Thunder In the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War, 1920-21 by Lon SavageThunder In the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War, 1920-21 by Lon Savage

Thunder In the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War, 1920-21

byLon Savage

Paperback | September 6, 1990

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The West Virginia mine war of 1920-21, a major civil insurrection of unusual brutality on both sides, even by the standards of the coal fields, involved thousands of union and nonunion miners, state and private police, militia, and federal troops.  Before it was over, three West Virginia counties were in open rebellion, much of the state was under military rule, and bombers of the U.S. Army Air Corps had been dispatched against striking miners.

The origins of this civil war were in the Draconian rule of the coal companies over the fiercely proud miners of Appalachia.  It began in the small railroad town of Matewan when Mayor C. C. Testerman and Police Chief Sid Hatfield sided with striking miners against agents of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, who attempted to evict the miners from company-owned housing.  During a street battle, Mayor Testerman, seven Baldwin-Felts agents, and two miners were shot to death.

Hatfield became a folk hero to Appalachia.  But he, like Testerman, was to be a martyr.  The next summer, Baldwin-Felts agents assassinated him and his best friend, Ed Chambers, as their wives watched, on the steps of the courthouse in Welch, accelerating the miners’ rebellion into open warfare.

Much neglected in historical accounts, Thunder in the Mountains is the only available book-length account of the crisis in American industrial relations and governance that occured during the West Virginia mine war of 1920-21. 

John Thomas Sayles is a novelist, screenwriter, director, and actor. He was born in Schenectady, New York, on September 28, 1950. He earned a B.S. in psychology from Williams College in 1972. After graduating, Sayles earned a living as an orderly, a laborer, and a meat packer. Two novels and a collection of short stories were published...
Title:Thunder In the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War, 1920-21Format:PaperbackDimensions:216 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.5 inPublished:September 6, 1990Publisher:University of Pittsburgh Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0822954265

ISBN - 13:9780822954262


From Our Editors

The West Virginia mine wars--and particularly their climactic episode, the miner's march on Logan in August and September 1921--make for a rousing good story, and no one has told it as well or as fully as Lon Savage does in Thunder in the Mountains. Drawing on his years of experience as a professional journalist, Savage has written a masterful narrative, full of apt description and colorful characterizations, yet based solidly on the historical record.

Editorial Reviews

“The lively narrative, written by a former professional journalist and first published in 1985, is preceded by an explanatory introduction by John Williams.”
—International Review of Social History