Monday, November 1, 2010
The Battle of Blair Mountain
When Alex Patico and I were driving from the Patico home in Maryland to Murfreesboro, Tennessee a few weeks ago, we stopped midway in Charleston to visit a friend and spend the night at a bed & breakfast. There we happened to meet a West Virginian who mentioned a significant event in the state’s history, the Battle of Blair Mountain. She referred to it as if you would have to be a piece of driftwood not to know about it. For me, it rang only the faintest of bells. I’ve since had an e-mail from our chance acquaintance with a link to a Wikipedia text about this important confrontation between the owners with their private army and the men who mined the coal. To be a union organizer, or even a union sympathizer, was to invite your own murder. The miners were treated pretty much as slaves, if not worse. During the Battle of Blair Mountain, the US military intervened, dropping bombs.
Elements of this story made their way into the film “Matewan.”