“BLAIR, W.Va. — On the shoulder of a lonely stretch of highway miles into the hills, a sign stands in the weeds. “Battle of Blair Mt.,” it says, informing the tumbledown cinder block building across the road that here, 100 years ago, was the largest armed labor uprising in U.S. history.
In late August 1921, thousands of rifle-bearing coal miners marched to this thickly wooded ridge in southern West Virginia, a campaign that was ignited by the daylight assassinations of union sympathizers but had been building for years in the oppressive despair of the coal fields. The miners’ army was met at Blair Mountain by thousands of men who volunteered to fight with the Logan County sheriff, who was in the pay of the coal companies. Over 12 miles and five days, the sheriff’s men fought the miners, strafing the hillsides with machine-gun fire and dropping homemade bombs from planes. There were at least 16 confirmed deaths in the battle, though no one knows exactly how many were killed before the US Army marched in to put a stop to the fighting.”