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-Mother Jones

Thursday May 7, 1914
From The Day Book: "Don MacGregor Tells Story of War at Walsenburg"

Armed Miners Colorado Coalfield War
Last week we brought you the story of the reporter who threw down his pen and picked up his gun and was leading the strikers in their battle against the militia of gunthugs up on the Hogback near Walsenburg:
The Battle between the strikers and the mine guards has been raging on the Hogback above Walsenburg and is now in its third day. There are losses reported on both sides. The Hogback is a ridge which extends west from the northern edge of downtown Walsenburg. Here the miners are led by Don MacGregor, dressed in "top boots and bandoliers." From their position on the Hogback striking miners have attacked the Walsen Mine and the mines near Toltec and Picton. They have established their headquarters at the Toltec Union Hall.
Today we are pleased to report that that reporter, Don MacGregor, has provided Chicago's Day Book with an account of the battle as requested by the editor, N. D. Cochran. MacGregor describes how the miners were out-gunned, facing machine guns and even a canon. Yet they were not afraid, because, as MacGregor explains:
Men don't scare very easy when they're fighting to keep other men from shooting up and burning their homes.
The entire article is provided below:

Armed Strikers, Colorado Coalfield War 1914


(One of the battles fought Wednesday, April 29, in the hills of Colorado, when the maddened-strikers set out to drive the Rockefeller gunmen from the district, was on the heights of Walsenburg. The dispatch said that Don MacGregor, a newspaperman well known in Chicago and Denver, was in command all day of this successful fight. MacGregor was asked to tell about the battle for this newspaper. The following is his account.-- Editor.)

In Camp, Walsenburg, Col., May 5.
-"Remember Ludlow!"

In thirteen different tongues the words were spoken. Thirteen different nationalities of men heard them, leveled their rifles on rocks and fired at men wearing the uniform of the National Guard of Colorado.

They fired carefully, deliberately. They didn't fire to frighten but to kill.

But they didn't shoot at those militiamen because the blood lust was in their veins. They shot because the memory of Ludlow was in their minds.

Soon after the battle started, Rockefeller's murderers at the Walsen mine turned their machine guns on the city of Walsenburg. Two men were killed there, while women and
children crouched in terror in the basements of their homes.

Such was the battle of Walsenburg, in which 300 strikers Wednesday defended their position on a hilltop against about 200 so-called militiamen.

They tell me that one militiamen and ten gunmen were killed. It's too bad but they shouldn't be militiamen and gunmen. They shouldn't be working for greedy coal operators against men and women and children who are striking for bread.

Children of the Ludlow Tent Colony
It wouldn't be so bad if they weren't working against the women and children. The men can stand their attacks. But when they kill wives and mothers and babies kill them for hire it's different.

I never knew braver or better men than those miners. They're rough;they're ignorant, but they're men. They love their families.

And I know that when they fought the militia at Walsenburg it was simply to protect their families.

It wasn't for revenge. It was from fear of another massacre.

The strikers under me occupied a position on a hill "the Hogback." One-half mile back of them was their camp of Toltec, and stretching twelve miles back of that were seven other strikers' camps in which were fifteen hundred women and children. All that stood between. John D. Rockefeller's murderers and these fifteen hundred women and children was "The Hogback" and the strikers on it.

And every man was thinking of Ludlow. Four men who had lost wives and children in the massacre there were in our ranks. They'd told the story of Ludlow, over and over
again. They'd told how the militiamen and the gunmen, brought to Colorado to kill for hire, had trained their machine guns on the camp. They'd heard how the tents were set on fire, how the children screamed and died in cruel flames!

And they were determined to die rather than let those militiamen reach the camp back of Walsenburg.

We didn't do wrong. We didn't resist officers of the law. We resisted men who have preyed on us for months, who have shot us down, who have burned our camps and who have killed our women and children. That's the awful part.

The battle started Monday after noon, when Rockefeller's army opened fire on my automobile between Toltec and Walsenburg. Tuesday the militia, men wearing the uniform of the state of Colorado, but as much in Rockefeller's employ as the gunmen, arrived in Walsenburg. They boasted they were going to take "The Hogback" and wear "Rednecks," their derisive name for the strikers, as watch-charms. We heard of that; we swore we would die rather than give Rockefeller's murderers a chance to turn their machine guns on our women and children.

"The Hogback" is three miles long. We held the top of it. We only had one hundred armed men there. They crouched behind the rocks. The position was practically impregnable.

