Coal Wars come to a head in Braidwood

The old Braidwood railroad depot mentioned in the article. It was moved and is now the Braidwood Area Historical Society museum, a hidden gem of Will County.
The old Braidwood railroad depot mentioned in the article. It was moved and is now the Braidwood Area Historical Society museum, a hidden gem of Will County.

By Sandy Vasko

The two sides were ready, the Illinois Militia was armed, the miners probably were armed. Gen. Ducat sent pickets ahead of the main body. The tension filled the air like smoke from a campfire. We continue the account written by the imbedded reporter from the Chicago Times:
“All Braidwood seemed to be swarming on the railroad – men, women, and children, – but most of them fell back as the troops continued their advance.
“Gen. Ducat halted the troops, and sent forward an officer to bring Mayor McLaughlin before him. The messenger soon returned with information that the official could not be found. Upon this the general ordered Capt. Appleton to go into the town and command the mayor to report to him at once. The captain was successful.
“The mayor of Braidwood came up to Gen. Ducat without loss of time. They shook hands, and McLaughlin stood expectant after first inquiring the commander’s pleasure. Gen. Ducat spoke his mind plainly in the following language:
“’Mr. Mayor: I am here by command of the governor of Illinois, with the National guards of the state, for the purpose of restoring order to this community, to uphold the law and protect all peaceable and law abiding people in Braidwood and its neighborhood in the pursuance of their vocations. I am informed that riot and disorder, robbery and mob violence have prevailed and do still prevail in your city, and that your people are armed and disposed to resist by force of arms the officers of the law: that the sheriff of the county has been driven away from here in an outrageous manner; that 400 hundred peaceable, law abiding laborers have been driven from their employment, homes, and families, and that they are now on your prairies without food or shelter or money, having been robbed of their effects.
“’I am further informed that the mines cannot be worked because of persistent interference from a desperate, armed mob. All this, sir, would indicate that you are powerless to protect the people or else that you have no disposition to do so. I now call upon you, Mr. Mayor McLaughlin, to disperse that mob in my front. You have no use to think of fighting. Warn old women and children, and all men also, if they resist, I will at once drive them with my troops. I also command you to surrender up all the arms in your possession at once. (At this point, Gen. Ducat pulled out his watch.) It is now half past 6 o’clock, Mayor McLaughlin. I have you twenty minutes to comply with my command.’”
“The Mayor’s response to General Ducat’s command was sensible, ‘Well, I’ll tell them to disperse; and as for the arms, there are only a few guns, unless those that belong to citizens and those, I know nothing about. I’ll tell ‘em to disperse, of course.’
“In a few moments all the women and children very sensibly took to their heels, but a great number of men still lingered. When the 20 minutes were up Gen. Ducat ordered an advance along the whole line. Everything gave way before the troops; not a man offered resistance, and within 3 minutes from the time the order to advance was given, the depot and telegraph station were in possession of the soldiers, and the Mayor forwarded to Gen. Ducat 40 stand of arms that had been taken from officers during the former riots.
“This, however, did not satisfy the general. He sent Capt. Appleton to the mayor with a written demand for the delivery of all arms, or else that he would be compelled to search private houses, a proceeding he did not wish to be forced into. Mayor McLaughlin replied that all the arms in possession of the city authorities were surrendered.
“Then Company C proceeded up town and searched some suspected places, finding only a few very unserviceable rifles, while company H was not much more successful in another locality. The 3rd regiment was them ordered to perform the same duty, and while marching up the street some mischievous person fired a shot, but Col. Stanbaugh took no notice, and his men, being nearly all veterans, searched several houses with great coolness, but found nothing in the way of shooting irons.
“At 9:30 o’clock the 10th regiment, five companies under Col. Parsons, arrived from Dwight and joined the other commands. Gen. Ducat then detailed the 3rd regiment to occupy and guard the shafts.
“The 1st regiment is posted along the railroad, and the 10th occupy the round house. Tomorrow, it is stated, the Negro miners are to be brought in from Dwight, Wilmington, and Elwood. On Monday they will be set to work in the mines, and after that, if the military are withdrawn, it is thought by many here that the troubles will recommence.”
The following day all but six companies of militia left town.
Before leaving General Ducat had a private meeting with Mc Laughlin. But private or no, the reporter on site managed to find out what happened.
He tells us, “The Times reporter through a source which he cannot reveal, managed to get the gist of the interview, which was in the shape of advice and warning. General Ducat told the mayor that, so long as the people of Braidwood conducted themselves within the law, so long would they be respected and protected in their rights. He would hold the mayor responsible for overt acts of violence, and if the outrages connected with the strike were renewed, the military, by order of the governor, would be compelled to return to Braidwood, and the town, being in a state of insurrection, would have to be punished as a place in open rebellion against the state authorities.
“Mayor McLaughlin replied that he desired neither disorder nor bloodshed and would do his utmost to maintain the law, but he did not think it just that he should be held responsible for outrages committed by individuals over whom he could not possibly exercise a personal supervision.
“It pained him, (Gen. Ducat) to be compelled to speak in harsh terms to a municipal executive, but the violent conduct of the Braidwood miners had, unfortunately, left the state no other alternative. Besides, he said, the mayor was recognized as chief in offending, because he had recently threatened Sheriff Noble with death if he dared to cross the railroad track. For that threat the mayor had laid himself liable to arrest and severe punishment before a criminal tribunal.
“Mr. Mooney, counsel for the mayor, told Gen. Ducat that he had better make the arrest at once, if at all, and do it quietly so that there might be no excitement, and so that bail might be immediately procured for Mr. McLaughlin.
“Sheriff Noble said he would weigh the matter and see about the advisability of immediate action. With this understanding the general left and the troops proceeded to Chicago, by train, as stated.”
So, there it was, the end of the riot. Braidwood was an armed camp — armed soldiers on every street, black strike breakers working the mines and the miners who once worked in those shafts left out of work with their families starving.
It was not what you would call “good times.”

 

 

 

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