext. At the present writing the strike is confined to the freight trains that run westward from Pittsburg. The strikers have taken possession of the East Liberty Cattle Yards and are carrying things with a high hand.

About this Document

  • Source: Baltimore American
  • Date: July 20, 1877