The largest armed uprising in American history since the Civil War, the Battle of Blair Mountain was the culminating event of the West Virginia Mine Wars, a series of conflicts between miners and coal operators spanning nearly a decade. In August 1921, an estimated 10,000 armed coal miners marched south from the state capitol at Charleston, West Virginia, towards the anti-union counties of Logan, Mingo, and McDowell.
The miners' intention was to end the notorious Mine Guard System, which enabled the coal companies, backed by a private force of armed guards, to rule the coalfields as a police state in which the right to free speech, assembly, and other basic rights were forfeited as a condition of employment.
The battle was an overwhelming victory for coal industry owners and management. Union membership plummeted from more than 50,000 miners to approximately 10,000 over the next several years, and it was not until 1935 – following the Great Depression and the beginning of the New Deal under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt – that the United Mine Workers (UMW) fully organized in southern West Virginia.
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