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 Tenth of Chapters_
Snowden's Sharp Tactics—The Taking of Homestead—Troops in Possession—Soldiers Repel Advances and the Fraternal Reception is Declared Off—O'Donnell's Committee at Headquarters—Suspicion and Resentment Abroad—The Little Bill Returns—Congressmen Hold an Investigation—Capital and Labor in Conflict on the Witness Stand—The Cost of Producing Steel Remains a Riddle.
In pursuance of Gen. Snowden's plan to take Homestead by surprise, the Second and Third Brigades, instead of being massed as announced in the newspapers, at Brinton, a station on the Pennsylvania R. R. nearly opposite Homestead, came together at Radebaugh, a mile and a half west of Greensburg, and 28½ miles distant from Pittsburgh. By 2.30 A. M. all the regiments had reached the rendezvous, and at 5 A. M. the order to advance was given and the troops moved towards Homestead, crossing the Monongahela river over the P. V. & C. bridge near Braddock. The Tenth and Fourteenth regiments, and a battery, were left on the Braddock side of the river with orders to occupy the hills above Port Perry, from which the guns would sweep the mill yards and the Homestead river front.
The early morning hours were full of surprise for the people of Homestead. Look-outs were posted at all avenues of approach and anxious crowds hung around the telegraph offices. As it drew on towards 9 o'clock, a report was circulated that the troops were at Greensburg. Telegraphic inquiries dispatched to that place brought the response that they were not there. At 9.25 the operator at Greensburg sent this message: "No. 23 was wrecked above this place last night; tracks are blocked and troops are delayed." A bulletin conveying the news was pasted on the window of the telegraph office and elicited faint cheers from the crowd. Evidently several hours must yet elapse before the soldiers would arrive, and the interval was ample to rest and eat breakfast.
But at the very moment when the Greensburg operator was ticking his message over the wires, a train pulled into Munhall station at the eastern end of the town, and from a parlor car in front a tall, distinguished-looking man, wearing the stars of a major-general, alighted, followed by six others in uniform and an individual in civilian's clothing. It was Major General Snowden, accompanied by his staff and Sheriff McCleary. Behind the general officers' train, which was made up of two cars, came another train of ten cars, from the windows of which bayonets and muzzles of guns protruded. Then came another train and another and still others, until 95118 cars were drawn up in line, all bearing the same freight of guns and bayonets and lusty-looking fellows in the blue uniform of the National Guard.
There were, perhaps, 200 men and boys at Munhall when the military trains came in. Some of them had been up all night and were but half awake. None of them had expected the soldiers to arrive at that depot. After the first surprise was over, half a dozen scouts, who had been posted by the advisory committee, ran towards the town shouting: "The troops! the troops!" The rest of the crowd pressed in around the staff officers' train and looked on with curious interest.
General Snowden, fearing that there was trouble brewing, held a hasty consultation with his staff, and had the troops drawn up in line without a minute's loss of time. Company E of the Eighteenth regiment was selected for skirmish duty and marched along the tracks, clearing the crowd away. Then the whole regiment advanced, throwing out detachments of skirmishers as it went, and taking a straight course to the place of encampment.
Shanty Hill, the position selected, lies north of the town and forms part of the Pittsburgh Poor Farm, which had been purchased by the Carnegie Company, but was still held by the city under a special arrangement. The hill slopes gently towards the base but develops midway into a rather steep ascent. A broad plateau extends back from the summit. A better position for military purposes could not have been found. The town and the mill yards stretched out below, covered within easy range by batteries on the heights, and no movement could occur on the streets without being detected from above.
Before the scouts who ran to give warning of the presence of the soldiers had fairly begun to spread the alarm, the Eighteenth regiment had gained the summit of the hill and formed a line of battle. The Fifteenth regiment followed and formed a line of battle to the right of the Eighteenth, then came the Thirteenth, Twelfth, Fifth, Ninth and Seventh regiments, and within half an hour 4,000 men were drawn up in parallel lines of battle, overlooking the town, and ready, at the word of command, to turn 4,000 rifles on the crowds that, by this time had massed below.
Meanwhile the surprised citizens of Homestead perceived another force of soldiers marching and counter-marching on the hill tops on the other side of the river, their bayonets and field pieces glittering in the morning sunlight.
