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SharePrint Media File

Type: Video

Series Title West Virginia: A Film History

Filmmaker Mark Samels

Company West Virginia Humanities Council

Format DVD


On the morning of August 31st, seventy miners led by John Wilburn met three guards from Chafin’s army at Blair Mountain. Each side asked for a secret password then realized they were enemies and began shooting. All three guards and one miner were killed. Fighting spread along a ten-mile front. Despite its smaller numbers, Chafin’s army held its position.

For three days, heavy gunfire echoed from Blair Mountain but both sides were unorganized and ineffective.

Governor Morgan appealed to Washington for help. President Warren Harding sent two thousand federal troops including a chemical warfare unit and a squadron of bombers.

As federal troops reached Blair Mountain, Chafin’s army disbanded. Almost immediately, miners began laying down their arms. Many said they could not bring themselves to shoot at soldiers in the US Army.

The battle at Blair Mountain was America’s largest insurrection since the Civil War, yet only twelve miners and four of Chafin’s men were killed.

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