The Strike in West Virginia

This article from the July 20, 1877 edition of the London Times provides a description of the strike-related events in West Virginia.


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The Governor of West Virginia having informed the President in detail of the serious character of the Martinsburg strike, the President has granted the Governor's request for troops, and all available Federal soldiers at Washington and Baltimore, to the number of 400, under General French, last night started West in a train furnished by the Baltimore and Ohio Railway Company for Martinsburg. The President has also issued the usual proclamation ordering the insurgents to disperse.

The strikers last night had complete control of the railway throughout West Virginia, being supported by the sympathy of many of the Militia and citizens. One company of troops from Wheeling is at Martinsburg, but the Governor has ordered no steps to be taken, believing them unable to cope with the strikers. The latter were reinforced by a body of canal boatmen, and are now 800 strong. At Martinsburg yesterday they constructed earthworks thoroughly commanding the railway, liberated all their comrades arrested by the police, and took 40 muskets from the Militia.

The line is blockaded for two miles east and west of Martinsburg by goods trains, and although passenger traffic is unmolested, the stoppage of goods seriously delays it. A train with Federal troops proceeded slowly westward during the night, carefully washing for obstructions.


The Federal troops arrived at Martinsburg at 7 this morning, and encamped in the railway buildings. There is no change in the situation.

During the morning authorities were distributing the President's proclamation along the railway. The strikers have a thorough organization, their leader being a brakeman named Zebb. They have picketed the line for miles. They have also thrown up a strong intrenchment west of the town, and control three-fourths of the Baltimore and Ohio main line. General French telegraphed to the War Department that he intended to give the insurgents till noon to obey the proclamation, and that afterwards if they did not disperse to troops would enforce the President's orders by arresting parties designated by the local authorities. Everything seemed quiet, and he did not think anything more than a demonstration would be required, but that action would be taken after consultation with and full concurrence of Colonel Delaplaince, attached to the Governor of West Virginia, appointed to act with General French. He sent subsequent telegrams indicating no change, his latest, 1 40 in the afternoon, saying that everything was still quiet. Martinsburg telegrams state that the Sheriff read a request from the Governor to the insurgents to disperse, but that was unheeded; that no trains had been moved; that plenty of men were ready to work, but afraid; that considerable reinforcements were still arriving to aid the strikers from the surrounding country; including 200 horsemen; that serious trouble was apprehend, and that the Western passenger traffic of the line had been diverted to the Pennsylvania Railroad to insure its continuance. President Garret, of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, telegraphs to President Hayes that it is impossible for the company to move their goods trains because of the strike, and that unless the difficulty is immediately removed, he apprehends the gravest consequences on all railways, which, like his own, have been obliged to introduce economical measures in these trying times.

The Baltimore and Ohio Company have announced that trained men will be engaged in Baltimore to replace the strikers, and applicants are numerous.

About this Document

  • Source: London Times
  • Date: July 19, 1877