Van Cise exhibits to the Commission on Industrial Relations regarding Colorado coal miner's strike
VAN CISE EXHIBIT NO. 1.
[Report of military commission referred to by Capt. Van Cise at the close of his testimony.]
Denver, Colo., May 2, 1914.
To Gen. John Chase, Brigadier General, Commanding the Military District of Colorado:
April 25, 1914, you appointed the undersigned, Edward J. Boughton, major and judge advocate of the military district; W. C. Danks, captain, First Infantry; and Philip S. Van Cise, captain, First Infantry, a board of officers to inquire into the causes of the battle of Ludlow, Monday, April 20, 1914; to ascertain what happened during or as a result of that battle, with special reference to the death of women and children, the killing of Martin, Tikas, Fyler, and others; the burning of the tent colony and the claim that the tents were looted; to fix the responsibility for the battle and its results, and to report fully and impartially our findings and recommendations to the commanding general.
We have examined under oath all officers and prisoners, as many as possible of the soldiers, deputies, mine guards, and townspeople of Ludlow and near-by coal camps. We have made every possible effort to obtain the testimony of such strikers and tent colonists as were not within our reach, but without success. The strike leader, William Diamond, at Trinidad, after promising to produce before us at our request those among his people who claim to have witnessed any of the incidents of the day, omitted to do so.
A personal request made upon Mr. Lawson and Mr. McLennan, strike leaders, in Denver, was answered in their presence by Hawkins, their attorney. In this way they declined to give us any information, upon the ground that our inquiry was not publicly conducted.
As a result of our investigation we submit the following findings, report, and recommendations:
1. We find that the remote cause of this, as of all other battles, lies with the coal operators, who established in an American industrial community a numerous class of ignorant, lawless, and savage south-European peasants. The present underlying cause was the presence near Ludlow, in daily contact one with another, of three discordant elements—strikers, soldiers, and mine guards—all armed and fostering an increasing deadly hatred which sooner or later was bound to find some such expression. The immediate cause of the battle was an attack upon the soldiers by the Greek inhabitants of the tent colony, who misinterpreted a movement of troops on a neighboring hill.
2. These Greeks and the more violent element of the strikers had prepared for such an event by bringing back into the colony the arms secreted to escape the searches of the guardsmen. This was done in the latter part of March. They also secured a large amount of ammunition, and awaited a favorable moment for an engagement in which they hoped to catch the soldiers unprepared, and thus wipe out the defense of Hastings and Berwind Canyon. Their plans miscarried and the battle precipitated suddenly on Monday morning was unexpected by all.
3. A military detail went to the colony to demand of Louis Tikas, the colony leader, the release of a man said to be detained by the strikers. The man was not delivered. Hot words passed between the soldiers and strikers. When the detail left, the Greeks, over the protest of their leader, ran for their guns and threatened to fight.
Maj. Hamrock brought the detachment from Cedar Hill down to Water Tank Hill, in plain view of the colony, preparatory to searching the colony for its alleged prisoner. Some excitable women, seeing these troops on the hill and nervous over the actions of the Greeks, rushed into the colony, screaming that the soldiers were about to attack,
Thereupon the Greeks filed out of the colony to a railroad cut, and soon afterwards fired the first shots of the battle against the soldiers,
This is obvious from the fact that no bodies were found between the colony and the cut. As the Greeks were in open country, the machine gun, if fired, would have mowed them down.
4. The Greeks, always warlike and obstreperous, had no women or children in the colony. They at least had not provided themselves with arms and ammunition for the defense of their homes and families. They had their guns in hand with the intention of starting trouble when the soldiers appeared on the hill.
5. The women and children of other nationalities rushed to the protection of an arroyo in the rear of the colony. Some took shelter in pits prepared for such use under the tents. The presence of these pits and the women and children in them was unknown to the soldiers. Many men in the colony seized their guns and took up a position in this arroyo and on the railroad bridge that crossed it.
6. Pvt. Albert Martin, while dying or after death, was horribly mutilated by the strikers. We find this practice to be customary with these people in battle.
7. The fire in the tent colony was accidental; that is to say, it was due either to an overturned stove, an explosion of some sort, or the concentrated fire directed at one time against some of the tents.
The fire began in the corner nearest the crossroads. Afterwards it was deliberately spread by the combatants. During the fire the soldiers, upon learning that women and children were still in the colony, went through the tents, calling upon all persons in the colony to come forth, and with difficulty rescuing men, women, and children to the number of some 25 or 30, including one William Snyder and his family. Then the tents were fired.
8. The troops engaged in the beginning were the regularly enlisted and uniformed members of Company B, Second Infantry, armed with Springfield United States Army rifles, shooting on the cupro-nickel bullet as manufactured for the Army. They had one machine gun. Later in the day they were reinforced by a second machine gun. There were also the ununiformed members of Troop A, mine guards and deputy sheriffs; all of them were using a miscellaneous assortment of arms and ammunition.
9. During the evening Louis Tikas, James Fyler, and an unknown striker were taken prisoners. Lieut. K. E. Linderfelt swung his Springfield rifle, breaking the stock over the head of the prisoner Tikas.
A group of between 50 and 75, composed of soldiers, the uniformed men of Troop A, mine guards, and deputy sheriffs, were present with these prisoners. An attempt to hang Tikas went so far that a rope was procured and thrown over a telegraph pole. This lynching was prevented by Lieut. Linderfelt, who turned Tikas over to a noncommissioned officer, whom he directed to be responsible for his life, and then departed.
Shortly afterwards all three prisoners were killed by gunshot wounds. The crowd and prisoners were about 50 yards from the corner of the tent colony, and these men were shot while running toward the tent. The evidence is conflicting whether they were made to run or tried to escape. Tikas, after running a few feet, fell, shot three times in the back. The only bullet found in his body was of a kind not used by the soldiers, although the two other wounds might have been made by the Springfield bullets of the uniformed men. Fyler fell after running some distance beyond, having reached the colony. The evidence is also conflicting whether at the time these men were killed shots were being interchanged between the soldiers and their allies with the tent colony, but Fyler was shot in the front while running toward the tents.
10. Eleven children and two women were smothered to death in a small pit under one of the tents. None of them was hit by a bullet. This pit was not large enough to support the life of such a number for many hours. The construction of the pit made it a veritable death trap, and its inmates probably died from suffocation before the tents were burned. When found there were no signs that the women and children had crowded into the entrance of the pit, as would have been the case had they attempted to rush out when the tent above caught fire.
11. We find that the colony was looted by participants and spectators in the battle. About 15,000 rounds of ammunition were taken from the tent marked "Headquarters of John Lawson."
12. All women and children have been accounted for. Every possible pit or cellar has been examined, and no bodies remained in the colony.
13. Only one person was killed or wounded in the colony itself by gunshot. Frank Snyder, a 12-year-old boy, was shot in the head. His father stated that evening that this boy had gone outside the tent and was shot in the forehead while facing the arroyo from which the strikers' fire came.
14. The colony was not swept with the machine guns. This is proved by the fact that the chicken houses, outhouses, tent frames, and posts still standing in the colony exhibit no bullet holes. While the buildings and fences along the railroad track are riddled with bullet holes made by machine guns trained on the steel bridge and pump house.
15. The soldiers were lawfully and dutifully bearing arms. It was lawful for them to possess the machine gun and to bring it up the hill. The strikers, on the other hand, were acting unlawfully in securing and using their arms and ammunition. No attack upon the colony had ever been made or intended by the soldiers, and the explanation that arms and ammunition were kept in the colony for defense is untenable.
16. We find that in apparent anticipation of a preparation for the battle at Ludlow, rifle pits were prepared by the strikers on the south side of their colony along the county road and close to the tents and along the west side of the colony.
These rifle pits show conclusively the careful and deliberate preparation of the strikers for battle, and their location along the front and side of the colony nearest to the military camp was such that when used they could not be defended against without firing into the colony. Such care had the strikers themselves for their women and children that these pits were located where any return of the fire from them would be drawn directly into the colony itself.
We make the following recommendations:
A. Feeling that this board of officers was not constituted to determine possible guilt or innocence, we recommend that a general court-martial be appointed to try all officers and enlisted men participating in the treatment and killing of prisoners and the burning and looting of the tent colony.
B. We recommend that the general and governor urge upon the legislature the establishment of a permanent State constabulary for police duty in disturbed regions of the State, whereby the young men of our volunteer National Guard may be relieved from engaging in riot duty with a people numbering among them ferocious foreigners whose savagery in fight we found exemplified in the killing of Maj. Lester while under red cross protection, and the maiming and mutilation of Privates Martin, Hockersmith, and Chavez.
C. We strongly recommend the general and governor to urge the State and Federal Governments to proceed at once to the apprehension and punishment of all persons engaged as instigators or participants in the treasons, murders, arsons, and other acts of outlawry in this State since the battle of Ludlow.
To a proper understanding of the late deplorable happenings around Ludlow, some preliminary considerations are necessary. It is impossible to estimate those events justly without some general knowledge of the country, the inhabitants of the tent colony and personnel of their neighbors in the military camp and adjacent villages.
