Arthur G. Burgoyne_
Eighteen and Ninety Three_
Homestead_ A Complete History_
The feeling of ownership had a place in the reasoning of these simple people. Many of them had bought and paid for their homes and were pillars of the borough government. Some were still paying for their dwellings—paying off the mortgages held by the Carnegie Company, which had been in the habit of helping those who cared to build, and which even did a regular banking business for the advantage of its employees.
The Seventh of Chapters_
Amalgamated Officials as Mediators—President Weihe Calls a Mass Meeting and Counsels Peace—Hugh O'Donnell's Speech—The Brave Young Leader Procures a Surrender—Pinkertons Run The Gauntlet—A Savage Mob Assails the Prisoners—Arrival of the Sheriff—The Frick Troop of Invaders Driven from the State.
At three o'clock President William Weihe, of the Amalgamated Association, came up from Pittsburgh, bearing a commission from the Sheriff. He was accompanied by Assistant President-elect C. H. McEvay, of Youngstown, Ohio; Secretary Shaw, Charles Johns and other prominent officials and members of the association. President-elect Garland joined the party. The visitors, whose mission was one of mediation, arrived none too soon. The same indefatigable individuals who had experimented with the burning raft and the car of fire, had just turned their attention to pumping oil into the water and throwing heaps of burning waste upon it, expecting to set fire to the barges by this means. It was also determined to pump streams of oil upon the barges with the aid of the borough fire-engines and, having once thoroughly soaked the craft with the inflammable fluid, dynamite, the men thought, ought to do the rest.
There was a lull in these proceedings when word was passed along the line that the Amalgamated officials desired to address the men. The mass-meeting, which a few citizens of the town had unsuccessfully sought to bring about was now gotten together in a short space of time and with no appreciable difficulty, for the men entertained a high regard for President Weihe and were anxious at heart to hear what advice he might have to tender them. The meeting was held in one of the mill buildings. Mr. Weihe addressed the crowd, explaining that he came by virtue of an agreement with the sheriff to propose that the Pinkertons be allowed to depart with the guarantee that they would not return. The barbarity of continuing the battle until it ended in an absolute massacre was enlarged upon, and it was pointed out that the workmen were already victorious and could afford to rest on their laurels and to avoid tarnishing the good name of Homestead by committing what the world would regard as an outrage upon humanity.
Mr. Garland, who had mounted on a boiler as a rostrum, followed in an earnest appeal to the manhood of his hearers. "For God's sake, brethren, be reasonable" he cried. "These men have killed your comrades, but it can do no good to kill more of them. You have doubtless had two lives for one already."
A roar of disapproval greeted this deliverance. "We'll have the lives of the rest of the villains," shouted a chorus of angry voices. "Let us blow them out of the water or burn them alive." "Order, order!" cried others, and the rebuke was reinforced by a display of clubs and brawny fists which had the effect of silencing the turbulent element for the time being.
"If you permit these men to depart," Mr. Garland continued, "You will show to the world that you desire to maintain peace and good order along with your rights. Public opinion will still uphold you in your struggle."
Again clamorous disapproval greeted the speaker. Cries of "Kill them!" "Burn them!" were heard on all sides, but there were also a few who shouted "Let them go!"
Mr. McEvay spoke next. "This day," he said, "You have won a victory such as was never before known in the history of struggles between capital and labor." Tremendous cheering followed this diplomatic exordium. "But," the speaker resumed, "If you do not let these men go, the military will be sent here and you will lose all you have gained. We have no assurances, but we hope for a conference if peace is established. It is certain that, after this lesson, Pinkerton detectives will never come here again." Cheering was renewed when Mr. McEvay finished and the cries of "Let them go" increased in volume.
Mr. Weihe seized this opportunity to suggest that a steamer be allowed to come up the river and tow away the barges. "Will the Little Bill come after them?" somebody howled, and once more pandemonium broke loose. Mr. Weihe's promise that an unobjectionable boat would be secured had, however, a quieting effect, and the meeting dispersed leaving the impression in the minds of the officials that the Pinkertons could be released.
The news of what had taken place in the meeting traveled quickly through the mill yard, reaching even the tireless laborers who had been throwing oil on the barges and who were now engaged in bombarding them with Roman candles, sky-rockets and other fireworks—surplus Fourth of July stock obtained from the stores.
Hugh O'Donnell seized this opportunity to make another plea for peace. Grasping a small American flag, the intrepid young leader sprang upon a pile of iron and commanded the attention of perhaps a thousand men, who gathered eagerly around him. O'Donnell began his speech cautiously, discussing the situation in such a manner as to feel the pulse of his auditory and make sure that he had their sympathy. After having assured himself of his ground, he unfolded a plan for a pacific settlement, suggesting that a truce be arranged, and that the workmen take the initiative by displaying a white flag.
