Original Document
Original Document
"The Mob Fired on at Reading,"New York Tiimes, July 24, 1877.


Special Dispatch to the New York Times

READING, Penn., July 23–Another terrible story of slaughter may be added to the bloody records of Baltimore and Pittsburg. Four companies of military fired upon an assembled crowd of citizens in the very heart of this city to-night, and killed four people, shot five policemen, and severely wounded between 20 and 30 others. Night had just settled upon the city, and North Seventh-street for two squares was lined with people sitting in the cool air of evening in front of their homes. The main line of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company's road passes through the city on Seventh-street. Penn=street is the main highway, running in an opposite direction from and crossing Seventh-street at right angles. From Penn-street northward for two squares two lines of track are laid leading to the new depot. These are laid through a deep cut, with a heavy stone wall 20 feet high on either side. On this section of track the bloody work was done. At 8:10 o'clock the military marched in toward Penn-street through the cut from the depot. The military, about 350 strong, marched to the tap of a few drums, that could not be heard a square away. Few were aware of their arrival in the city, and fewer still knew that they were advancing upon the crowd. Steadily they approached when suddenly 300 rifles were discharged in volleys, and five men dropped to the pavement. The report that the troops had fired blank cartridges is therefore incorrect. When the troops fired their first volleys they were given broadsides of rocks and stones from the tops of the walls. Quite a number of revolver shots were returned by parties in the crowd. The troops continued their firing, and men, women, and children fled in fear. They had assembled on Seventh-street to look at the train which had been stopped, and they were recklessly and indiscriminately fired into. The citizens are almost universal in their condemnation of these proceedings. In five minutes the streets were cleared. Stores were closed, and hotels and restaurants were locked up. Business had been proceeding as usual, and just before the firing not a single merchant or business man was aware of the coming of the military. The streets resembled a small battle-field, and the pavements were stained with many pools of blood. It was absolutely dangerous for men to come from the alleyways and from behind brick walls to go to the assistance or the dying. Finally the sufferers, groaning and shrieking for water, were carried to the drug stores to have their wounds dressed....

Several of the military were struck with stones, but not seriously hurt. After the firing was over they soldiers formed along Penn-street with their left resting on Seventh, and subsequently they marched to Penn-square, and from there proceeded to the depot of the Philadelphia and Reading Company, which is strongly garrisoned. To-night a large number of special policemen are on duty, armed with seven-shooters, and the depot has been transformed into a military post. Pickets are out, and sentinels are guarding all the train galleries and entrances. On their march through the streets they were followed but by a few persons, who hooted and shouted.

The railroaders who are at war with the Reading Company are supposed to be working quietly. Last night they burned down the Lebanon Valley bridge that spanned the Schuylkill at this point, and that cost the company $150,000. Reading's direct railway communication with Harrisburg and the West was thus cut off, freight cars were burned, and tracks interfered with. To-day has been one of the most trying periods known in the annals of railroading in Pennsylvania. All day long the city has been in a state of wild riot and disorder. The first open attack on the trains was made this afternoon, at 4:30 o'clock, at the same point where the terrible shooting of to-night took place. The strikers mounted a passing loaded coal train, put on the brakes, stopped the train, and pushed back the caboose and several loaded cars, thus virtually blockading the down track. One of the eight-ton cars was dumped on the rails. At 4:10 o'clock the down express train came along slowly on the other track, The strikers were led by a large man wearing a dark shirt and dark pants. His hair looked as if it had been recently shaved from his head. Fully 200 would rush right up squarely to the front of the approaching locomotive, waive their hands, shake their clenched fists, and by many devices intimidate, and threaten the engine driver and train employes. An up freight train was compelled to go back, and the crew made to desert the cars. At one time it was feared they would run the engine into the river below the city. The up passenger and express train, due here at 6 P.M., came through the city at a fearful speed, with the engine whistling lustily. As she sped through the crowd, engineer Savacool bent low in his cab and gave the engine a full stroke in order to successfully pass the enraged men. The "Buck Rabbit" freight up from Philadelphia and the market train were compelled to halt and go no further. At this point the 6:20 passenger train, down, was stopped in the cut, where the fighting took place. Her crew were compelled to desert, and the passengers were obliged to leave. These high-handed proceedings continued until about 7 o'clock, when nearly all of the strikers left the ground for parts unknown.

Not one of the rioters is known to have been either killed or wounded. The majority, in fact all the unfortunates, were law-abiding, peaceable citizens, who had assembled at Seventh and Penn streets simply to gratify their curiosity. At this writing, 11 o'clock to-night, the city is comparatively quiet. A large body of Coal and Iron Police from the coal regions are quartered at the company's mammoth car-shops, which works, it is thought, the strikers will attempt to burn to-night. A large crowd of the friends of the railroad men procured about 50 muskets for the strikers, and there may be a bloody time before morning. Coroner Goodhart will summon his juries early to-morrow morning. The military companies engaged in the fight were the Hamburg Rifles, Slatington Rifles, Allentown Continentals, Allen Rifles, Company I, infantry, of Catasauqua, Easton Grays, and a company of Portland, Northampton County. They arrived at 8 o'clock this evening. A number of the military after their bloody work, threw down their arms and asked for citizens" clothes.

At 11:15 to-night the strikers have torn down the watch boxes at the street corners and proceeded down the road to tear up the tracks. From where I write can be distinctly heard a perfect hurricane of yells and cheering from the strikers in their onward march of ruin and destruction. The city is becoming turbulent again, and the outlook after midnight seems to indicate desperate work. The cry among the men is "Wages and revenge!" Mayor Evans returned home to-night from Ocean Grove on a special train in answer to an urgent summons. Town meetings will be held to-morrow to take steps to prevent any repetitions of the dark deeds of today.

Credit: "The Mob Fired on at Reading,"New York Tiimes, July 24, 1877.
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