A crude conception of general directions in the Ludlow vicinity may be had by imagining a gigantic capital K. The vertical line of such letter would represent the Colorado & Southern Railroad running north and south. At the upper or southern end of this line is what has been called, for want of other name, Water Tank Hill, a low, gently sloping mesa commanding the territory to the south, east, and north. At the lower or northern end of the line is a steel railroad bridge crossing a deep arroyo which runs through the whole country in a general east and west direction.
The arms of the K, except that, to be accurate, the lower one should be horizontal, represent roads which at the extremities of the arms enter the two canyons of Delagua and Berwind. Up these canyons lie the largest and richest coal mines of the State, and about the mines are clustered the workmen's villages of Delagua, Hastings, Berwind, Tabasco, Tollerburg, and others. It will thus be seen that the point at which the two arms converge and meet the shaft of the letter, that is to say, the point where these two roads unite and cross the railroad, called in that locality the crossroads, is a point that commands the approach to both the canyons, as well as the travel north and south along the railroad.
It was at this commanding point, the crossroads, that the Ludlow tent colony was located. In an angle formed by the arms of the letter, about one-third of a mile from the colony, was the military camp. Since early in November the brown tent of the soldiers and the white tents of the colonists stood thus, facing each other across the railroad. For the protection of the two canyons, military substations were established, one at Hastings in the northern canyon, and one at Cedar Hill in the southern.
The Ludlow tent colony, by far the largest of all such colonies, housed a heterogeneous population of striking miners. The colony numbered hundreds of people, of whom only a few families were Americans. The rest for the most part were Greeks, Montenegrins, Bulgars, Servians, Italians, Mexicans, Tyroleans, Croatians, Austrians, Savoyards, and other aliens from the southern countries of Europe. These people had little in common either with the few Americans resident among them or with one another. Each nationality had its own leader, customs, and mode of life.
We are credibly informed that within the colony 22 different tongues were spoken, unintelligible one to another. The percentage of American citizens, even naturalized citizens, was small. It will readily be seen that these people did not possess much means of interchanging information or social ideas. This fact is important as explaining conduct upon their part that otherwise might seem unaccountably strange.
The most forceful portion of the colonist were the Greeks. We do not know that they outnumbered the other nationalities in the colony, but we are positive they dominated it.
The will of the Greeks was the law of the colony. They were the most aggressive element, the fighting men; and they imposed their desires upon the rest. These Greeks segregated themselves in a quarter set apart for them. They were secretive. Such was their position and authority that although many nations had leaders of their own, the Greek leader was the master of the tented city.
By the other colonists the Greeks were regarded as heroes, for many of them, we are told, had seen service in the Balkan wars. The strange thing, and one that we found important, is that there were no Greek women or children in the colony.
Living in the immediate vicinity of the colonist population just described, were three distinct groups of men controlled by distinct feelings toward the strikers. In the first group were the nonunion workmen in the mines of the adjacent canyons. These men were dwelling with their families in the villages about the mines where they were employed. Most of them were recent arrivals, coming in as strike breakers to take the strikers' places in the mines.
STRIKE BREAKERS INDUSTRIOUS.
This class is not to be confused, as it has been, with the mine guards. The nonunion workmen were, as a class, men of industry and peace, of practically the same composition as the inhabitants of the tent colony. Their attitude toward the strikers was one of indifference, coupled with a fear of molestation. But they held no animosity; they felt themselves the permanent inhabitants of the villages.
A troop of national guards were enlisted, about the middle of April, among the superintendent and foremen, the clerical force, physicians, storekeepers, mine guards, and other residents of the coal camps. This unit of the National Guard was designated Troop A, but so recently was it recruited that at the time of the Battle of Ludlow, it had not yet selected its officers nor was it supplied with uniforms, arms, or ammunition. (When this company was called to reenforce the uniformed guardsmen at Ludlow, its members appearing in civilian clothes, gave rise, perhaps excusably, to the belief of the strikers that they were armed mine guards—a class much hated by the colonists.)
These mine guards formed another distinct class. They are men whose employment is to guard the properties; they are not permanent residents of the mine communities like the nonunion workmen, but have come with the strike and will depart with it.
The mine guards are usually employed through a detective agency, and the armed guards it furnishes antedates the present trouble and is born of a long series of conflicts in other fields and in other States. During the weeks before the coming of the soldiers last fall, these armed mine guards and the strikers fought many a battle, from all of which it has come to pass that the deadliest hatred exists between the strikers of the tent colonies and the mine guards of the coal camp.
MILITIAMEN HAVE BEEN FRIENDLY.
The third class of men in this vicinity consists of the uniformed and armed National Guardsmen, who have been on duty during the campaign. With an exception to be noted presently, this class has no feeling either of hatred or of fear toward the colonists, whose nearest neighbors they were. Throughout the campaign a friendly relationship was maintained between the two groups of tents. Ball games were played between them and athletics were indulged in in common.
We find the attitude of most of the soldiers toward the colonists to have been throughout the campaign one of friendly indifference. We find, however, from the examination of the colonists themselves that this neutral frendliness of the soldiers was not returned, but that a large portion of the strikers harbored a suppressed hostility toward the militia, the intenser for its being suppressed.
The exception referred to is the company of mounted infantry occupying the substation at Cedar Hill in Berwind Canyon. Designated as Company B, it was commanded for the greater part of the campaign by Lieut. E. K. Linderfelt. This officer is an experienced soldier and an inexperienced sociologist. He is the veteran of five wars; but wholly tactless in his treatment of both mine guards and strikers. From the beginning of the campaign, this militia organization and the strikers in the colony were in frequent petty conflicts with one another. They grew to dislike each other and to worry, harass, and annoy one another. Both sides fed the flame of increasing enmity. They provoked each other on every possible occasion. The strikers spread the wires across the roads in the dark to trap the soldiers' horses and thus to maim both man and beast. The soldiers indulged reprisals.
In this way dislike grew into hatred and provocation into threats. From threats by each against the others' lives, the strikers have come to fear and hate this Company B, and Company B has come to partake of the fear of the workmen and the hatred of the mine guards toward the colonists.
Upon the withdrawal of the troops from the field, it was felt necessary to leave one unit at Ludlow between the largest colony of strikers on one side and the richest mines and most populous camps on the other. Company B was selected for that service because, albeit hated by the strikers, it was feared and respected by them. Lieut. Linderfelt, whose life was in peril from the deadly hatred of this large foreign population, was relieved of the command, and sent away upon recruiting service.
Thus it will be seen that the participants in the dreadful battle of April 20, were distributed around a triangle, the strikers in the colony at the cross-roads, the workmen of Troop A and the mine guards at Hastings, in Delagua Canyon, and Company B at Cedar Hill, in the Berwind Canyon.
It should here be explained that after the coming of the soldiers last October, and until their departure a few days before the Battle of Ludlow, there was practically no mine guards in this vicinity, but upon withdrawing the protection of the National Guard from the mines and communities of the strike zone, the mine guards returned to the employment of the mine owners.
We believe that such as incident as the Battle of Ludlow was inevitable under the conditions that we found. Our belief is based upon an analysis of the forces of human passion we discovered to have been at work. These forces we find to have been as follows:
The tent colony population is almost wholly foreign and without conception of our government. A large percentage are unassimilable aliens, to whom liberty means license, and among whom has lately been spread by those to whom they must look for guidance, a dangerous doctrine of property.
Rabid agitators had assured these people that when the soldiers left they were at liberty to take for their own, and by force of arms, the coal mines of their former employers. They have been sitting in their tents for weeks awaiting the departure of the soldiers and the day when they could seize what they have been told is theirs. When the troops were withdrawn elsewhere, and this one unit left at Ludlow, many of the strikers believed that the men whom they saw in uniform were no longer members of the National Guard, but hired gunmen or mine guards who retained their uniform for want of other clothing. They saw the hated mine guards return. They were told by their leaders, as they have been always, that the mine guards intended to attack their colony. The greed, fears, and most brutal hatred of the violent elements were thus aroused, and they began to prepare for battle. They laid in a store of arms, two or three at a time; they bought quantities of ammunition; they built military earthworks in concealed places; they dug pits beneath their tents in which they designed to put their women and children as a place of safety. They got all things ready. The Greeks in particular who had deeply resented the searching of the colony and the taking of their arms by the soldiers, swore that their arms should never be taken from them again.
In this movement, as in all others, the Greeks were the leaders. Not all of the colonists by any means were taken in on the general plan. Those who were found timorous or unwilling were told nothing of what was going on. We found that there were many in the colony who now bear a deep resentment against the Greeks, who had no wives or children to protect, for precipitating the battle without giving their fellows opportunity to prepare for it.
While those warlike preparations were going forward, though they were concealed from some in the colony, yet they were shared by others who knew better and who in the last analysis must take their share of the responsibility for the awful results that ensued. We learn that there was found in the tent of John R. Lawsen large stores of ammunition in thousand-round boxes awaiting distribution. By all these means the fighting part of the colony had worked themselves into a frenzy. The colony was electrified; a spark only was needed to set off an explosion. The spark fell unwittingly on Monday, the 20th of April.
