As we discussed in Part I of this story, the frontier U.S. military was ordered into action in situations that concerned civilian. This was a departure from their typical duties of protecting westward migrating settlers from the many Indian raids and skirmishes in the last half of the 19th century. As we also pointed out many of these actions were controversial either at the time they were ordered or if not then certainly in the aftermath. The Pullman Strike mentioned in Part I was a perfect example. The interesting image to the left is a painting entitled "Strike" by Stanislaw Lentz.
Colorado coalfields a few decades later. President Benjamin Harrison eventually ordered Colonel William P. Carlin, pictured below left, to take troops to the strike scene. Carlin arrived on July 14th.
Ultimately about 300 strikers were arrested and handed over to U.S. Marshals who were also on the scene. The U.S. Secretary of War worked to have the troops removed as soon as possible but some troops remained as late as November. After some withdrawals violence flared up again and some troops were dispatched again back to the mines.
The unions underlying discontent with pay and working conditions continued to simmer and then everything exploded again in April 1899. This time about a thousand strikers took over a Union Pacific train and with tons of dynamite blew up the Bunker Hill mine. The governor of Idaho requested federal troops immediately because most of his Idaho National Guard were serving in the Phillipines in the Spanish American War. In reply, President McKinley ordered Brigadier General Henry C. Merriam to the scene with about 500 troops from the Department of Colorado and Missouri. Martial law was never officially declared but Merriam and his troops acted as if it had. About 1,000 people were arrested. This is about the point where controversy erupted. The military of course was accused of working for the mine owners and union outrage erupted across the country. President McKinley was a prime target of the union outrage. While a case can be made that someone needed to intervene to halt the violence and property destruction, the Couer d' Alene mine strikes represented a perfect example of how military intervention into labor disputes is a no win situation for the army.
There's really no question that military intervention into economic disputes, and mine strikes fit this category, are the types of actions that draw the most criticism. The intervention topic has been discussed and argued by military commanders ever since the 1807 act regarding the use of troops in civilian affairs. The fact that the western U.S. was growing rapidly and outstripping law enforcement capabilities was most likely why these controversies came to a head in the latter part of the 1800's.
The Couer d' Alene area of Idaho is one of the country's most picturesque areas. It's a perfect destination to add to your vacation planner. It's ideal as a side trip or as a vacation destination. below are websites that will help you in planning your trip to this magnificent part of Idaho.
Coeur d' Alene Visitors Bureau
Coeur d'Alene Parkway State Park
Coeur d' Alene National Forest