There were two hundred and fifty militiamen. There were over one hundred mine guards. They had nine machine guns. We had the advantage of position, but they outnumbered us, they had the machine guns, and were better organized.

The men under me are as brave as any in the world. They wouldn't work in dusty mine pits if they weren't. But they don't know our ways. And they speak in many languages. It was because I thought that I might be able to organize them so that they could protect their camp that I joined them. All they need is organization to become great soldiers.

There wasn't any chance of the militia coming up the face of the hill. The hill looks right down on Walsenburg, and they'd have to come up in the face of our fire in order to take it

So they tried to flank us. Two detachments of militia, both with machine guns, tried to take us in the right and left flank. Major P. P. Lester, an official of the state Red
Cross, who should have been a noncombatant, led the militia who tried to turn our left flank. He was killed there.

It was not until Wednesday afternoon that Adjutant General Chase, commanding the Colorado state militia, called me up and asked for a truce. I agreed to it. I had hard
work to keep my men from continuing. They had been betrayed by the militia so often, that they do not trust them even in a truce.

They didn't start the battle. The militia fired the first shot. They had been shooting at us for two days.They were the aggressors through out. They meant to drive us back to our camp and that might mean Ludlow.

The militia had a cannon in addition to their three machine guns. They had constructed it at the mine forges. I don't know whether they shot anything from it or whether they simply set it off with giant powder to scare our men. I think they shot pieces of iron and chain, but they didn't do any damage.

And it didn't scare anybody. Men don't scare very easy when they're fighting to keep other men from shooting up and burning their homes.

And that's what I honestly believe would have happened if we'd lost the day.

The militia fired a steady stream of lead at us. Bullets spattered against the rocks. They whizzed by in the air. They kicked up the dust by our faces.

And all the time the machine guns kept up a persistent tattoo. There's something pretty about the sound of a machine gun. It's so regular. But it isn't pretty when it's turned against you.

All day long I heard that steady br-r-r-r-r-r and listened to the bullets whizz around me.

We suffered, but we only lost one man. He was killed by our own men. He lost his "uniform" a white handkerchief tied around the left arm. He walked into a party of our men, still carrying his rifle. They took him for a Rockefeller gunman. Eleven bullets found his body. Two other of our men were wounded.

I think it's all over now. The federal troops are here. We welcome them. For it can't be that the great government of the United States would turn against us like the state

Ludlow Massacre, Crucified
We think we're going to be safe from gunmen. At least, every miner prays so.

Ludlow is going to become a memory instead of an ever-present dread. We won't have to fight days and watch nights to protect helpless women and children.

For that was the sole cause of the battle of Walsenburg. It was because of Ludlow that practically every striker in this district armed himself.

We aren't pleading any defense. We don't feel that we need one. Women we knew, children we played with, have been shot and burned.

We're protecting them now.

Wouldn't you?

[emphasis added & photos added]

The Day Book
(Chicago, Illinois)
-of May 5, 1914

See also:

"ONE MAN'S OPINIONS" by N. D. Cochran

Hellraisers Journal: "Battle of the Hogback,
Don MacGregor Lays Down His Pen and Picks Up a Gun"
-by JayRaye

Armed Strikers at Camp Beshoar X2
Children of Ludlow
"Crucified" from the Denver Express
(MacGregor covered the strike for this newspaper
 from the union point of view in Colorado.)

Battle Cry of Union!

We will win the fight today, boys,
We'll win the fight today,
Shouting the battle cry of union;
We will rally from the coal mines,
We'll battle to the end,
Shouting the battle cry of union.

The union forever, hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Down with the Baldwins, up with the law;
For we're coming, Colorado, we're coming all the way,
Shouting the battle cry of union.

We have fought them here for years, boys,
We'll fight them in the end,
Shouting the battle cry of union.
We have fought them in the North,
Now we'll fight them in the South,
Shouting the battle cry of union.

We are fighting for our rights, boys,
We are fighting for our homes,
Shouting the battle cry of union;
Men have died to win the struggle;
They've died to set us free,
Shouting the battle cry of union.

      -Frank Hayes, 1913


Originally posted to Hellraisers Journal on Wed May 07, 2014 at 11:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by WE NEVER FORGET, Shamrock American Kossacks, In Support of Labor and Unions, Anti-Capitalist Chat, and History for Kossacks.

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