As is usual with such inevitable conflicts, the battle was unexpectedly precipitated and by a trifling incident. Two facts in this connection stand out very clearly. One is that the conflict was contemplated, prepared against, deliberately planned and intended by some of the strikers, and was feared and expected by the soldiers and inhabitants of the mining villages. The other fact, equally clear, is that neither side expected it to fail at the time nor in the manner that it did.
That the colonists were, and intended to be, the aggressors there can be no doubt in the world. It was evidently with some difficulty that the Greek portion of the colony had been restrained from giving battle now that the main body of State troops was withdrawn.
We find from examination of the colonists themselves, that talk of such an attack upon the soldiers, to be followed by a seizure of the mines, expulsion of the nonunion workmen, and vengeance upon the mine guards had been rife in the colony for many days. According to the Greek Church, Easter fell on Sunday, the 19th, and we have, it from Greeks and others in the colony that the Greeks, at least, had planned such an attack as part of the festivities of that day.
In the celebration on Sunday, however, the Greeks got pretty drunk, and the matter was postponed until Tuesday. We find that these plans of the Greeks were not known generally throughout the colony, and many there were who were wholly ignorant that the colony gossip of an attack had taken any such definite form. There were two Greeks in the colony who had a brother at work in the near-by Ramey mine near the entrance of Berwind Canyon.
On Sunday, after the plan to deliver the attack on Tuesday had been perfected, these Greeks visited their nonunion brother, told him of the plan, and begged him to leave before Tuesday's work of destruction commenced.
This workman communicated the information thus received to his employers at the mine on Sunday evening, who had intended to warn Maj. Hamrock on Tuesday morning. Before that information was discussed the battle was precipitated on Monday.
It is very certain that the soldiers were not expecting any attack or molestation at the time on the day of the battle. It is true that such an attack was always feared by soldiers and civilians alike. All believed that sooner or later it would come. For weeks before the withdrawal of the troops it had been a settled belief that some day, when the military force should be weakened, the strikers would undertake to wipe out the soldiers and civilian workmen alike. But on the morning of the Ludlow conflict the idea of battle was furthest from the minds of the few remaining troopers.
Had such at attack been planned by the military, the soldiers would have occupied the commanding positions and delivered it at dawn instead of allowing those places to be occupied by the strikers with such force that it took all day to drive the colonists from them. Instead of any such warlike preparations, we find that on Monday morning at the very time the battle began Maj. Hamrock, in command, had with him in the tents facing the colony but three men, one of whom was a cripple.
The entire force of soldiers in the vicinity numbered 34, of whom 12 occupied the tents in view of the colony and 22 were stationed at Cedar Hill, in the mouth of Berwind Canyon. The rest of Maj. Hamrock's dozen were watering their horses or attending to their routine camp duty at some distance from the tents when the fire commenced.
At the station at Cedar Hill there were present the wives of three of the officers, the wives and children of several of the enlisted men, with civilian visitors and their wives, all of whom had spent Sunday with their relatives. One of the women was shortly to give birth to a baby. With all of these women and children at the entrance to the canyon, and with the certainty that the defeat of the soldiers meant the invasion of their camps and the villages beyond, it is folly to believe that at such a moment the battle was deliberately brought about by the troops.
The other unequivocal fact that we find is that the battle was unexpectedly precipitated on Monday and that its coming was not known at all to the soldiers nor to a greater portion of the tent colony. It had been planned by the Greeks for Sunday. It was planned by them for Tuesday, but the spark that kindled the fires of war fell without warning on Monday morning.
Lieut. Linderfelt, who happened to be visiting his brother at Cedar Hill on Sunday, and whose return to Trinidad with his wife was for some reason delayed until Monday morning, received a letter from some foreign woman, claiming that her husband was being detained against his will in the tent colony. This letter was sent to Maj. Hamrock at the tents near the colony.
A few soldiers were detailed to meet every train to see that the passengers getting on or off were not molested by the colonists. By this train detail Maj. Hamrock sent word to the Greek leader, Louis Tikas, who was also chief man of the colony, calling attention to the letter and demanding the release of the writer's husband. Tikas denied that any such man was in the colony.
The men of the train detail answered that they were sure he was, and that if not delivered they would come back in force and get him.
These men of course had no authority for any such statement, but it was in line with the ill feeling that we have described as existing between these particular men and the colonists.
The train detail reported the answer of Tikas to the major, who then called Tikas over the telephone and asked him to come to the military camp, as he had done a hundred times before, to talk it over. The reply was most unusual. For the first time Tikas flatly refused to come to the major's camp.
Thereupon, the major telephoned to the station at Cedar Hill and told the captain in charge that he might have need of him and his men to search the colony for a man "held a prisoner there. The Cedar Hill detachment was ordered to drill on the parade ground at Water Tank Hill.
Referring again to our simile of the capital letter K it will be remembered that the Cedar Hill station is at the extremity of the upper arm of the letter, and Water Tank Hill is at the top of the vertical shaft, the colony and Maj. Hamrock's tents facing each other where the lines join. It should be added that Cedar Hill is invisible from the tents of the colony, being up the canyon a way, but Water Tank Hill is in plain view of the strikers' tents.
A part, not all, of the men from Cedar Hill saddled their horses and proceeded to Water Tank Hill. In the meantime Tikas telephoned to the major that he would meet him at the railroad station, which is about equidistant from the two sets of tents. After this conversation, Maj. Hamrock telephoned again to Cedar Hill and directed the remaining soldiers to join their troops on the parade grounds, and to bring with them the machine gun.
We find that after the train detail left, Tikas was surrounded by his Greeks in the colony and that these Greeks were under the impression that the colony was about to be again searched for arms—a thing which they had vowed they would never again permit. The Greeks were vociferous and insistent upon giving battle to the soldiers at once if they should appear, Tikas did the best he could to dissuade and quiet them. It was then that he, called Maj. Hamrock by telephone. Returning to the group of Greeks, he told them that he must go to the station to see the major, and got them to promise that they would do nothing until his return. Tikas met at the station Maj. Hamrock and the woman who had written the letter and who complained that her husband was being held a prisoner in the colony.
Tikas recognized this woman, and he then stated that he knew her husband, who had been in the colony on Saturday but was no longer there.
During this conversation at the station the first detachment from Cedar Hill arrived on Water Tank Hill, and their officer Lieut. Lawrence, galloped down to the station and reported to Maj. Hamrock. In the meantime the Greeks continued talking together in the colony, awaiting the return of Tikas.
Three women, who had been sent to the store near the station, returned excitedly to the colony, and called the attention of the Greeks to the arrival of the troopers on Water Tank Hill. This was enough to set the smoldering fire aflame. The Greeks, confirmed in their belief and consumed with a suppressed thirst for battle, forgetting their promise to Tikas, seized their rifles and defiled from the colony across the country to the right of the K to a railroad cut on the Colorado & Southeastern tracks, affording excellent cover for delivering a rifle fire onto Water Tank Hill. These Greeks, as nearly as we could discover, were estimated variously in number from 35 to 50 men. Their march across the country was in plain view of all save the major, Tikas, and Lieut. Lawrence—talking in the station.
At the same time there left the colony a much larger number of men of other nationalities, armed with rifles, going northwest to the arroyo crossed by the steel bridge at the foot of the K. This group was never observed by any of the soldiers and their taking position in the arroyo was related to us by civilians.
Lieut. Lawrence, having reported to the major, left to return to his detachment on Water Tank Hill. He had gone but a short way when he galloped back to the station and cried out: "My God, Major, look at those men; we are in for it," pointing toward the Greeks defiling toward the railroad cut. Tikas was the first to answer.
He immediately jumped up, saying "I will stop them," and, pulling out his handkerchief, ran toward the colony, waving to the Greeks to return. A civilian and union sympathizer who met Tikas as he ran, told us that he heard him exclaim: "What damned fools!"
Maj. Hamrock directed Lieut. Lawrence to return to his troop and await developments. After the lieutenant reached Water Tank Hill, and not before, the machine gun and remaining men from Cedar Hill arrived. Maj. Hamrock hurried from the station to his tents and reported the conditions to Gen. Chase in Denver.
While returning to his camp the major observed the women and children of the colony in large numbers running from the colony north of the shelter of the arroyo. This was observed also by the men in the tents, by the major's adjutant, Lieut. Benedict, and by the men on Water Tank Hill. All will tell us that the exodus of women and children was sufficient to account for all that were known to be in the colony.
Lieut. Benedict, observing the colony at this time through his field glasses, plainly saw Tikas leave and hurry toward the Greeks, now nearly arrived at their intended position. Tikas was carrying a rifle in one hand and a field glass in the other. It is evident that on returning to the colony and seeing the futility of preventing the outbreak, Tikas had armed himself and hastened to his compatriots. As yet no shot of any kind had been fired. In expectation of just such an attack, a signal had been devised. Two crude bombs were made of sticks of dynamite, and it was understood that if the colonists attacked suddenly, so that there was not time to telephone the various villages in the canyons or the wires were cut, these bombs should be exploded as a warning.
