Federal Troops to Quell the Strike

This article from the July 19, 1877 edition of the Baltimore American details the events that led to the Federal government sending troops to disperse the rioters.

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The efforts of the State militia to preserve the peace and quell the riotous demonstrations at Martinsburg were ineffectual, and after consultation with the officers of the road and the State authorities, Governor Matthews sent a dispatch to President Hayes, asking for the assistance of the Federal troops. The President requested a full statement of the strength of the force at the Governor's command, and upon receiving this it was decided to grant his appeal. A proclamation was at once issued commanding the rioters to disperse, and early yesterday evening five companies of artillery serving as infantry, two of them stationed at Fort Mc. Henry and three at the Arsenal, Washington, were dispatched to Martinsburg, Gen. French commanding. At the latter place yesterday the demonstrations were of a very hostile character. No attempt was made to move freight trains, as it would only have resulted in bloodshed. The strikers seemed fully determined on opposing this action if it had been attempted, and threw up earthen barricades along the line of road, so as to insure themselves a good position in case of a conflict. Governor Matthews was stoned at Grafton, but fortunately escaped injury, and the temper of the men gave proof that they were fully determined on the course they had undertaken.

At a meeting of the strikers held at Martinsburg last night it was resolved not to work in future for less than two dollars per day. It is to be hoped now that when they are beginning to discuss terms for the future that wiser counsels will soon prevail, and that an amicable arrangement will be effected without the aid of the military. It is difficult amongst the many dispatches received to rightly gain a correct view of the present condition of things, but from all the accounts furnished the Company seem to have no inten[tio]n of withdrawing from their present positio[n a]nd it is hard to predict what the end may [be.] At different points along the road there has been some excitement, but comparative quiet seems to exist at Keyser, Parkersburg and Wheeling, and there is at present no sign of the strike extending beyond the Ohio river.

In the city yesterday everything was peaceful. Those alarmists who believed that the military would be called out were disappointed. Passenger trains arrived and departed as usual, and the situation, if it was discussed, was done so in secret. The strike is, however, already beginning to tell on shipments. The foreign trade especially will suffer, both in coal and oil, unless the embargo is soon removed, and the business interests of the city will be temporarily affected. It may be mentioned that the strikers at Martinsburg have received auxiliaries in the persons of the unemployed boatmen on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, who joined them yesterday.

Late last night Governor Matthews telegraphed to the President asking for one hundred additional men and two pieces of artillery, and a reply is expected to be given early this morning.

About this Document

  • Source: Baltimore American
  • Date: July 19, 1877