Homestead was beleaguered at all points. Without the firing of a shot or the semblance of a parley, the town, which a week before had been the scene of carnage, was captured, and its guardians were taken so completely by surprise that they scarcely realized what was occurring until the troops were in possession.
General Snowden had proved himself an admirable tactician, and the swiftness and unerring precision with which he handled the large body of men under his control were universally applauded.
The unexpected fashion in which the soldiers entered broke up all the plans that had been arranged for their reception. The Homestead bands remained mute; Burgess McLuckie's speech was relegated to oblivion, and the reception committee was nonplussed by the circumstance that the guests had made themselves at home without waiting for a formal reception. It appeared, in short, that the soldiers were so intent upon business that they had no time for sentiment and that the process of fraternizing was not to be so easy as the people had expected.
If there was any doubt on this head it vanished when some of the workmen endeavored to make their way up Shanty Hill in order to mingle with the "boys in blue." Sentinels barred the way and informed those who sought to pass, that until further orders, no civilian would be allowed to go through the lines. So the townsfolk, including the committeemen of the Amalgamated lodges, had to content themselves with clustering at the foot of the hill and watching the manœuvres of the troops from a distance.
Shortly before noon a number of prominent citizens and leaders of the Amalgamated Association held a conference and appointed a committee to wait upon General Wiley (General Snowden's presence on the ground was not yet known), to tender the good wishes and co-operation of the Amalgamated Association and the people of Homestead, and to request that the military receive the workingmen in a body, accompanied by brass bands.
The committeemen obtained access to the headquarters of the Third Brigade, but, on stating the nature of their mission to General Wiley, were referred by him to General Snowden, who had established his division headquarters at the Carnegie school house on Shanty Hill.
Sheriff McCleary was found in conference with General Snowden.
Captain Coon, an ex-militia officer and a representative citizen, spoke for the committee, informing the General of the desire of the Amalgamated Association and of the citizens generally to co-operate with the state authority in maintaining order. General Snowden checked the speaker with the statement that he did not recognize the Amalgamated Association or any authority other than that of the Governor of Pennsylvania and the Sheriff of Allegheny County. The best way in which the people of Homestead could co-operate with the state troops was, he said, by behaving themselves. Captain Coon undertook to renew the offer of assistance, but was cut short with the assurance that such offers could not be accepted.
At this point, Hugh O'Donnell stepped forward and explained that what the people desired was to attest their cheerful submission to legal authority in contrast to their refusal to submit to illegal authority as represented by Mr. Frick's troop of Pinkertons.
"The gentleman behind you is the one to whom you should submit," said General Snowden, with a wave of the hand towards Sheriff McCleary.
"We have always submitted to his authority," said O'Donnell.
"I beg your pardon," rejoined the General, "but you did not do so at the mill."
O'Donnell made a gesture of dissent. "I leave it to the Sheriff if we have not submitted," he retorted.
"No; you did not," replied the Sheriff. "You didn't allow my deputies to take charge of the works."
Some further parley ensued, O'Donnell asserting that the committee represented, not the Amalgamated Association, but a citizens' mass meeting and General Snowden responding that he recognized no citizens but those of Allegheny County.
"Then," said the former, "as citizens of Allegheny County we come to see you."
"Then I'm glad to see you, gentlemen," was the General's rejoinder, "I am glad that our position here is welcomed by the citizens of Allegheny County."
O'Donnell now proposed that the men of Homestead, with four brass bands, be permitted to pass in review before the troops, but met with a flat refusal, General Snowden stating that he was there on the business of the state and not to indulge in formalities.
This concluded the interview and the committee withdrew in anything but a comfortable frame of mind.
It was useless to talk now of welcoming the soldiers as friends any more than of resisting them as foes. They had come to do the duty imposed on them by the state with mechanical precision and indifference to the human conditions around them. As well think of fraternizing with the pieces of ordnance that glistened ominously on the hill top as with the icy Snowden and Snowden's 4,000 subordinates. This tall, courtly gentleman with the huge moustache and gold-rimmed glasses perched upon his classic nose, seemed to have not a grain of sentiment in his composition. He was the visible incarnation of the state's police powers, stern and inflexible, and it is not overstating the case to say that, before night, all Homestead secretly detested him.