After telephoning to Denver the major caused these bombs to be set off, and, so far as we can learn, this was the first explosion of the day. We learned from the colonists that they were thought to be some new kind of ammunition or possibly artillery possessed by the soldiers.
In the meantime, while all this was going on, there were still but three men left in the soldiers' tents with the major, the rest continuing their routine duties at some distance, in apparent ignorance of what was happening.
In the meantime the men on Water Tank Hill were deployed as skirmishers, observing the advance of the Greeks toward their cover. The men almost rebelled against their officers at this time, demanding to know whether they must allow the Greeks to reach concealment before opening fire. Lieut. Linderfelt ordered that no shots should be fired unless the soldiers were first fired upon.
About the time the Greeks reached the cover of the railroad cut, the fire began. We are unable to state from which point the firing came first, except that it came from the strikers. Upon that point all of the witnesses of all shades of sympathies are wholly agreed. Some of the soldiers insist that the firing was opened from the direction of the steel bridge and arroyo, while others are satisfied that it came from the Greeks in the railroad cut.
From whatever source the firing, the first of it was directed toward the soldiers' tents, but it must very soon have been directed generally against Water Tank Hill and the whole countryside between that point and the Hastings Canyon.
After the first fire started, it was several minutes before the men on Water Tank Hill were directed to return it. The enlisted men in this position we find still resentful against their officers for withholding their fire so long. The position taken by the Greeks in the railroad cut was one that proved very difficult to drive them from.
Thus the battle began, and its history from this time, as we learned it from all sources of eyewitnesses, is a history of the advance of the detachment on Water Tank Hill down the shaft of the capital K, past the colony, to the capture of the steel bridge at the foot, which was not accomplished until after dark.
Shortly after the firing commenced it became very general. On the strikers' side it proceeded from the railroad cut, from the tent colony, and from the arroyo beyond it. It was returned from Water Tank Hill, from a row of steel cars in the vicinity of the soldiers' tents, and from houses and stores along the road between the colony and the northern canyon. Lieut. Lawrence and three men advanced from Water Tank Hill toward the Greek position in the railroad cut with a view to dislodge the men shooting from that cover.
One of these men, Pvt. Martin, was shot through the neck. He called, "Lieutenant, I am hit." As the blood gushed out in splurts, the lieutenant put his thumb into the wound and stopped the flow of blood. A first-aid package was then applied. The strikers' fire proved insupportable and the squad withdrew, helping Martin back with them.
They were compelled to leave Martin under cover and return without him. As they retreated, the strikers followed until under cover. Several attempts were made by the soldiers during the day to recover their wounded comrade, but it was not until the afternoon, when Capt. Carson arrived from Trinidad with reinforcements and a machine gun, that they were able to drive the strikers back and reach the place where Martin lay. Just before dark this was accomplished, and Martin was discovered dead and mutilated. He had been shot through the mouth, powder stains evidencing that the gun was held against his lips. His head had been caved in and his brains had exuded to the ground. His arms had been broken. In such a way does the savage blood lust of this southern European peasantry find expression.
In this connection we found also that without exception where dying or wounded adversaries, whether soldiers or civilians, had fallen into the hands of these barbarians, they were tortured or multilated. The coroner and other civilian witnesses testified before us as to the condition of the corpses recovered in the many battles in the southern field. Hocker Smith, killed near Aguilar; Dougherty and Chavez, killed near Delagua; and many others, were all tortured or mutilated when dead or dying.
As we prepare this report, Maj. Lester is deliberately slain at Walsenburg, while attending the wounded under the protection of the Red Cross of Geneva recognized as inviolable by civilized men the world over. It is shocking to think of our Colorado youth defending their State and exposed to practices of savagery unheard of save in the half-believed tales of the Sicilian Camorra.
A recovery of Martin's body, thus mutilated, we find to have had the effect of exciting his comrades to a frenzy, which may account for some things that took place later near the tent colony itself.
Lieut. Lawrence engaged the Greeks in the railroad cut all day long. We find that he never left Water Tank Hill except to advance against the cut. His machine gun was used only in that direction until late in the afternoon.
Capt. Linderfelt and two lieutenants of the same name, with other men on Water Tank Hill, sought all day to advance down the shaft of our capital letter K to the steel bridge and arroyo at the northern end.
In the meantime, Lieut. Benedict and the men at the military camp, reinforced later by Troop A, from Hastings, who came down the northern canyon, were engaging the strikers firing from the arroyo, the tent colony, and beyond.
During the morning the men fighting around the two groups of tents were reinforced by Troop A, the nonunion men from Hastings, and also by the mine guards from both canyons, In the afternoon the men on Water Tank Hill were joined by Capt. Carson and a number of Troop A men from Trinidad and vicinity, with another machine gun.
Along toward dusk Lieut. K. E. Linderfelt was able to advance as far as the railroad station, about 500 yards from the tent colony. His advance from this point to the colony and beyond to the steel bridge and the arroyo was covered by the two machine guns on Water Tank Hill, which were trained on the colony, and that they were trained down the railroad right of way and not having finally dislodged those who had been firing all day from the cut.
This was the first time the machine guns were turned in the direction of the colony and that they were trained down the railroad right of way and not upon the colony is evident from the most casual inspection. We found the fences, water tanks, pump house, and other objects on the right of way riddled with machine-gun bullet holes, but posts, chicken houses, and other objects that remained standing directly in front of the colony and in the line of fire appeared to be scathless, thus proving beyond any doubt that the colony was never at any time swept by the machine guns.
This does not mean that the machine guns were not fired into the colony, as we shall presently show that they were, but it does show that there was no general and wanton mowing down of the tents as has been imputed. Under the protection of the machine guns' fire Capt. Linderfelt, Capt. Carson, and Lieut. K. E. Linderfelt were from this time able to advance steadily. They were accompanied by a part of the Water Tank Hill detachment, the reinforcements from Trinidad in civilian's clothes, and some mine guards.
Their fire was returned from their front all along the arroyo and from the tent colony itself. The men to the west between the colony and the canyon were about this time likewise able to press closer to the arroyo and the tent colony. As both these forces approached the colony, the heaviest fire seemed to come from the very tents themselves. The fire of all was for the first time drawn directly into the colony.
It was then that Maj. Hamrock tested his range with the machine guns on Water Tank Hill and sent them directly into the first tents of the colony itself; at the same time the strikers' fire drew a return from all combatants into the same tents. It was this concentrated fire upon the nearest tents in the southwest corner of the colony that set them on fire.
It could not be supposed that any women, children, or other noncombatants remained in the colony itself. The women and children had been seen departing early in the morning, and it was impossible to believe that the strikers would draw the fire of their opponents from all sides into the colony if any women and children remained therein.
Shortly after the fire started the detonation of some high explosive, like some giant powder or dynamite, was both heard and seen. From one of the tents a shower of its contents could be seen rising high in the air, emitting a blaze of fire.
As one tent caught after another, several other explosions occurred. During this time some of the men, having nearly reached the tent colony, heard the screams of women and called to men whom they saw firing from between the tents to get their women out.
The only answer were the words, "You go to hell," spoken with a foreign accent and accompanied by a rain of shots. The men in the colony being driven back and the presence of women being thus known, Capt. Carson, Lieut. Linderfelt, and other officers and men made a dash in among the burning tents for the purpose of rescuing the women and children.
At first they took several women from the tents, some of which were on fire and some not, then they discovered some subterranean pits beneath many of the tents and that some of them were stored with human occupants. The rescue work was most difficult as the women refused to accompany the soldiers and even fought against being taken away.
They said afterwards they believed the soldiers would kill them. They had to be dragged to places of safety. When the pits were discovered the difficulty of getting out the women and children was increased.
Capt. Linderfelt took a woman from one tent who could not speak English, but who made him understand that he must return. She went back with him and indicated one of these holes in the ground, from which the lieutenant took two little children just in the nick of time. He stalked from the colony with these children in his arms.
Capt. Carson relates that when he was in an apparently open floored tent he heard the crying or whining of something living beneath. He had to chop away the floor, which was nailed down upon these people, in order to get them out.
These holes were so constructed as to conceal their presence, and the openings to them were usually hidden by the bed or some article of furniture being placed above them. During the whole time that this rescue work was going forward the colony was under fire from the arroyo, so that not only did the officers and men have to contend with the fire and with the reluctance of the deluded people they were rescuing but were taking the greatest chances of destruction by making targets of themselves in the light of the burning tents.
We find that the work of rescuing these women and children, to the number of some 25 or 30, by Lieut. Linderfelt, Capt. Carson, and the squads at their command, was under all circumstances truly heroic and must stand out boldly in contradistinction to the abandonment of the helpless women and children by their own people and the subsequent efforts to kill their rescuers, regardless of the safety of the rescued.
