Saturday, July 6, 2019

Excerpt: The Death of John Morris, July 6, 1892

9 A.M.  Wednesday, July 6, 1892

(Emlyn, Gywn and other striking workers behind ramparts on the roof of the Pump House overlooking the barges the Pinkertons were fighting from. The scene, including some of the dialogue, is based on eyewitness accounts.)

Contemporary illustration of the battle.

"Go ahead, be a pig-head,"  Duncan told Emlyn. "Just stay out of the way." He held out a pair of field glasses. "Here. If you're not going to stop the Pinkertons, you can at least keep an eye on them for us."

[Union leader] O'Donnell and some other men had finally persuaded the women in the open mill yard to leave. Now men only were positioned on the bank overlooking the river, waiting and watching. A supply of ammunition had been brought to the men on the ramparts from a hardware store on the Avenue. They were stocked up, ready to fight.

With Gwyn beside him, Emlyn trained the binoculars on the Iron Mountain. He had been watching for over an hour, but there had been no movement. He was beginning to hope that the violence had ended. Suddenly, at the bow of the Iron Mountain, armed men emerged.

"Gwyn," Emlyn said, his heart sinking. "I think they're coming off the barge."

"They're disembarking!" Smith exclaimed.

Through the glasses, Emlyn saw the Pinkertons start down the gangplank. A second later, someone fired a round at the Iron Mountain. Return rifle fire erupted from the barge.

"Get them!" screamed Duncan. "Get those scoundrels!"

The strikers pointed their rifles through openings in the breastworks. Gunfire from the barges was answered by volleys from the strikers. Taking fire all around them, the Pinkertons scrambled to get back inside the barge. The tattoo of gunshots rippled back and forth across the bank accompanied by the metallic thudding of bullets striking the ramparts.

Emlyn ducked down behind the rampart, where he watched the other men shooting through it. Bullets whizzed overhead. The air was thick with smoke and the acrid smell of gunpowder.

"I think I got one!" yelled Morris. "I'm going to sneak a look." Emlyn watched him ease up to peek through an opening.

No sooner had he gotten into place than Morris grunted and collapsed. Horror-struck, Emlyn watched as Morris rolled down the slope of the roof and out of view.

"My God!" shouted Gwyn, scrambling to where Morris had gone over.

Emlyn crawled to the edge and looked over. In a ditch at the bottom of the embankment about 60 feet below lay the inert form of John Morris.

Workers firing at the barges. Contemporary illustration.
The Pump House today, part of Rivers of Steel National Historic Site.