"Show the white flag? Never," was the unanimous response. "If there is any white flag to be shown, it must fly from the boats."
This brought O'Donnell to the point he wished to reach, "What will we do then?" he asked.
"We will hold them in the boats until the Sheriff comes and we will have warrants sworn out for every man for murder. The Sheriff will then have to take them in charge," said one man, and, singularly enough, considering the mood in which the men had been a few minutes before, this comparatively mild proposal evoked a general shout of approval.
O'Donnell, satisfied that a peaceable adjustment could now be effected, stepped down and went among the men strengthening the resolution which had just been taken. In the meantime the Pinkertons had been holding a final conference among themselves. A majority favored surrender and forced the captains, who were still doggedly bent upon holding out, to give in. Once more a white flag was hoisted on the Iron Mountain, and this time it was not shot down.
At the sight of the flag, the workmen cheered and cries of "Victory!" "We have them now," "They surrender," rent the air.
O' Donnell, accompanied by two other members of the advisory committee, ran down to the river bank and received the message of the detective who acted as spokesman. The purport of it was that the Pinkertons would surrender if protection from violence were assured to them. After a short parley, this was agreed to, although the howls and imprecations of an unruly mob which had thronged into the mill-yard boded ill for the fulfilment of the guarantee. O'Donnell had more than his own comrades to answer for. Throughout the afternoon thousands of outsiders—some of them millmen from South Pittsburgh, some roughs and toughs who relished the prospect of taking a hand in a fight of any kind, some Anarchists, aching for a chance to strike a blow at "Capital" and its representatives—had walked into Homestead over the railroad tracks and were now mingled with the steelworkers. These strangers, of course, were careless of consequences and indifferent to the restraining influence of O'Donnell and those associated with O'Donnell in ending the conflict. The women, too, were not to be relied upon. After being shut out of the battle-ground all day, it was questionable whether or not they could be held in check when the Pinkertons were placed at their mercy. It is well to bear these facts in mind in connection with the painful scene which is now to be depicted.
The Pinkertons, despite O'Donnell's pledge of protection, seemed to lose all heart when the moment came to leave the barges. Nobody was willing to be the first to go on shore, and, as if seized by a panic, the helpless wretches huddled together behind benches and boxes and waited, in fear and trembling, for a summons from the other side. The workmen, however, were not slow to make themselves masters of the situation. Hundreds of them rushed down the bank, crossed the gang-plank and clambered into the barges. On the shore a tremendous crowd gathered, hooting and yelling, most of them carrying weapons of some kind. No wonder the Pinkertons blenched. They had to run the gauntlet, and if the experience before them was not destined to be almost as trying as that attributed to the victims of the gauntlet torture in tales of Indian life, it was not because the mob did not show all signs of thirsting for a fierce carnival of revenge.
The crowd on the shore formed itself, as if by a preconcerted plan, into two lines, 600 yards long, between which the men from the barges had to pass. As the first of the Pinkertons emerged from the barge Iron Mountain, it was seen that he carried his Winchester rifle. "Disarm him," yelled the crowd, and directly every one of the guards was forced to lay down his arms.
Then the Pinkertons came out, in a dilapidated looking string, walking, running or crawling as best they could. The first few passed through the lines without molestation beyond hoots, jeers and imprecations. Suddenly the fury of the mob broke out. A man struck a detective with his open hand. The example was contagious. Clubs and stones were used with demoniacal ferocity. Women, converted for the nonce into veritable furies, belabored Mr. Frick's janizaries with bludgeons, stoned them, kicked them and spat upon them. The hated Pinkerton uniforms were torn off and cast into the river. Cries for mercy were treated with derision.
As a means of identification the Pinkertons had been compelled to uncover their heads, and thus offered an easy mark to their half-crazed assailants.
"Men, for the love of God, have mercy on me," shrieked a gray-headed man, wounded and bleeding. Mercy! The time for that weakness had gone by. The suppliant was an accursed Pinkerton and again and again he was struck down and beaten before he reached the end of those terrible lines.
One young fellow, on leaving the gang-plank, threw himself on his knees, burst into tears and begged to be spared. Kicks brought him to his feet again, and he had hardly risen when he was felled to the earth by a blood-stained club.
The satchels and other small articles that the Pinkertons carried were snatched from them and destroyed.
Only those who were seriously wounded were permitted to pass without being attacked.
While this exhibition of barbarism was in progress, Hugh O'Donnell and a corps of aids, representing the advisory committee, made frantic efforts to shield the prisoners; but the mob, for the most part, owed no allegiance to the Amalgamated lodges, and set the officials at defiance. In fact, several of the men who made up the hastily-formed escort were themselves struck and reviled for their humanity.