It was supposed by the officers, after a thorough search of the colony, that all of the remaining women and children had been taken out.
The event proved that one of the pits had been missed in the search. In this pit were subsequently discovered 2 women and 11 children, all dead. This chamber of death measured in feet 8 by 6 by 4. When found it was almost closed. The quantity of air contained in such a space we found could not have supported the life of these occupants for many hours. Their bodies, when found, bore heartrending evidences of their struggles to get out. If these women and children were placed in this pit at any time during the morning, it is our belief that they died of suffocation hours before the tents caught fire.
Among those taken out of the colony by the rescue parties was a man named Snyder and his family. The man carried in his arms the dead body of his little son.
This boy had been shot in the forehead and was indeed the only person shot in the colony. A story was given wide publicity that this lad was ruthlessly shot down by the soldiers while trying to get a drink of water for his dying mother.
Snyder went to the depot with this dead child in his arms and there in the presence of many civilians and officers related how the boy had gone outside to answer a call of nature and had faced toward the arroyo from which the strikers fire was coming when he was accidentally hit in the forehead by the bullet that caused his death.
It was Snyder who told in this conversation how the Greeks had planned this battle for their Easter, the day before. At that time, whatever he may say now, his resentment was bitter against the Greeks in the colony, whom he blamed for everything that had happened.
A collection was taken up among the officers and the soldiers, amounting to some $18 and given to refugees.
During the' rescuing and afterwards, the tent colony was invaded by the soldiers and mine guards for quite a different purpose. By this time the uniformed guardsmen had been joined by large numbers of men in civilian attire, part of whom were from Troop A and part of them mine guards, all unknown to the uniformed soldiers and their officers and all unused and unamenable to discipline.
By this time, the time of the burning of the tents, the nondescript number of men had passed out of their officers' control, had ceased to be an army and had become a mob. Doubtless all were seeing red on both sides of the conflict.
This may acount for the insane shooting by the strikers during the rescue of their women and children and it may also account for what happened in the tents.
We. find that the tents were not all of them destroyed by accidental fire. Men and soldiers swarmed into the colony and deliberately assisted the conflagration by spreading the fire from tent to tent.
Beyond a doubt, it was seen to, intentionally, that the fire should destroy the whole of the colony. This, too, was accompanied by the usual loot.
Men and soldiers seized and took from the tents whatever appealed to their fancy of the moment. In this way, clothes, bedding, articles of jewelry, bicycles, tools, and utensils were taken from the tents and conveyed away.
So deliberately was this burning and looting that we find that cans of oil found in the tents were poured upon them and the tents lit with matches.
From a tent marked "John Lawson's headquarters" were taken a store of new underclothes and a mass of ammunition piled in thousand-round boxes. It has been said that the next morning there remained standing tents which were afterwards destroyed. A very careful investigation of that statement has led us to a settled belief, and we so find, that all of the tents were burned on Monday night and that what burning and looting there was, w r as completed before morning.
To return now to the progress of the battle, while the tents were burning and after the rescue work had been completed and the women and children cared for, the men under Capt. Linderfelt pressed on down the railroad and after a stubborn fight took and occupied and held the steel bridge that commanded the arroyo. The taking of this bridge ended the battle. From this time on for several hours the firing continued, but in gradually diminishing volume until it ceased altogether, about midnight.
In taking the steel bridge two men had been left at a pump house between the colony and arroyo. At this point these men took a prisoner who proved to be Tikas (Louis the Greek).
The men brought this prisoner back along the railroad to the crossroads at the corner of the colony, and called out "We've got Louis the Greek!" Immediately between 50 and 75 men, uniformed soldiers, men of Troop A, and mine guards rushed to that point. Lieut. Linderfelt came up with the others.
Tikas was then turned over to the lieutenant, his captors returning to their post. Some words ensued between the lieutenant and Tikas over the responsibility for the day's doings, Lieut. Linderfelt swung his rifle over Louis's head, breaking the stock of the gun. There were cries of "Lynch him!" from the crowd.
Someone ran into the tent colony and got a rope and threw it over a telegraph pole. Lieut. Linderfelt had difficulty in restraining the crowd.
He declared that there should be no lynching and turned the prisoner over to Sergt. Cullen, with instructions that he would hold the sergeant responsible for Tikas's life. About this time two other prisoners were brought to the cross-roads, whom Capt. Linderfelt had captured at the steel bridge and sent down. These were Filer, the secretary of the union, and an unknown man whom we believe, however, to have been Frank Rubino.
Sergt. Cullen in turn turned his prisoner over to Pvts. Mason and Pacheco. Lieut. Linderfelt then went back along the tracks to the station. During this time the group of men and prisoners at the crossroads was standing erect in the glare of the burning tents ; they were not firing but afforded an excellent target to their adversaries.
Shortly after the departure of Lieut. Linderfelt, firing was resumed. The men returned to their places under cover of the railroad embankment and recommenced firing into the colony.
The three prisoners ran through this fire toward the tents and were all shot before they reached them; Tikas was shot in the back, showing that he was killed from the soldiers' side. Filer, was shot in front, showing that he was killed from the strikers' fire. The unknown who dropped between the other two we have no information of.
Two bullets passed clear through the body of Tikas, showing that they must have been steel-jacketed bullets, such as are used by the soldiers and also by some of the mine guards and Troop A men. The one bullet that was found in his body is a soft-nosed bullet which is an ammunition never used by the soldiers.
In speaking of the different kinds of bullets used in the Battle of Ludlow, we are led to controvert a statement that the soldiers and men supporting them used explosive bullets. It is not difficult to understand why this mistake is made. The steel-jacketed bullet used in the present Springfield rifles makes a noise in passing through the air very like an explosion. By the sound alone it could very easily be mistaken for an explosive bullet. The bullet extracted from Louis Tikas was not an explosive bullet.
It was submitted to us by the coroner, and we found it to be a very common type of soft-nosed bullet. While not inhuman, like explosive and poisoned bullets, still it is a thing prohibited under the rules of civilized warfare. The strikers that day were actually using explosive and poisoned bullets, as many such were recovered.
The explosive bullet contains at its nose a small percussion cap, which, upon striking, explodes a charge within and scatters the bullet in tiny fragments, thus tearing a large and ghastly hole in anything in which it is embedded. Some of the poisoned bullets contain no poison, being a composition of lead and copper instead of steel and nickel, as our bullets are now made. Others are filled with verdigris.
The former ammunition was used for a while shortly after the Civil War, and has been universally known as a poisoned bullet, because it sets up blood poisoning almost instantly wherever it penetrates the human body.
There is little left to tell. The remaining hours of the night were spent by both sides in desultory firing, gradually dying out about midnight. The refugees from the tent colony seem to have betaken themselves in a general easterly and northeasterly direction to the farmhouses on the plains and the cover of the black hills (low hills), 2 or 3 miles to the east, rising from the plains.
These hills swarmed with men all the next day. The tent colony continued to burn; in fact, it burned all of Monday night and Tuesday night. Whether or not some tents remained standing on Tuesday morning, which were then destroyed by men in uniform, as has been stated, we were unable to determine. Such a thing is possible, but not probable, in our judgment.
Around about midnight Monday the soldiers and their allies were withdrawn from the field of battle and given a few hours' sleep. Before the dawn on Tuesday they were all awakened and sent to occupy the commanding positions in all directions at some distance from Ludlow. This was done in expectation of a renewed attack.
It is this circumstance, of which there can be no doubt, that leads us to the belief that there were no soldiers in the vicinity of the tent colony when daylight broke on Tuesday, and that all the tents were destroyed on Monday night.
We find that the dominant feeling among the refugee colonists on Monday night, and before a second thought came to them or was suggested to them, was resentment against the Greeks for starting the battle which was bound to entail the results that it did.
This feeling of resenment against the Greeks prevailed even over their resentment against the soldiers, but the incident was later made a handle to inflame the minds of these deluded men to the acts of slaughter and rapine that followed throughout the State.
It was made the excuse of many bold and defiant utterances and acts of treason against the State by certain union leaders who had the opportunity by their influence and authority to prove themselves really great and good men and worthy citizens. Instead, by all means of exaggeration, incendarism, and treasonable practices, they made of the Battle of Ludlow a means of organizing a real rebellion, with its attendant awful consequences.
We do not presume even to hint where the ultimate responsibility lies in the present strike. It may be that the coal operators or the union are wholly to blame for the conditions that have made such results possible; it may be that both sides are partly at fault.
The conditions having been brought about and being actually existent, whatever the cause, we feel that for their treason and rebellion against organized society, with the horrible consequences of anarchy that followed, certain union leaders must take the responsibility before man and God.
Edward J. Boughton,
Major, Second Infantry, and Judge Advocate.
W. C. Danks,
Captain, First Infantry.
Philip Van Cise
Captain, First Infantry.
The following additional recommendations were made by Maj. Boughton: I feel it my duty to add a recommendation to those made by the board of officers. Believing that the outbreak at Ludlow was directly due to the presence near each other of deadly enemies in the persons of strikers, non-union workmen, and mine guards, festering a canker of hate and brutality of which the battle was the inevitable expression, I greatly fear that the same forces again at work will again develop the same or a similar result.