Sheriff McCleary, after quaking in his shoes for a week, fairly reveled in the sunshine of General Snowden's presence. With cannon to right of him, cannon to left of him, cannon in front of him and soldiers on all sides, the Sheriff became a new man and began to talk in a tone of authority which he had not previously ventured to assume. One remark attributed to him was that the men who took part in the fight with the Pinkertons would be prosecuted for riot and murder. When this ominous threat was bruited abroad, it created a sensation among the workmen. Most of the men, however, affected to regard it as mere buncombe. The participants in the affray were pledged to secresy, and, it was contended, if suits were to be entered at all, the whole population of Homestead would have to be made defendants. Still there was a growing feeling of uneasiness, especially since it was suspected, with good reason, as it proved afterward, that there were Pinkerton spies in town for the purpose of collecting evidence to be used in criminal prosecutions.
The immediate result of the disquietude thus developed was to put a keener edge on the discontent inspired by the uncongenial behavior of the military. Men gathered in groups on the streets and indulged in bitter murmurings. "We have been deceived," they said, "deceived by the Governor; deceived unwittingly, but none the less effectually, by our own advisers. We have stood idly by and let the town be occupied by soldiers who come here, not as our protectors, but as the protectors of non-union men, for whom Frick is now scouring the country and who will be brought into the mill and installed in our places with the aid of the commonwealth. Then, if we undertake to resist the seizure of our jobs, we will be shot down like dogs. It is the story of the coke regions over again."
As if to add fuel to the fire, the "Little Bill," the very name of which could not be mentioned by a Homesteader without a profane accompaniment, steamed up to the landing place adjoining the mill yard in all the glory of an official dispatch boat. One of General Snowden's first acts had been to charter the detested little tug for the use of the state, and Captain Rodgers, still smarting from the effects of his experience on July 6, was only too glad to obtain the chance of confronting his old enemies under circumstances which insured his safety. The return of the Little Bill had upon the locked-out men the effect that a red rag has upon a bull.
Whatever hopes were based by the men of Homestead on the presence of sympathizers, workmen like themselves, in the ranks of the militia were quickly counteracted. It having come to the ears of Colonel Kreps, of the Fifteenth regiment, that some of his men had promised to hand over their guns to the steelworkers in the event of trouble caused by an attempt of the Carnegie Company to operate the mill, the Colonel caused the regiment to be drawn up in line, mentioned the report which he had heard and closed with the words—"Let any man be foolish enough to attempt anything of the kind and I will shoot him down in his tracks." After this, the militiamen put a bridle on their tongues and disaffection was not hinted at.
Although martial law, in the strict sense of the term, was not declared at Homestead, General Snowden took the precaution of establishing a provost guard which made the rounds of the town and fulfilled the dual function of bringing disorderly stragglers into camp and repressing dangerous demonstrations among the townspeople. Burgess McLuckie's police were of little use and the saloonkeepers had disregarded the order to close their establishments, so that a close watch had to be kept to prevent drunkenness and disorder, particularly among the soldiery.
Nothing was left undone to make Camp McClellan, as it was called, a model of disciplinary perfection.
Just about the time when the National Guard was taking possession of Homestead, a special committee detailed by the National House of Representatives to investigate the trouble between the Carnegie Company and its employees, arrived in Pittsburgh. The committee consisted of W.C. Oates, of Alabama, chairman; W.H. Bynum, of Indiana; C.J. Boatner, of Louisiana; E.B. Taylor, of Ohio, and Case Broderick, of Kansas. Messrs. Taylor and Broderick were the only Republican members.
The committee visited Homestead in the afternoon, and at 7.30 P. M. began the hearing of testimony.
H. C. Frick was the first witness. In answer to leading questions he detailed the membership, resources and operations of the Carnegie Company, the wages paid at Homestead, the nature of the sliding scale and the events leading up to the lock-out.
Judge Oates asked: "Not counting anything by way of interest on investment, what is the cost per ton of billets?"
Mr. Frick.—I hardly think that is a fair question. I do not think you ought to ask me to go into that.
