The Situation at Homestead

"THE situation at Homestead has not improved," wrote Sheriff McCleary to Governor Pattison, of Pennsylvania; and then he went on to say that while all was quiet, the strikers were in control and had openly expressed to him their determination not to allow the Carnegie works to be operated by any but themselves.

The poor sheriff had had a hard time of it. The governor blamed him for allowing the Pinkertons to go to Homestead to do his work. When he did try to raise a posse he could only get a dozen citizens or so who had the pluck--or it may have been sympathy with the strikers had something to do with it--to answer the call. Be this as it may, Sheriff McCleary threw himself upon the good nature of the governor, telling him that only a large military force would enable him to control matters, and the governor gave orders to Gen. George R. Snowden to place his entire division under arms and to take 8,500 men to maintain the Peace at Homestead.

This was no sooner said than done. By the morning of the 12th the troops were in the town. So suddenly did they make their appearance, that before the strikers could realize that they were actually there, the town was completely invested by the National Guard. For a week the strikers had defied the law; mob rule had reigned supreme. There had been peace since the battle with the Pinkertons, but it had been an armed and lawless peace. Now all was changed. Gen. Snowden showed that he had gone to Homestead with the full intention of maintaining peace, and that he and his soldiers were not to be trifled with.

Gen. Snowden appears to have carried out his plan of campaign with great military skill. In the first orders, issued immediately after the governor had ordered out the troops, Brinton, on the Monongahela River, and about a mile-and-a-half from Homestead, was announced as the rendezvous. It was his intention that the Second and Third Brigades of the National Guard should gather there on July 11, go into camp for the night, and march into Homestead at daybreak the following morning. But the correspondents got wind of his plan, and the details appeared in all the papers. There was a great chance now of the rioters and their sympathizers collecting in great force at Brinton, and a possibility of their making an attack upon the soldiers before they reached Homestead. To prevent this, Gen. Snowden altered his plans and notified his colonels that he had selected Blairsville, a station on the Pennsylvania Railroad, about fifty-two miles east of Pittsburgh for the rendezvous. The general intended this second order should leak out, which it did, and duly appeared in the papers, but what his true intentions were he kept to himself, not even taking his colonels into his confidence. When the soldiers reached Brinton there were not less than ten thousand persons on the platform to meet them. But at Brinton the conductor found orders to proceed to Wall, and at Wall to go on somewhere, and so until the special reached Radebaugh, where there is a signal station.

The next morning the troops were in Homestead.

The rioters had got up a very pretty scheme, which they hoped would gain them the sympathy of the public, and probably it would have had they succeeded in carrying out their project. They sent a delegation from the Amalgamated Association to Gen. Snowden at his headquarters. They decided to inform him that they had come to offer him their assistance, but the general put on his most freezing manner when he told them he had no need of their services, he meant to preserve order himself. "I am here, " he said, " by order of the governor to cooperate with the sheriff in the maintenance of order and the protection of the Carnegie Steel Company in the possession of its property."

This was a terrible snubbing for the delegation, for it had been intended to treat the entry of the troops as a fete, and to let them march in to the strains of a brass band. As Hugh O'Donnell, the labor leader, who was one of the delegation, said: "I never met with such a chilling reception in my life. Gen. Snowden didn't seem to have the slightest regard for what he said or thought."

Meanwhile Congress had appointed a committee to go to Pittsburgh and investigate the troubles and outbreak at Homestead. During the investigation Mr. H.C. Frick, chairman of the Carnegie Company, produced the letter he had written to Robert Pinkerton on June 25, with regard to the hiring of 300 of his men to guard the Homestead mills.

"The only trouble we anticipate,'' he wrote, "is that an attempt will be made to prevent such of our men, with whom we will by that time have made satisfactory arrangements, from going to work, and possibly some demonstration of violence upon the part of those whose places have been filled, or most likely by an element which usually is attracted to such scenes for the purpose of stirring up trouble. We are not desirous that the men you send shall be armed unless the occasion properly calls for such a measure later on, for the protection of our employee or property. We will wish those guards to be placed upon our property, and there to remain, unless called into other service by the civil authority to meet an emergency that is likely to arise."

Hugh O'Donnell, the young leader of the strikers, made a brief statement, giving an account of how the fight was brought about. According to him, about two o'clock in the morning an alarm reached the headquarters of the strikers that the Pinkertons were descending upon Homestead. He went down to the bank of the River Monongahela. A big crowd of Hungarians, Slavs, women, and boys were on the banks, and were firing pistols in the air. He advised the men not to fire and followed them as they moved up to the point toward which the boat was heading. While he was addressing the crowd, urging them not to use violence, a volley was fired from the barges and a bullet struck his thumb. The firing lasted about five minutes. As to the way in which the surrender of the Pinkertons was effected, O'Donnell told the following story:

"I tied a handkerchief on the end of a rifle barrel and waved it over the pile of beams behind which we lay. The men had promised me that in case the Pinkertons surrendered they should not be shown any violence. When I waved my handkerchief one of the guards came out on the barges and waved his hands. As soon as he appeared one of our men jumped from behind his barricade and exposed himself to the fire of the Pinkertons. I walked down the bank, and said to the man who had come out on the barge, that I thought the thing had gone far enough, and he said he thought it had gone altogether too far. He then accepted my proposition that his men should make an unconditional surrender, and should give up their rifles. While the rifles were being unloaded, the crowd began to assemble on the barges, and I must confess that during the march from the barges to the rink the Pinkerton men were shamefully abused by the crowd, but we took care of them that night and saw that they got out of town safely."

Frick, the president of the company, is a determined man, and when he stated that he would not give in to the strikers, everyone who knew anything of him believed he would keep his word. But the strikers, too, were equally determined, and there was an inclination among them to rule Homestead by mob law. Anyone who was suspected of having any connection with Carnegie's people was taken to the Rights of headquarters of the strikers, there to be examined as to his mission, and personal rights were very little regarded. Gen. Snowden threatened to arrest any one who dared to interfere with the rights of citizens; but the strikers, who became more and more sullen each day the troops were in their midst, had awed the people, and nobody cared to act as complainant in such a case.


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