To my thinking, good citizenship demands that these elements of rapine and slaughter be kept apart. As the mines and coal camps can not be moved away, I recommend that the commanding general and the governor urge upon the commanding officer of the Federal troops the unwisdom and danger of permitting the tent colony to be reestablished at Ludlow.
My brother officers do not feel the necessity for such a step.
VAN CISE EXHIBIT NO. 2.
[Article written May 30, 1914, as the situation then appeared.]
The Colorado Strike Situation.
[By Philip S. Van Cis.e, captain, National Guard of Colorado.]
What Colorado needs is toleration, calm judgment, and a strict enforcement of all laws. What the operators need is an appreciation of the right of labor to organize, to hold peaceful assemblies, and to own property in coal camps. What the strikers need is real leaders who can present their case by argument instead of violence, who will confine themselves to facts and tell the truth. What the militia needs is an esprit de corps that can only be gained by requiring officers to approximate the standards of the Regular Army, a purging of its ranks of partisans and the few malefactors therein, and the support of the government and people of the State. What the Nation needs is radically amended immigration laws that will keep out anarchists and lawlessly inclined Italians, Greeks, and other south European peoples.
The present situation is an armed truce. Armed, because while the operators have complied with the orders for the disarming of their men, the strikers have not. The United States troops stand between the mines and the tent colonies. The strikers, through their leaders, openly state they will renew their call to arms and campaign of violence if the militia again takes the field. A Denver women's peace society, dominated by strikers, declares in the chamber of the house of representatives that it will forcibly oppose the National Guard if again sent into service. The operators refuse to meet the "traitors and murderers," as they term the strikers. The militia, damned by strike sympathizers, made the goat of the conflict, unpaid for three months, insufficiently clothed and equipped when in the field, smarting under injustice, disgusted with certain higher officers and the governor, nevertheless stands ready to take the field if supported by State authorities. The mine guards have departed, as the majority of them did before when the guard first went into the field in October, 1913. Property values have materially decreased, investors are frightened from the State, positions are insecure, and the great third party, the public, does the suffering.
On the merits of the strike much can be said on both sides. A premise to any fair statement must be that there is little law in Las Animas and Huerfano Counties when operators and miners are participants. (The strike has likewise spread into violence in Fremont, Rotitt, and Boulder Counties, but this statement does not apply to them, as far different and very excellent conditions exist there.) Personal-injury cases against operators are doomed to defeat. The sheriff's office is the cat's-paw of the corporations, and representative government exists only on paper.
The coal mines are in narrow, barren canyons, almost devoid of water, on lands owned or leased by the companies. The houses, in the main, are good. The majority are electric lighted, and the rents are reasonable. The company stores sell at the same price as similar goods are sold in Trinidad and carry stocks far larger and more diversified than do the independent traders adjoining the coal camps. The school facilities are at least average, and the school building is the usual place for the moving-picture shows, dances, and other entertainments of the camp. But they are not open for any assembly of the men to discuss social welfare, wages, or law enforcement. Nor are the men allowed to gather for that purpose. The employment of a mixture of nationalities aids the operators in their work of keeping the men apart.
The strikers, after they went out of the mines, received widespread publicity for their claims that the operators had machine guns trained on their camps, had Baldwin-Felts thugs and gunmen around killing them and assaulting their women, and that they had finally been obliged to arm themselves in defense of their homes.
There are two sides to this story, however. The strikers have many good tacticians among their leaders, and these located the tent colonies at the very mouths of the canyons. Hence workers in the mines, "scabs," as they are called, and the officials had to pass these colonies on their way to the stations. Strike breakers coming in were greeted with profanity and violence. The mine owners, with the men who did not want to join the union, being thus intimidated, and fearing violence, secured guards for their property. These guards were of various classes, just like men in any walk of life. A few, and only a few, were from West Virginia. Some were gunmen with records. Others, though a small number, were Baldwin-Felts detectives. Many were men of good physique out of work; others were arrant cowards who thought they were getting easy jobs at high salaries.
Nearly all the mining companies gave orders to their guards to stay on their own property and only to bear arms there. In the main this was obeyed. In some canyons the guards did not do so, and proceeded to pick fights with the strikers. The latter, where the guards did not precipitate the trouble, did so themselves. The strikers bought guns with union and individual funds. The operators brought in more weapons, including machine guns. As a further means of defense they purchased searchlights to scour the hills at night. Yet the latter were purposely thrown on the tented colonies and proved very annoying to the occupants.
Here arises a query, Which side had the motive for violence? The operators had if at the outset they could scare the strikers by this means. But they ran the risk of retaliation, the loss of their property, the driving away of their workers, and the resultant closing of the mines and capitulation to the union. The strikers had everything to gain through force, and very little to lose. Hence they resorted to it on all possible occasions.
The strikers imported their agitators and gunmen, they secured their rifles, and bullets began to hail upon the hills. Finally, with the strikers from the Ludlow tent colony in the ascendancy, the entrance to Hastings and Berwind Canyons were closed in, hundreds of shots fired into the two towns, and a state of absolute anarchy existed. The operators, long crying for State troops, became hysterical in their demands. The people generally wanted the militia, and it is even said that the leaders of the strikers, fearful of results with their men out of hand, likewise joined in the general desire.
Troops were ordered out, and welcomed by both sides and citizens generally. But martial law was not declared, and the militia was greatly hampered in consequence. Orders for disarmament were given and the mine guards generally disarmed. But few guns were turned in by the strikers and the operators kept many of their own weapons, though willing to give them up if asked to do so. Result—an armed force between two belligerents. One thing must be borne in mind, however. With troops in the field the "scabs" were secure, the strikers were peaceable, the operators discharged their mine guards, property was safe, and coal was mined.
The governor tried to take a middle ground. He forbade the importation of all strike breakers. The union leaders were jubilant, the operators angry. The mines worked a limited output, the colonists received their $3 a week apiece, and the rank and file were dissatisfied. Then rumors spread that the governor was going to allow strike breakers to enter the fields. Instantly the murmur of the strikers became an uproar, and open threats of violence were made.
As a side light upon the temper of the Ludlow colonists, an incident that happened November 30, 1913, four days before the big snow, may not be amiss. Company K of Denver, 103 strong, the largest company in the guard, was stationed at Ludlow. Bernardo Verdi, the Italian leader of the colony, came to the military camp early in the morning and threatened violence if strike breakers entered the district on the 8.30 a. in. train. The military policy of this camp had been, among other things, to cover the Ludlow station at train time with a detail of 10 men and a sergeant. The sergeant reported by phone that the entire colony was at the depot "spoiling for trouble." The captain ordered the first lieutenant to assemble the company and hold it subject to orders, and took two sergeants to the depot.
The colony was out in force. Small rocks covered the road, and the women carried clubs that would have put to shame the maces of the middle ages. Many had spikes driven through them. Others were guarded limbs of trees with sharpened branches. Some were just plain boards and billiard cues.
The detail was ordered to fix bayonets, and with much grumbling and muttering the depot and grounds were cleared. But when the road was reached trouble began. The crowd refused to move farther arid violence was imminent. The detail had a front of from 100 to 150 feet to cover, and opposed to the 10 sentries was a solid mass of strikers, with their club-swinging women in the front rank, giving vent to all manner of profanity, and a sullen bunch of men in the rear urging the women to violence. If trouble had started aothing on earth could have prevented some women being bayoneted and others shot, and then Company K, called on to protect the peace, and impartial as to the merits of the strike, would have been branded to the world as murderers of defenseless women and men protecting their homes from gunmen. And among these women were two who have since gone to President Wilson to represent the strikers' side of the battle of Ludlow.
Luck was all that saved the day. Three leaders of the strikers, Bernardo, Weinberger, and Jones, were picked out of the crowd and turned over to the sergeants with instructions to shoot them on the first sign of trouble. They protested that they were not responsible, but admitted they were the leaders of the colony. When they saw that the orders would be enforced they managed to signal the crowd and before the train arrived a large number had gone back to the colony. No strike breakers arriving, the incident was closed. But it illustrates the violent character of the Ludlow strikers.
The next step was the raising of the embargo by the governor, and importation of strike breakers. The military authorities made every effort to enforce the State law. At Ludlow, and elsewhere, commanding officers were instructed to and did examine every man who entered the district looking for work. Each had to be asked if he knew that a strike was in progress, had been so told before he signed up, and was willing to go to work under those conditions. Further, the strikers' colony was pointed out to them and they were instructed that the men in the "tents were out on strike.
Again the agitators shouted "To arms!" The terrible Colorado blizzard alone prevented an outbreak at this time and proved the most effective settlement of violence that the State has yet seen. For six weeks the district was under 4 feet of snow, the strikers were effectually penned in their colonies, strike breakers filled the camps, and mines operated to capacity.
