The Copper Strikes

 

The following account of the most extensive state duty ever performed by the Michigan National Guard is taken from Adjutant General Roy C. Vandercook's (Colonel Vandercook later served at the first director of the Michigan State Police) Biennial Report of 1913-14:

"The strike of the employees of the mining companies of the Upper Peninsula came on without warning, and the Michigan National Guard was called into service for an extended period on telegraphic notice.

 

"The first definite news of the strike came to the Lower Peninsula in the morning of July 24th, 1913. About 10 o'clock in the forenoon of the day Governor Ferris called up the Adjutant General by telephone from Bay City and stated that he had received an urgent request from the sheriff of Houghton county to send troops there to preserve the peace and protect property. ...

 

"There was some discussion over the telephone as to the number of men to be sent, and it was decided that the entire Guard should be ordered into the Upper Peninsula in case it was found necessary to send troops there. By direction of the Governor, every company commander was telegraphed orders to keep in touch with the telegraph office in view of the possibility of call to strike duty. This message was sent about 10:30 o'clock in the forenoon of July 24th. ...

 

"About 3:30 o'clock that afternoon orders were received from the Governor to mobilize the Guard in the Copper Country, and the following telegram was sent to each company commander. 'Proceed with your company to Calumet for duty, equipped for field service, with no ammunition. Take up matter of train service with your local agent. Report number of men and when you will move. Provide rations for three days." ....Officials of all of the railroads interested in the movement co-operated with the Quartermaster General's Department in moving the troops promptly, and most of them were underway before midnight. Owing to the fact that the trains had to be ferried across at Mackinaw some delay was encountered because of the large number of troops which had to be sent across at that one point.

 

 "The Menominee and Soo companies arrived at Calumet the morning of the 25th, and by night a majority of the organizations were on the ground and in control of the situation.

 

"Conditions in Houghton County

 

"The first troops in found the people of the entire copper district in a state of complete terrorization with the lawless ones in control and the civil officers utterly unable to cope with the situation. As fast as the troops arrived they were assigned to stations throughout the district.  At the time the strike broke there were twenty mines in operation in the district, including a total of seventy-four shafts and approximately 14,640 employees. ...

 

"No troops were sent to Keweenaw county until July 28th, when the sheriff of that bailiwick applied to the Governor for troops to preserve the peace there ... The Governor, by telegraph, directed General Abbey to offer the services of the Governor as mediator in settling the strike, but this offer was refused. All the troops remained on duty until August 13th, the total number of men on duty for that period being 2,817 officers and men.

 

"On August 14th the total strength was 113 officers and 1,325 men. The force was reduced August 20th to 99 officers and 1, 211 men, and nine days later to 89 officers and 1, 007 men. Various reductions were made until October 7th, when the force had been reduced to 17 officers and 187 men. November 15th the force was reduced to 5 officers and 84 enlisted men, that detachment under command of Capt. Chester B. McCormick, Battery A, Field Artillery, remaining on duty until January 12th (1914). ...

 

"The tour of duty of the troops in the copper country for all practical purposes obliged the organizations to meet service conditions and confront problems and difficulties which imposed a serious strain on the good judgment of the officers and discipline of the men ... The tour of duty ended without one of the strikers being killed by the Guard or any of the Guard being killed by the strikers, and the record is clean in showing that the state troops at all times had complete control of the situation, carrying out the Governor's orders exactly as prescribed. "Only one death resulted from the long tour of duty, Private Ora Green, Battery A, Field Artillery, died as a result of injuries received from the kick of a horse. ...

"In a letter to Brig. Gen. P.L. Abbey, Commanding, relative to the tour of service, Governor Ferris said. 'Please convey to your staff and to all the boys the expression of my confidence in their loyalty and efficient service. I have had reports from all sources, and they are all praiseworthy as to the splendid behavior that they have manifested... I realize that many of them have families at home depending upon them for support and for daily encouragement and good cheer. I do not believe that there is any Governor in the United States who has greater reason for being proud of his State Militia than has the Governor of Michigan. "