Col. Taylor.—Would you object to informing us of the cost per ton of steel?
Mr. Frick answered that he would.
Mr. Boatner.—Don't feel disposed to give away the secrets of the trade, eh?
To this the witness responded that the matter in question was a trade secret and must be respected as such.
Mr. Frick was then questioned concerning his enlistment of Pinkerton guards. He had acted, he said, on the conviction, gathered from prior experience, that the sheriff was powerless. After June 24, the firm had decided to hire the guards at $5 a day per man, and to put new workmen into the mill. The witness read a copy of a letter which he had sent to Robert A. Pinkerton under date of June 25. The communication called for 300 guards to be used in enabling the starting of the Homestead mill on July 6, directed the massing of the force at Ashtabula, O. and advised "absolute secresy in the movement of these men, so that no demonstration can be made while they are in route." It concluded as follows: "As soon as your men are upon the premises, we will notify the sheriff and ask that they be deputized either at once or immediately upon an outbreak of such a character as to render such a step desirable."
Mr. Frick was plied with interrogations concerning the Little Bill, the barges and the famous fence topped with barbed-wire, and Mr. Boatner asked particularly as to the "port-holes" in the latter. "They were made," the witness replied gravely, "for the purpose of looking out to see who might be on the outside."
The examination of the Carnegie chairman was not completed when the committee adjourned, after a two hours' session, and on the resumption of the hearing next morning, he was again placed on the stand. Congressman Boatner opened the ball by endeavoring to ascertain whether or not there had been an agreement between Mr. Frick and the Pinkerton agency prior to June 25, a point on which it appeared, Mr. Frick's memory was defective. Neither could a direct answer be obtained as to the time when it was deemed advisable to arm the guards. The question of wages was taken up again, Mr. Frick stating that the rates at Homestead were higher than at any other mills, that the proposed reduction averaged 15 per cent. and yet the men would make still more money from month to month under the new terms than they made under the old. The examination of the Carnegie Chairman ended with the reading of a schedule of wages paid to tonnage men under the old scale.
Captain Rodgers, of the Little Bill, was the next witness. He told the story of the arrival of the Pinkertons, the trip of the barges up the river and the fight at the mill landing substantially as it has been related in the preceding pages of this volume.
Sheriff McCleary followed and was closely catechized as to his supposed official sponsorship for the Pinkertons. The Sheriff denied that he had promised to deputize the Pinkertons. Having been informed by Messrs. Knox & Reed, the Carnegie Company's attorneys, that the Pinkertons would be sent up and that a deputy would be needed to aid in preserving the peace, he had, he said, ordered Colonel Gray to go and that "if there was much opposition to their landing he should order the captain and the Pinkertons to come away." No amount of cross-examining could shake Mr. McCleary's assertion that the Pinkertons were not deputized and that Colonel Grey was not authorised to deputize them.
President Weihe, of the Amalgamated Association, explained the sliding scale system, the propositions submitted by the Carnegie Company, and the workmen's reasons for rejecting those propositions. The reductions in wages resulting from the acceptance of the firm's terms would range, he said, from 10 to 30 per cent. As to improvements, the Association always made allowances for these, and no objection was offered if jobs were done away with. The change proposed in the scale-signing date would have set an example which other mills throughout the country would have been sure to follow.
Mr. Weihe was asked to state his views on arbitration. He declined to speak for the Association, but gave it as his individual opinion that arbitration, whether compulsory or by voluntary tribunals was an unsatisfactory resort, the issue being almost invariably against the workingman. The trouble in estimating wages resided in the fact that the firms could not be persuaded to tell the exact cost of production.
Hugh O'Donnell succeeded Mr. Weihe on the witness stand. He told of the organization of the advisory committee with himself as chairman and of the posting of guards outside the mill fence, who "were told not to use force."
"Were they ordered to use violence to keep men out?" the witness was asked.
"No sir, they were not. Their purpose was to keep all out by peaceable methods."
O'Donnell described the attempt of the Pinkertons to land and his own efforts to check the bloodshed which followed. "I am sure," he said "the crowd near the water had no guns."
"Who fired the first shot?" asked a committeeman.
"I cannot say."