The snow disappearing, the hatred of the strikers for all troops grew apace. Strike breakers were protected and the term "scab herders" was applied to the soldiers. The dislike of the strikers for the soldiers was caused by the fact that the presence of troops made the nonunion miners feel secure, and hence made the success of the strike very doubtful.
The militia in the main made a splendid record. During a service in the field of nearly six months and until the Battle of Ludlow, only two men were killed by the troops, one accidently and the other a fugitive from justice. A district of several hundred square miles was policed and absolute order prevailed.
The Colorado troops, according to the annual reports of United States Army inspectors, have as fine a body in the rank and file as can be found in the country. The majority of the companies come from the small towns of the State and number in their ranks some of the best young manhood in Colorado. One of the Denver companies was composed entirely of former college men. The only interest any of these men had in the strike was to wish for a speedy settlement and all were disinterested as to the merits of the controversy. Their one desire was to get back to their homes.
A soldier can not be made in a few days. Discipline is the habit of obedience. The militia had many men who committed abuses, but this was to be expected among 1,400 men, many of them recruits unused to restraint and military training. The military game was a hobby with many, but the permanent pursuit of none. The wonder is, with a constantly growing hostility among the strikers, the abuses were not greater. As the officers learned the game better and got their men used to team work these conditions became less frequent.
The Colorado militia has long been cursed by factionalism. Many chair warmers and sycophants have been retained by various adjutant generals. The result has been that a real esprit de corps has been prevented, and many inferior officers have been allowed to creep in. To these few, the enlistment of mine guards, and the hostility of the strikers can be traced the troubles between troops and union.
First Lieut. K. E. Linderfelt, placed in command at Cedar Hill, 1$ miles from Ludlow, has, throughout the strike, been the Nemesis of the strikers. A member of the guard off and on for many years, a former sergeant of the Regular Army, a veteran of many wars, and a typical soldier of fortune, he was the worst man that could have been put in command of troops charged with preserving the peace. As a fighting man there was none better or braver. Personally likeable when casually met or in conversation, he was possessed of an insane hatred towards " red-necks " or " wops " as the strikers came to be called. When the troops entered the Ludlow district on November 1, 1913, he with other mine guards was personally disarmed by Col. Davis, of the Second Infantry, though Linderfelt was then a battalion adjutant in that regiment. At this time he was a deputy sheriff though not drawing pay from the county, and was in charge of the mine guards during the battles at Berwind, a C. F. & I. property. (Mr. Welborn, president of the C. F. & I. testified before the congressional commission that Linderfelt was paid by his company (Vol. II, p. 554). Linderfelt before the Industrial Commission said he was paid by the county. The county records show no such payment) Later he put on his uniform and was assigned to duty in charge of Company B, Second Infantry.
This was a Trinidad company, composed at that time almost entirely of Mexicans, and had been called out by the sheriff about two weeks before the other troops took the field. The Mexicans were gradually eliminated, and Americans took their places. Only one of the original members was left at the time of the Battle of Ludlow. In its ranks were then numbered mine guards, men enlisted in the district, and men transferred from other companies which had been relieved from duty. These transfers came late in the campaign, and were a good average bunch of men.
The old mine guard element, led by Lieut. K. E. Linderfelt, was always in trouble with the colonists. This group and the strikers constantly sought opportunities for assaults upon each other, and each made the most of its opportunities. Company B had the best of it, because it carried arms. The result was that while the First Infantry company at Ludlow was usually on good terms with the strikers, played baseball and football with them, and its men could go into the colony unarmed, Lieut. Linderfelt and his men went in parties armed to the teeth, in constant danger of being wiped out if caught unaware
K Company left the field March 13. B Company—it strength about 35—moved a detachment of 12 men to K's old camp, and Maj. P. J. Hamrock, formerly in command at Aguilar, was ordered to Ludlow.
Hamrock is an Irishman and an ex-Regular. His few critics (before Ludlow) were never able to say worse of him than that he was a saloonkeeper. A crack rifle shot, honest, fair and square, " Pat " was universally loved in the guard. As major he was in cliarge of the district. Lieut. Linderfelt, nicknamed "Monte" was in direct charge of the company. The major tried to keep order, Monte to force disorder. Several strikers were booted off the depot platform, assaulted in the roads, and "run ragged." On the other hand the soldiers were the constant recipients of threats that they would be wiped out by the strikers.
On the departure of K, and forseeing a withdrawal of all the troops, the colonists began to bring in from the hills and arroyos the guns hidden from the search of the soldiers. They planned further attacks upon the. mines and the driving out of the hated scabs. They also hoped for a chance to get Monte and his men, but did not dare so long as a strong supporting force was in the field.
A troop of cavalry, known as Troop A, was enlisted among employees of the operators. These men were anything but impartial, all were violent opponents of the unions, and the agitators seized upon this incident as a means to further inflame the strikers.
Friday, April 17, 1914, all other troops were withdrawn; Company B and luckless Pat were left. Events moved swiftly. The strikers now grew arrogant, the operators fearful and good citizens began to leave. Mine guards came back into the district, and- the searchlights again threw their beams across the sky.
The strike was apparently lost. Radicals urged violence as the only way to enforce victory. Tuesday at dawn was set as the time to wipe out the soldiers and then to march on the coal camps of the C. F. & I. at Berwind and the Victor-American at Hastings and Delagua. Some of the colonists warned their friends in the coal camps to move before the attack. A succession of trivial incidents precipitated the battle on Monday, and Ludlow, through the agency of a bitter and untruthful press, became the most misrepresented spot in the United States.
Of the battle itself, little need be said. Started by the strikers, it was finished by the soldiers. But of the results volumes have and will l>e written. One significant fact bus been overlooked. If the troops started the battle, where, did the strikers so quickly get their arms and ammunition, when presumably they had turned all over to the soldiers on demand and search? Or did they hide them as they did from the United States troops? Why were these guns at hand?
The soldiers were in uniform, on duty, and representing the State. Whatever their past offenses, the strikers had a remedy in a legal manner. An attack upon the troops was an assault upon the Government.
Until darkness fell, and their ranks were augmented by reinforcements from Troop A, the conduct of the soldiers was most exemplary and praisworthy. But the approach of night gave cover to liberty, and riot reigned as the battle ceased. Three prisoners were captured, one assaulted by Lieut. Linderfelt, and all three shot under the infamous "ley fuga" of the Mexicans. The colony, already on fire in one corner, was burned to the ground.
The assault upon Tikas and the murder of the three prisoners can not be too severely condemned. As the men were outlaws they could have been shot in their tracks and never captured, but once taken they were entitled to be kept inviolate. These murders by this mine-guard group should he as severely punished as should the murders by the strikers, and both should receive the extreme penalty of the law. On the other hand, however, the heroic work of the other officers and men who participated in the Ludlow battle should not be overlooked and unstinted praise should be given them for their conduct in resisting an attack by superior numbers.
The next day dead bodies of women and children were found huddled in a small pit under one tent, and the papers published far and wide the lie that machine guns had mowed down women and children. This falsehood was deliberately spread by union leaders, whose own physicians had personally testified before a coroner's jury that there was no sign of a bullet wound on any but the Snyder boy. He was not in the pit, and was shot in the forehead while standing beside a tent, facing to the rear. The boy's father pulled the body back into the cellar, and when rescued from there by the troops carried the body to the depot.
The world has heard little of the horrible mutilation of the bodies of Pvts. Martin and Hockersmith by strikers, of the percussion-capped, soft-nosed, and poisoned bullets of the unionists. All that went out was that "gunmen militia had murdered defenseless women and children."
The fact that prisoners had been assaulted and killed was first given out by the board of officers appointed to investigate the Ludlow battle. If it had wished to shield anything, all it had to do was to keep quiet and nothing would ever have been known of these incidents.
But that strikers built rifle pits in front of and in the colony, that they dug cellars for their women and children to hide in, that they used both on the day of the battle, and deliberately forced the troops in self-protection to return the fire has not been told. That women and children were rescued from the colony by soldiers was not admitted by strikers, though these unfortunates were cared for, fed and sheltered, and sent to Trinidad, where they later lodged in the strikers' tent colony. Though all the inhabitants of the tent colony were accounted for on Thursday after the battle, and this fact was admitted by John McLennan, president of the State federation of labor while he was a prisoner at Ludlow, yet for weeks the leaders sought to inflame their follower's with statements anent women and children buried and concealed at Ludlow!
Then what happened? A machine gun was delivered to strikers at Aguilar by union leaders. Delagua was attacked, men killed and women shot upon. The water plant was destroyed, the Royal mine blotted out, 35 men, women, and children shut in, and the entrance dynamited. The Chandler mine in Fremont County damaged by strikers under a flag of truce. The Walsen mine at Walsenburg asailed, Mrs. Gregory shot in the arm, and troops sent to the defense. Maj. Lester, of the medical corps, was killed and Lieut. Scott and Pvt. Miller injured. (For their own purposes of concealment, and to encourage their own ranks, the strikers did not make public the fact that in this attack upon the troops their losses were very heavy.) The Heckla mine, in Boulder County, was next surrounded and thousands of shots poured into it. while the sheriff was imprisoned inside. Calls to arms were published in the Denver papers, signed by union leaders, asking union men for arms and ammunition and to drill to exterminate mine guards and militiamen. The camp at Forbes, near Ludlow, attacked at dawn, burned to the ground, nine killed, Japs shut up in a house and burned to death. And all this done under the "excuse and provocation" representations of the agitators that women and children had been deliberately killed at Ludlow by soldiers! If this was true, why were any rescued?
