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The Battle Of Blair Mountain: The Story Of America's Largest Labor Uprising Hardcover – May 25, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (May 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813340969
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813340968
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this concise, dramatic and authoritative account of the bloody 1921 encounter between the mine workers and mine owners of the West Virginia coalfields—the most tumultuous labor battle in American history—Shogan gives us a strikingly vivid post-WWI America both utterly foreign and oddly familiar. A former political reporter for Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times, Shogan is as much good feature writer as historian. Out of a confusing and often still-disputed series of events, he sets scenes and fills in necessary background with an unfussy narrative drive. Such well-known figures as the mercurial Mother Jones and the stalwart Samuel Gompers have their roles, as do a pair of presidents (Wilson and Harding), whose dithering made a difficult situation worse. Less familiar figures such as the organizer Sid Hatfield and the detective C.E. Lively are drawn with lifelike strokes. Police raids and deportations, bombs sent through the mail and a general air of panic and "red" hysteria build as miners and owners move inexorably toward their ultimate confrontation. The tragic outcome of the battle between a group of mountain people and the full power of the emerging superstate—with WWI hero (and later state senator) Billy Mitchell's biplanes ready, 15 years before Guernica, to bomb civilians—is inevitable, but it is Shogan's triumph here to make the reader feel it anew. A minor quibble is the otherwise fine bibliography's failure to mention John Sayles's Matewan, surely an important (and reasonably accurate) version of the events in question. 10 b&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"A mesmerizing, rarely mentioned piece of labor history, crackingly told." Kirkus (starred review)" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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This is a well written; well researched work.
E. E Pofahl
Robert Shogan writes a good narrative explaining the Battle of Blair Mountain.
Pennsylvania 1986
It is very readable and I recommend it highly.
Jim Bartholomew

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Melissa L. Owsley on August 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I grew up on the stories of the Mining Wars as my grandfather was a coal miner during this time. When I was in college I was shocked when I took a course on Labor History that did not even mention the Mining Wars or Railroad Wars that raged across the Mason/Dixon line. The Battle of Blair Mountain begins to remedy that for the Miners and their stories.

This book, by Mr. Shogan, should be required reading in every history class that covers the labor movement. Too many folks do not understand the price that regular men and women paid in order for them to enjoy the weekend, overtime, and all sorts of rights now taken for granted. And too many of the folks in power have forgotten the rage that occured when the 'bosses' and 'captain's of industry' were taking more than their fair share through things such as usury and company stores - not to mention being in bed with the politicians of the day on local, state, and national levels.

Shogan's book covers all of this. It is written in an easy to digest style. My father, who also knows these stories from his father and his uncles said it was one of the most accurate portrayals he had read. (Of course, to someone who knew these folks, there were misses - such as no mention of KKK involvement.)

One thing that I find interesting is the note about so few bodies. It makes me think of a great uncle of mine who said about being a sniper: 'Well, we mostly shot at them to scare 'em off ... and it worked most of the time...' He wouldn't say anything about the ones who didn't get scared off.

These Virginians - and Kentuckians - were sharpshooters and descendants of some of the oldest families in the U.S. of A. They believed they were doing what their forefathers did in defending their rights - and Mr.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In 1920 there was war in the West Virginia hills, a real war with real soldiers and real deaths. It was a battle between coal miners and coal company operators, and part of it was depicted in John Sayles's fine independent film _Matewan_. Robert Shogan, a political correspondent and historian, has told its story in _The Battle of Blair Mountain: The Story of America's Largest Labor Uprising_ (Westview). Shogan brings immediacy to the story by looking closely at details of the war and also at the larger social movements within the nation and the world. He produces a tense narrative that lets up only when the fate of the lost cause of the miners is decided in the final chapters.

After the labor calm during the World War, labor tension was highest in West Virginia. Mining was inherently a back-breaking and dangerous job. The mine owners often cheated on their own work rules, deliberately fudging the loads of coal cars so that miners would get paid for less coal dug. The Stone Mountain Coal Company did everything it could to prevent unionization; it reminded the miners that they not only owed their jobs to the company but also the very houses in which their families lived, and that anyone who joined a union would lose it all. The Battle for Blair Mountain was sparked after company police came to Matewan to throw families out of their homes. Resentment eventually took form of a march the miners planned, and some dreamed of marching to free union organizers from the jails in which they were held and then bringing an end to martial law. Shogan writes that the uprising was "the largest armed uprising on American soil since the Civil War." With the federal military involved, the outcome was not surprising, although it was a real battle, with roaring machine guns and pincer tactics.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Paul Tognetti TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As a citizen of these United States it is one of my great frustrations that young people do not know history. I have my own theories on why that is, but needless to say we all pay the price for this unfortunate state of affairs. That is especially clear to me when I read a book like "The Battle of Blair Mountain: The Story of America's Largest Labor Uprising".

In spite of all of the reading I do I will be the first to admit that I had never even heard about this epic struggle between the United Mine Workers union and the coal mine operators. It is the classic labor-management confrontation. Robert Shogan does a superb job of recreating the events that occurred in the mountains of rural West Virginia in the years 1920 and 1921. During those years the leadership of the United Mine Workers was committed to unionizing all of the non-union mines in the State of West Virginia. On the other hand the mine operators were just as determined to keep the unions out. And as Robert Shogan so eloquently points out the mine owners had friends, powerful friends, in places of authority at all levels of government in West Virginia. The result was a period of violence and unrest that culminated in "The Battle of Blair Mountain". A good many individuals had already lost their lives in the skirmishes that led up to "The Battle". Now nearly 10,000 coal miners were armed and poised to fight for the right to organize. On the other side were the forces of the State of West Virginia backed up by troops from the U.S. Army. But for the grace of God it could have been a blood bath.

History buffs and students of labor-management relations are certain to enjoy "The Battle of Blair Mountain". It would also be a wonderful book for high school civics teachers to assign to their students.
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