The Pinkertons were led through the streets to the rink, or opera-house, suffering indignities all the way. Even children threw mud and stones at them. Arrived at the rink, the entire posse was driven in like a herd of sheep. Guards were placed and members of the Amalgamated Association, assisted by physicians of the town, attended to the wounded. Entrance to the rink was not secured without serious trouble. A crowd of Hungarians gathered here to take vengeance for the death of one of their countrymen who had fallen in the early morning skirmish. Women were among them and incited the men to mischief. When the Pinkertons appeared, a brawny Hungarian seized one of them by the throat and struck him in the face, while a stoutly-built woman belabored him with a club. A guard, placed there by the advisory committee, leveled his gun at the Huns, and shouted "Stand back, or by —— I'll shoot the next man or woman that raises a hand against them. We have promised to protect them and we'll do it, even if we have to use our guns." This declaration provoked a howl of rage and cries of "Kill the murderers." Instantly a dozen guns were leveled at the mob, and disaster might have followed, had not Burgess McLuckie come forward, commanded peace and assured the crowd that the Pinkertons would be locked up and held for murder. No further trouble was experienced in getting the bruised and battered prisoners into their temporary quarters.
A sorrier sight than these men presented when they were assembled after the horrors of the day's fighting in the barges and of the march to the rink could not well be imagined. By actual count, one hundred and forty-three of the survivors were suffering from painful wounds or contusions, and those who had by extraordinary good luck, escaped with a whole skin, were half dead from fear and exhaustion.
They were kept in the rink under guard until near midnight. In the interim a conference was held between the borough council and the workmen's committee, at which it was agreed to let the Sheriff come to Homestead and remove the Pinkertons, whose presence in the town was a standing incentive to disorder. The Sheriff was sent for accordingly and arrived on a special train at eleven o'clock in company with the chief executive officers of the Amalgamated Association and W. J. Brennen, solicitor for the association. The Pinkertons were hurried into the Sheriff's train as quickly as their condition would permit, locked securely in the cars, and brought to Pittsburgh, where, after a score of the most dangerously wounded men had been removed to the hospital, the train was switched quietly to a side-track in the Pennsylvania Railroad yards, there to remain until the authorities decided what should be done with the Carnegie Company's troublesome agents. An hour or two later, it was decided, after a consultation held by the Sheriff with his bondsman, Chris L. Magee, a gentleman prominent in Republican politics, and the railroad officials, that the men should be sent east, and they were accordingly taken out of town, without considering the demand for their arrest and indictment. This was, no doubt, the best thing that could be done under the circumstances, in view of the strong feeling against the Pinkertons among the working people of Pittsburgh.
When the Pinkertons had been driven from the barges, both vessels were subjected to a thorough search. Among the articles brought to light was a roster containing 266 names, divided into squads of 20, each in command of a lieutenant. Notes in the book showed that some of the men had been on duty at Walston, Pa., at Cleveland and other points where strikes had occurred.
The barges were for a time thronged with curious men, women and children. Somebody said "Burn them." Then the sight-seers fell back; a few stout fellows carried out the last boxes of Winchesters and ammunition; oil was thrown upon the boats; a torch was applied to each; and, in a few minutes, the Iron Mountain and the Monongahela were enveloped in flames. The delight of the on-lookers at this finale to the tragic events of the day knew no bounds. They cheered, clapped their hands and even danced with glee while the dry wood blazed and crackled, and two huge columns of smoke rose lazily towards the sky and formed clouds overhead. Not until the vessels had burned to the surface of the water and the last hissing embers disappeared beneath the placid bosom of the Monongahela did the enthusiasm abate.
The removal of the Pinkertons allowed the men of Homestead to rest for the first time in forty-eight hours, and the town now lapsed into its normal condition of quietude. Pickets were posted as usual to guard against surprise, but, aside from these watchers, the whole population sought repose, and by dint of sheer exhaustion, slept as soundly as if, a few hours before, carnage had not reigned supreme.
Whether the sheriff of Allegheny county slept or not is an open question. His last act before going to Homestead to remove the Pinkertons was to set his clerks at work making out notices to leading residents of Pittsburgh and Allegheny City, calling upon them, as loyal citizens of the commonwealth, to report next morning for service as special deputies at Homestead. The list was made up largely of editors, bankers, wealthy merchants and others of a class not likely to respond with alacrity. The outlook for a campaign against the fighting men of Homestead with such an army was hardly of a kind to promote wholesome slumber.
Mr. Frick, on whom the responsibility for the slaughter at Homestead was generally supposed to devolve, spent the night at his palatial residence in the East End, under the guardianship of private detectives.
Late at night, Secretary Lovejoy furnished a statement to the press. The Carnegie Company, he claimed, had offered $10,000 to any steamboat captain or owner who would go up the river and tow the barges down, but could find no one willing to take the risk. The company now left everything to the sheriff, with whom, quoth the secretary, "we cannot interfere in the discharge of his duty."