Who killed these Innocent sacrifices? Not the soldiers, because they were not struck by bullets, the militiamen had not dug the pits, and rescued all occupants of the colony found therein. Then it must have been the strikers who dug the pits for their families to seek safety when they started hostilities. The majority of the women and children rushed for the arroyo. All were dressed, as the battle began after 9 in the morning. These few hid in the colony, and were used as the excuse for anarchists and black-hand assassins to commence an era of rapine and destruction unheard of before in America.
What an opportunity was missed by union leaders! Instead of sympathy the strikers now have the opprobrium of all good citizens. Instead of trying to win by truth they rest on falsehood and violence. Only May 18 the three most prominent union leaders in Colorado, McLennan, Doyle, and Law-son, sent out telegrams that "barrel-house bums and gunmen militia destroyed Forbes and Ludlow." Does this invite confidence?
Now, about the National Guard. Its condition is serious. Compelled to remain silent under abuse, hampered in the field by constant truces made by the governor with armed forces in rebellion against the State, its spirit is broken. How would you like to arrive in Ludlow, to hear the purr of a machine gun, the rattle of small arms, be down there to maintain order and uphold the laws, see hundreds of armed men in the hills shooting in your direction, and be told, "No; you aren't able to handle this situation, so the lieutenant governor has made a 48-hour truce in Denver"'? Them to have these men slink away from the hills and break out in other parts of the State? Again, to have a company in the battle at Walsenburg surrounded by scores of strikers, fighting for its life, and have the other troops forbidden by the governor to go to its rescue or even to fire if fired upon? Or to know the night before that Forbes was to be wiped out, to implore the officer in command to be allowed to go to its aid, only to hear that the governor would not allow a movement in that direction? Then to be awakened at dawn with a horrible din of small arms, the crakle of a machine gun, to hear the latter cease its roar, the rifle tire diminish and die away, and see smoke come over the hill? And you sit in camp, damned as cowards? And the men who did the deed of death and destruction march gleefully back to Trinidad and openly boast in the streets of their exploits. Do you wonder the guard is ashamed of its governor, has no espirit de corps, and wants to quit a game of vacillation?
But give this same guard (eliminating the mine guards and Company B, Second Infantry, and giving it a different chief) an absolute order, "You go into the district and keep the peace, and do it under martial law," and to a man the National Guard will respond, the situation will be taken over from the Regulars, and quiet maintained.
But law and order is no solution to the strike itself. The laws must be enforced and the violators punished. So much for the results of the strike and the needs of the State.
Now, for the merits of the strike. There are two sides to every controversy. When two men fight in a back alley with no onlookers they usually settle their difficulties. But when two large factions of society fight the State or the Nation must step in and end the conflict. Under martial law strikers can be deported or the mines closed. Neither is fair, yet each side cries for this remedy to be applied to the other. Compromise must be brought about. Both sides must win a little, lose more, and shake hands. But it should be understood that a settlement does not exempt law breakers on either side from punishment.
Recognition of the union is the main issue with the strikers. The right to run their own business in their own way is the contention of the operators. They further claim, and the evidence before the congressional commission bore this out, that the strike was called by a convention of delegates from the various camps, many of whom had worked in them for only a day or two, and that others were paid to attend. In other words, that the convention was not representative of the working miners of southern Colorado, and hence did not state any claim of their employees. The strikers object to the Baldwin-Felts men, but the operators have every right to object as much to the one hundred or more Greek soldiers whom they -claim were brought in by the strikers to act as gunmen on that side.
If strife is to cease, a scheme that incorporates three factions in the struggle must be adopted. These three are the operators, nonunion miners, and strikers. The operators now recognize only the first two; the strikers refuse to deal with the second. The United Mine workers makes its boast that when a contract is signed with it by a mine, anyone, whether union man or independent, can get work; yet it at once becomes a grievance, and the miner is forced to quit if he don't join the union.
Hence, each is fighting for the closed shop—the union to close it to the independents and the operators to close it to the unions. It is said on good authority that the unions do not thrive without the check-off system, in which the mine collects the union dues from the wage of the workers. Hence recognition of the union involves this plan.
One big hitch in the whole series of difficulties in the coal-mining districts is that the union is not incorporated. While it demands a contract with its organization, the individual members alone of which can be sued, its members are practically judgment proof, and hence the claim of the operators that a contract with the union gives no protection to them.
The union demands are—
- Recognition of the union.
- Ten per cent advance in wages on tonnage rates and day wage scale.
- Eight-hour day for all classes of labor in or around coal mines and at coke ovens.
- Pay for all narrow work and dead work, which includes brushing, timbering, removing falls, handling impurities, etc.
- Checkweighmen at all mines, to be elected by the miners without interference by company officials in said election.
- The right to trade in any store they please, and the right to choose their own boarding place and doctor.
- Enforcement of Colorado mining laws and abolition of guards.
Of these demands the third, fifth, sixth, and the first half of the seventh are already given by law, but the right to guards on their own property is likewise given by law to the operators. Every fair man agrees that the second and fourth can easily be made the subject of arbitration, and the analysis discloses the issue again to be recognition of the union.
Several of the union's demands, of course, are put in for the purpose of trading and are not seriously pressed as grievances. But what these are the union officials will not yet state.
The writer suggested a permanent commission selected by the participants as the solution of the contest. The union leader to whom it was referred stated that there was merit in the scheme, but objected to recognition of the "scabs." The operators, with whom the plan was taken up, objected to the unions and resultant trouble with agitators. Nevertheless, I believe that a plan along the following lines can be worked out and a solution achieved through it. At any rate the situation has grown to such importance nationally that a permanent, neutral board between the two factions must result.
The scheme as proposed to the two factions is as follows:
Outline of a possible scheme of strike settlement.—Two classes are the sufferers in this controversy. In the first are the operators, the union strikers, and the nonunion workers. The second is the public.
No one wins all he strives for. The scheme suggested here is a compromise which offers promise of immediate settlement and possibly a permanent peace in the coal-mining industry of Colorado.
Coal mining has become a quasi public utility. The numerous difficulties between capital and labor require a neutral board to act between both for the interests of all. A State board is political; one selected by the parties directly interested can be nonpartisan, permanent, and effective.
Permanent board.—An impartial board of six members to be selected to act as a third party between the two factions. Three of these members should be composed of persons not directly or indirectly interested in either the coal companies or the unions, these to be selected in such manner as the operators and the unions should agree upon. The other three members to be optional with the interested parties and to have no voting power, being simply advisory, and representing operators, unions, and nonunion men.
This board to be maintained by an equal assessment placed on both sides. There are some 14,000 coal miners in the State. An assessment of $1 a month on each worker and the same amount per worker on the employer should give an ample sum for all purposes set forth herein. This board shall—
(a) Employ checkweighmen at all mines, who shall likewise inspect all scales. (The men by law are now given the right to checkweighmen if they pay for them. Laws 1913, p. 191.)
(b) Employ inspectors at all mines, who shall likewise train rescue workers. (The operators already spend large sums for this purpose.)
(c) Arbitrate, if possible, all differences between miners and operators, except recognition of the union, which shall not be a subject for arbitration, as an absolute open shop shall prevail.
(d) Give entire publicity to all its work and reports and encourage naturalization.
The things to be done by the various factions are:
I. BY THE OPERATORS.
(a) Men may belong to the union if they so desire. (Rev. Stat, 1908, secs. 3924–3925, gives this right.)
(b) Provide a meeting place for all men of camp to gather for whatever discussion they wish without interference. (Right to assemble given by constitution, this simply facilitates that right and provides for comfort therein.)
(c) Employees given an opportunity to purchase homes in mining camps. (This should make a better and more permanent class of employees.)
(d) Abolition of scrip. (Abolished by State law, 1899, p. 426, and also by mining companies, but indirect evasion exists through issuance by some company stores.)
(e) Abolition of all saloon interests, except rental and right of regulation. (Saloons seem to be necessary evils in mining camps or the men won't work. The severer the regulation the better the camp and the greater the output of coal.)
(f) All men formerly employed, except those under indictment, to be taken back to work. (This does not prevent subsequent prosecution of any men found guilty of violence.)
(g) Fullest compliance with the laws and cooperation with the permanent board for at least two years.
II. BY THE UNION STRIKERS.
(a) Call off the strike, and call no new one for at least two years.
(b) To cooperate with the permanent board for at least two years.
III. BY THE INDEPENDENT WORKERS.
(a) To remain at work, free to join a union or keep out, without molestation by either side.
(b) To cooperate with permanent board for at least two years.