I would wager not many.
I didn't know about it, either, until my uncle gave me a book about it (which I just started reading). It seems all but completely left out of
history books, even though it made national headlines at the time. It involved several thousand men on both sides, machine guns, even planes dropping
bombs (even though they were extremely ineffective at that time).
There's probably info on it on the internet, and I could post more of what I've read from this book, but what surprises me (but not really) is how
there is a total historical blackout on this event. Maybe someones trying to keep certain thoughts from crossing our minds?
The actual stand-off started when the mining companies in West Virginia started abusing thousands of miners. The companies basically owned whole
towns, including the houses the miners stayed in, the hospitals, the stores, and they even employed their own police force (albeit illegally in many
cases). When the miners tried to organize unions, anyone that would join a union or was known to sympathize with them was fired immediately, kicked
out of their houses, etc. Didn't matter whether your wife was pregnant, your child was sick, they would dump you out into the woods anyway. People
were beaten, nasty things of that nature, and there wasn't much the miners could do about it.
So a mayor by the name of Testerman appointed a local miner by the name of Sid Hatfield, who was well-liked by all the miners, to be chief of police
for the town of Matewan in Mingo County. To make a long story short, the next time the company "detectives" arrived in town to evict miners,
gunfire broke out and several of the company detectives were killed, and 2 miners. The book I have actually details this to a good degree, reads like
a good novel, but real.
So after this, detectives from the mining company shoot Sid Hatfield down even as he was unarmed. The man that shot him was arrested but released on
bond, while at the same time many miners were being held in jail without having been formally charged with any crime (a martial law-type action that
had been taken against the increasingly disgruntled miners). So with that, at least 7,000 miners amassed in Charleston and couldn't be handled by
the 100 state police employed at that time, so it became an emergency for the state of West Virginia. The miners were all very well armed and just
shot any police that were belligerent, but not many were. The miners, collectively enraged at their trampled rights, camped there and talked of
marching to Mingo and laying waste to the mining company. And that's about as much as I know so far, besides that more fighting happens at some
Anyway I find this all very interesting and am surprised that I hadn't heard of it before. Has anyone else ever heard of any of this?
[edit on 5-12-2008 by bsbray11]