The Battle of Blair Mountain covers a profoundly significant but long-neglected slice of American history - the largest armed uprising on American soil since the Civil War. In 1921, some 10,000 West Virginia coal miners, outraged over years of brutality and lawless exploitation, picked up their Winchesters and marched against their tormentors, the powerful mine owners who ruled their corrupt state. For ten days the miners fought a pitched battle against an opposing legion of deputies, state police, and makeshift militia. Only the intervention of a federal expeditionary force, spearheaded by a bomber squadron commanded by General Billy Mitchell, ended this undeclared civil war and forced the miners to throw down their arms. The significance of this episode reaches beyond the annals of labor history. Indeed, it is a saga of the conflicting political, economic and cultural forces that shaped the power structure of 20th century America.
Robert Shogan has spent more than thirty years covering the political scene in Washington as national political correspondent for Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times. He is currently Adjunct Professor of Government at the Center for Study of American Government of Johns Hopkins University. He lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.