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Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.
-Mother Jones

Wednesday April 29, 1914
Walsenburg, Colorado - Battle of the Hogback Rages, Don MacGregor Leads the Miners

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 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.

Sheriff Farr has, thus far, declined to participate in the battle. He and his guards barricaded themselves within the granite courthouse as the miners took control of parts of Walsenburg, including 7th Street. The miners are running supplies from there out along the Hogback to their embattled comrades.

Don MacGregor, Reporter for the Denver Express

We can only speculate as to what caused MacGregor to lay down his pen and join the fight of the miners. He has been covering the strike from the beginning for the pro-union Denver Express. He was there that first day of blowing rain and snow as the evicted miners and their families came down from the hills and began to set up camp at the Ludlow Tent Colony. He reported:

No one who did not see that exodus can imagine its pathos. The exodus from Egypt was a triumph, the going forth of a people set free. The exodus of the Boers from Cape Colony was the trek of a united people seeking freedom.

But this yesterday, that wound its bowed, weary way between the coal hills on the one side and the far-stretching prairie on the other, through the rain and the mud, was an Exodus of woe, of a people leaving known fears for new terrors, a hopeless people seeking new hope, a people born to suffering going forth to new suffering.

And they struggled along the roads interminably. In an hour's drive between Trinidad and Ludlow, 57 wagons were passed, and others seemed to be streaming down to the main road from every by-path.

Every wagon was the same, with its high piled furniture, and its bewildered woebegone family perched atop. And the furniture! What a mockery to the state's boasted riches. Little piles of rickety chairs. Little piles of miserable looking straw bedding. Little piles of kitchen utensils. And all so worn and badly used they would have been the scorn of any second-hand dealer on Larimer Street.

Disaster at Dawson;  Terror, Cold and Hunger at Ludlow

MacGregor went to Dawson, New Mexico, last October to cover the terrible mine disaster there. He watched as the dead were brought up, how men and women filed by, lifted blankets, attempted to identify their loved ones. He noted the stacks and stacks of coffins, shipped into Dawson by the boxcar load. He heard the funeral dirges of the grieving Italian women, now widows wondering how they and their children might survive.

He had barely returned to Trinidad from Dawson when the Ludlow Tent Colony was attacked by mine guards and deputies who arrived with machine guns on an armored train. He was a witness as the union men prepared to defend the Ludlow Camp. Louis Tikas, Bob Uhlich, and Mike Livoda distributed ammunition, formed armed groups, and headed up into the canyons. He was under fire, machine gun fire, as he ran with the strikers along the railroad cars.

He covered the strike through that long cold winter as the miners and their wives struggled to keep their little children fed and warm. Then came spring and the Ludlow Massacre.

The Ludlow Massacre

Perhaps it was the terrible stories told by survivors after the Ludlow Massacre which turned MacGregor into a leader of fighting men.

There is the story of Alcarita Pedregone told to MacGregor's fellow reporter at the Denver Express. Mrs. Pedregone was still coughing up black soot as she described how the women and children had huddled together in the pit, how the tent above them was lit on fire, how the children coughed and cried as the women prayed, how the older children tried to lift the burning floor boards but fell as back as their fingers were burned, how the guards shot at her and Mrs. Petrucci as they attempted to drag their unconscious children from the pit, how she wished she could have died there with her children.

Or, perhaps it was the story of Mary Petrucci, forced to flee the pit beneath her tent as mine guards, in the uniform of the state of Colorado, set her tent on fire. She carried the baby, and held her little girl by the hand as she ran. Her little boy of six ran behind her. Guards fired at their feet and shouted at them as they fled. They took shelter in the pit beneath the maternity tent, tent #58, but soon that tent was also set afire by roving militiamen, bent on total destruction of the Colony, home to 1200 men, women and children.

Then there is the story of William Snyder. As the guards set about burning down the tents, they came upon Mr. Snyder holding his dead eleven-year-old son, little Frankie Snyder, shot threw the head. His wife and daughter were still hiding in the pit below as guards set fire to their tent. The guards pulled the terrified mother and daughter out of the pit and began to yell at Mr. Snyder, "You son of a bitch, get out of there and get out God damn quick." He asked for help to carry his dead son, and the guards began to mock him, asking him if he wasn't big enough to carry "the damn thing" himself. A guard pointed a rifle at him swearing, "God damn you, you have fired as many shots as anybody, you red neck son of bitch. I have a notion to kill you right now."

Perhaps it was the murder of Louis Tikas and James Fyler by Linderfelt and his cronies. Or the destitution of the survivors as they straggled into Trinidad, having lost everything except the clothes on their backs when the guards set fire to their homes at the Ludlow Tent Colony.

"Mothers and Daughters Were Crucified at Ludlow"

Ludlow Massacre, Crucified
From the Denver Express of April 22:
Mothers and daughters were crucified at Ludlow on the cross of human liberty. Their crucifixion was effected by the operators' paid gunmen...These dead will go down in history as the hero victims of the burnt offering laid on the altar of [the ] Great God Greed.
That was last Wednesday, two days after the Ludlow Massacre. By the following Sunday, three days ago, Don MacGregor had tossed aside his pen and picked up his gun. He is now leading the fight up on the Hogback as news comes that President Wilson is sending federal troops into Colorado. Word has it that the first of the federal troops will be arriving in Denver today.



Congressional edition, Volume 6937
United States. Congress
U.S. G.P.O., 1916
"Final Report and Testimony
Presented to Congress by the
Commission on Industrial Relations
Created by the Act of
August 23, 1912
Vol. IX"
(search preview with "Mary Petrucci" and choose p. 8190)

Out of the Depths
The Story of John R. Lawson, a Labor Leader

-by Barron B. Beshoar
(1st ed 1942)
CO, 1980

Buried Unsung
Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre

-by Zeese Papanikolas
U of Utah Press, 1982

Mother Jones Speaks
-ed by Philip S Foner
NY, 1983

Blood Passion
The Ludlow Massacre and Class War
 in the American West

-by Scott Martelle
Rutgers U Press, 2008

See also:
Conditions in the Coal Mines of Colorado: Hearings before a subcommittee of the Committee on mines and mining, House of Representatives, Sixty-third Congress, second session, pursuant to H. res. 387, a resolution authorizing and directing the Committee on Mines and Mining to make an investigation of conditions in the coal mines of Colorado
-United States. Congress. House. Committee on Mines and Mining
U.S. Government Printing Office, 1914
Vol. 1, p.1-1477
(search preview with "MacGregor" and choose pages 905 & 922)


Striking Miners Ready for Battle
(This photo used to represent the fighters on the Hogback.)

The Black Hole of Ludlow
"The Damn Thing"

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 Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 11:00 AM PDT.

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

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