Reading Railroad Massacre

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[A]n officer’s first duty is to protect his troops, and dare to do it. No shooting in the air, no blanks, but the pure lead, well directed, and plenty of it, regardless of grand or other juries. Roits means war, the wounding of men, agony, and death. This is anticipated.

The Reading Railroad Massacre occurred on July 23, 1877, when striking in Reading, Pennsylvania led to an outbreak of violence, during which ten people were killed and forty injured. It was the climax of local events during the Great Railroad Strike of 1877.

Quotes[edit]

  • We are workingmen and we don't fight against workingmen. We want bread at home, but we don't want to rob our fellow-workingmen for it. No sir; we came here to protect property, but not to murder the poor men of Reading.
  • In view of the recent high handed interference with the business of Railroad Companies, and the serious and sometimes fatal consequences that have resulted to the innocent traveling public from the unjustifiable and arbitrary conduct of the organization known as the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers upon other Railroads, it has been deemed unadvisable to retain in the employment of this Company any one who is a member of that organization.
    • John E. Wootten, writing on behalf of the railroad and giving notification that workers would either quit their union or be fired, in the original document available on Wikimedia Commons
  • The Eagle has never been called upon to chronicle a more horrible slaughter of its peace and law-abiding citizens as is its duty to-day ... The pavements, sidewalks and streets in the vicinity of 7th and Penn streets, were literally baptized in blood...
  • My situation is not improved by the arrival of the Sixteenth regiment, which is very disaffected. The Fourth is becoming anxious, and is also very much exhausted. Should have reliable troops, without delay ... The Sixteenth regiment is furnishing the strikers with ammunition and openly declare their intention to join the rioters in case of trouble. If troops do not reach us by dark, I cannot vouch for the safety of the city, or my power to hold the depot. Stir heaven and earth to forward reliable and fresh troops.
  • It will be useless to come with only two companies, and they not reliable. The morale of the Fourth regiment has given way within the last three hours, under their distrust of the Sixteenth … [T]he desertions from the Fourth regiment bring its effective strength down to one hundred muskets. The crowds cheer the Sixteenth, and hiss and groan the Fourth, and say if the Fourth would only leave, they would make no more trouble … Expect a meeting in what is left of the Fourth. The officers join with the men in the sentiments I have mentioned, and have just waited on me to demand their removal.
  • The Fourth regiment most positively refuse to return to Reading to-night; the men declare they will walk home rather than return ... The regiment and company officers are perfectly useless.
    • Brigadier General Reeder commanding the 4th and 16th regiments, via telegraph to Major General Bolton, commanding the Second Division, Pennsylvania National Guard, in Pennsylvania Adjutant-General's Office (1878). Annual Report. 
  • [I]f disobedience, insubordination and dicipline are to be disregarded, and allowed to go by without reproof or check, the armed soldiery of the land will be far more dangerous to the country, than an ignorant, howling, lawless mob, and, I predict, if we are not given a good, working, military code, the efficiency and stability of the National Guard of Pennsylvania, will be a failure, and, I regret to say, its days will be numbered.
    • Major General Bolton, commanding the Second Division, Pennsylvania National Guard, report to the State Adjutant General, in Pennsylvania Adjutant-General's Office (1878). Annual Report. 
  • [H]ad the civil authorities acted with some degree of promptness, vigor, and determination, the riots would not have assumed such proportions. But it has proved in all of our late troubles, they act feebly, make no attempt to exhaust all power at their command, flee out of harm’s way, apply to the Governor for protection, and results in the calling out of the National Guard, who must stand the blunt, the stones, the abuse, and curses of the mob, and the slurs of the pusillanimous sympathizer, and the Guardsman is expected to stand and take all.
No! the military should be the very last resort, and, when called upon, an officer’s first duty is to protect his troops, and dare to do it. No shooting in the air, no blanks, but the pure lead, well directed, and plenty of it, regardless of grand or other juries. Roits means war, the wounding of men, agony, and death. This is anticipated.
  • Major General Bolton, commanding the Second Division, Pennsylvania National Guard, report to the State Adjutant General, in Pennsylvania Adjutant-General's Office (1878). Annual Report. 

External links[edit]

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