"Do you know anything of the attempt to fire the barges with oil?"
"I decline to answer."
Resuming his story, O'Donnell recounted the incidents of the surrender and the terrible march to the rink. "The detectives," he said, "received most inhuman treatment, but our men did everything to protect them, as I can prove, and many received wounds on the trip to the town rink." Asked as to his wages, he replied that he earned $144 a month. His explanation of the antipathy of the laboring class to Pinkerton detectives was that, in the special case under consideration, the workmen looked upon the Pinkertons as "armed invaders and allies of capital," and also because "if the Pinkertons got possession they would aid the firm in bringing in non-union men."
Burgess McLuckie testified to being an employe of the Carnegie firm, earning from $60 to $65 a month. He volunteered the statement that "there is a gigantic conspiracy somewhere, aided and abetted by legislation, to deprive the workingmen of their rights under the constitution of this government—those of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," and illustrated this assertion by referring to the reduction of the tariff on billets, the identical article on which the compensation of the Homestead men was based. Carnegie and McKinley, in his opinion, were fellow conspirators in this case. He characterized the Pinkertons as "lazy thugs employed by unscrupulous capitalists."
Congressman Taylor interjected a remark as to the signs of prosperity in Homestead, and especially, the comfortable looking houses there. "Well," rejoined McLuckie, "let me ask you a question. Are those homes too good for workingmen to live in?" "Not half good enough," answered Mr. Taylor. "Thank you," said McLuckie. Everybody smiled at this little exchange of compliments.
William Roberts, a member of the advisory committee, gave a very clear statement of the causes of dissension at Homestead. The wage reductions, he held, affected not the men who were making exceptionally high wages but many who for eight weeks had not averaged $1 a day. For instance, one man who, under the old scale made $2.23 a day would make under the new one offered by the firm only $1.32, while the heater who made $4.31 suffered no reduction. Mr. Roberts advocated compulsory arbitration. In answer to a question regarding the comparative rates of wages in the Homestead and other mills, he said: "In the American iron works, Carnegie's principal competitor, a roller is paid 70 cents per ton while at Homestead he is paid only 22 or 23 cents. A plate-mill roller at Homestead is paid 14 cents per ton, while at Jones & Loughlin's he is paid 72 cents. The product is similar, it goes into the same market and is used for the same purpose."
Colonel James H. Gray, Sheriff McCleary's chief deputy, described the trip of the barges to Homestead, and corroborated the Sheriff's claims that the Pinkertons were not deputized and that orders had not been given to deputize them. He said positively that the Pinkertons did not fire a shot until they had to do so in self-defense. This concluded the second day's session of the committee.
When the committee re-convened on the morning of July 14, John A. Potter, general superintendent of the Homestead mills, was the first witness summoned. Mr. Potter furnished data as to the equipment and capacity of the mills, but expressed ignorance as to the cost of producing a ton of steel. He assigned as the reason for reducing wages that the Carnegie firm was "ahead of competitors" and paying more than the owners of similar mills, and therefore thought it should have "some of the advantages." Mr. Potter had been on the Little Bill when the Pinkertons tried to land at Homestead, but had declined to take the responsibility of entering the mill yard by force.
The remainder of the morning was occupied principally with the hearing of Homestead workmen who testified as to the effect of Mr. Frick's propositions upon their respective earnings, and of watchmen and others who had been connected with the Pinkerton's expedition and who described their various experiences.
Mr. Frick was recalled and permitted to rebut some of the assertions made by the workingmen. To prove that his firm did not control the billet market he cited the fact that Jones & Laughlin's mill has a capacity of 1000 tons daily, while the output at Homestead is 800 tons daily. He again refused to give the labor cost of producing a ton of steel although Congressman Boatner twitted him with refusing to give the information "on which protective legislation is asked for."
"I do not think we asked for the legislation," observed Mr. Frick.
"You have been greatly misrepresented then," said Mr. Boatner grimly.
Mr. Frick estimated the value of the Homestead plant at from $5,000,000 to $6,000,000, and stated that the capitalization of the Carnegie Company was considerably in excess of $25,000,000.
Having heard all sides of the case, the committee closed its labors early in the afternoon and returned to Washington where congress awaited its report.