West Virginia coal wars

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West Virginia coal wars
Miners with bomb.jpg
Coal miners displaying a bomb that was dropped during the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921
Date 1920–1921
Location West Virginia, United States
Also known as Mine wars

The West Virginia coal wars (1920–21), also known as the mine wars, arose out of a dispute between coal companies and miners.

On May 19, 1920, a shootout in Matewan, West Virginia, between agents of the Baldwin-Felts and local miners, who later joined the United Mine Workers of America, sparked what became known as the Battle of Blair Mountain, the largest insurrection in the United States since the American Civil War.

The shootout is re-enacted annually in Matewan, West Virginia.[1]

John Sayles dramatized these events in his 1987 film Matewan.[2]


  1. Herald Dispatch (Huntington, WV: "West Virginia filled with festivals for this upcoming weekend," May 13, 2008, accessed December 14, 2010
  2. Internet Movie Database: Matewan (1987), accessed December 14, 2010


  • Bailey, Rebecca J., Matewan before the Massacre: Politics, Coal, and the Roots of Conflict in a West Virginia Mining Community (West Virginia University Press, 2008)
  • Corbin, David Alan, Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields: The Southern West Virginia Miners, 1880-1922, new ed. (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1981), ISBN 0-252-00895-2
  • Corbin, David Alan, ed., The West Virginia Mine Wars: An Anthology (Charleston, WV: Appalachian Editions, 1990), ISBN 0-9627486-0-9
  • Hamilton, Neil A., "West Virginia Mining District Erupts in Violence at Matewan and Blair Mountain," Rebels and Renegades: A Chronology of Social and Political Dissent in the United States (NY: Routledge, 2002), available online in part
  • Laurie, Clayton D., "The United States Army and the Return to Normalcy in Labor Dispute Interventions: The Case of the West Virginia Coal Mine Wars, 1920-1921" West Virginia History, vol. 50 (1991), available online
  • Lee, Howard B., Bloodletting in Appalachia: The Story of West Virginia's Four Major Mine Wars and Other Thrilling Incidents of Its Coal Fields (Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University Library, 1969), ISBN 0-87012-041-7
  • Owens, John W., "Gumen in West Virginia," New Republic, September 21, 1921, available online
  • Savage, Lon, Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War, 1920-21 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990), ISBN 0-8229-3634-8, available online in part
  • Scholten, Pat Creech, "The Old Mother and Her Army: The Agitative Strategies of Mary Harris Jones," West Virginia History, vol. 40 (Summer 1979)
  • Shogan, Robert, The Battle of Blair Mountain: The Story of America's Largest Labor Uprising (Boulder, CO.: Westview Press, 2004), ISBN 0-8133-4096-9, available online in part
  • Sullivan, Ken, ed., The Goldenseal Book of the West Virginia Mine Wars (Charleston, WV: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1991), ISBN 0-929521-57-9
  • Torok, George D., A Guide to Historic Coal Towns of the Big Sandy River Valley (University of Tennessee Press, 2004), available online in part
  • United States Senate, Hearings before the Committee on Education and Labor (2 vols., 1921), available online