Original Document
Original Document
"The Bloody 1877 Railroad Strike in Reading, Pa.," The Reading Times Dispatch, July 24, 1877.


Collision Between Soldiers and Rioters
– Persons Killed and Wounded–
7 Policemen Injured–20 Soldiers Wounded–Incidents

The excitement incident to the uprising in this city continued unabated yesterday. Street corners were thronged and the work of Sunday night was generally discussed. Business was at an ebb, and the spirit which had seized a portion of the community was the all absorbing theme of conversation.

A walk to the Lebanon Valley Railroad bridge yesterday morning shoed that the work of destruction had been complete. Four spans lay in the canals and river, from the huge burning timbers of which columns of smoke and ashes still arose. The iron-work, heavy rods and beams, were bent and twisted by the heat, and the debris formed an almost inextricable mass. The piers remain standing, and are in good condition. The western pier of the brick portion of the bridge is somewhat damaged by the heat, but not to such an extent as to impair its usefulness. Navigation on both the Schuylkill and Union canals has been suspended, being obstructed by the debris of the bridge. Large numbers of boats accumulated yesterday above and below the bridge, waiting for the opening of the blockade. Both canals were "drawn" in order to reduce the volume of water so as to facilitate the removal of the debris. The work of clearing the canals was commenced yesterday, and they will be opened to navigation as soon as possible. The telegraph wires across the river, which were down, cutting off telegraphic communication with Harrisburg, were raised again yesterday morning and communication restored.

The brick, or eastern, portion of the bridge, constituting about one-third of the entire length, remained standing. The portion destroyed consists of four spans, 641 feet in length. The entire bridge consisted of five brick arches, and four Howe trusses, the latter resting upon brick piers, supported upon bases of stone. The watch house, at the junction of the Reading and Lehigh railroad, near the eastern end of the bridge, was also destroyed. The original cost of the bridge was about $150,000, but it is believed that the damages can by repaired for less than $50,000 and that the loss will probably not exceed $40,000.

Messrs. William Lorenz, of Philadelphia, Chief Engineer, and William H. Bines, of Pottstown, Assistant Engineer of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company, arrived in the city yesterday noon, on the special engine "Stag," and made an examination of the bridge. Mr. Lorenz stated that the bridge would be rebuilt as quickly as possible, but that the kind of material had not been determined upon. It is probable that either iron or stone will be solely used in the rebuilding of the bridge, so as to conform with all other bridges on the main line of the Reading Railroad.

The excitement in this city during yesterday was intense, and business, to a certain extent, was neglected. Crowds collected along the railroad, and the vicinity of Seventh and Penn streets was a scene of great confusion. From 12 to 2 o'clock crowds of several hundred at a time kept passing up the railroad, under the impression that companies of soldiers were encamped along the railroad in the vicinity of the P. and R. round-houses. Not finding the troops they returned, and indulged in demonstrations in the vicinity of the new passenger depot. The steady tramp of feet was heard all day over the depot platforms. From Walnut street to below Chestnut, along the railroad, there was an immense throng of people. Passing trains were greeted with yells and finally the crowd commenced to put
Shortly after three o'clock, as a loaded coal train was on its way through the city, about one hundred men jumped on the cars and applied the brakes, which compelled the engine to stop when trying to go round the curve below Chestnut street. The men then commenced to uncouple the cars at different places, and shove the cars apart. The engine with the front part of the train started down the road, leaving the remainder of the cars standing above and below Penn streets in the centre of the city. A freight train, with engine, No. 282, soon came up the road, and before reaching Penn street, a number of men jumped on the engine, put off the crew and uncoupled the cars, leaving the train standing in town. These incidents created a tremendous excitement among the thousands of people congregated along the railroad.

Upon the appearance of the 4 p.m. express and mail train for Philadelphia a menacing crowd surrounded the locomotive at Seventh and Walnut streets. The engine was shifted to the up track to pass the obstruction of cars on the down track between Washington and Cherry streets. The train was compelled to proceed slowly, and was stopped before reaching Penn street. The engineer, Michael Cassidy, was threatened, and one person drew a revolver upon him. Finally several of the old engineers of the Reading Railroad mounted the locomotive, and appealed to the crowd, that this being a mail train, should be allowed to proceed. The train then started down the road, and on reaching the switch near Franklin street, backed upon the down track. In order to start down the road the train had to be backed to Penn street, and had to push back an 8-wheel coal car, the bottom gates of which had been opened, and the large lumps of steamboat coal let out upon the tracks. The hind car crushed through the mass of coal, scattering it the entire width of Penn street, and raising volumes of dust. The train was then enabled to proceed.

The lumps of coal proved an obstruction to the street cars and vehicles, but a passage-way was opened. Mr. Cyrenius Sellers, President of the Central Passenger Railway Company, having been on the grounds, personally superintending the clearing of the tracks. The crowd piled the coal in heaps upon the tracks to a height of three feet to obstruct the market and evening express trains. The market train was stopped below Chestnut street, and prevented from reaching the city.

The evening express train, due in this city at five minutes before six o'clock, was in charge of Engineer Savacool, of this city, who put on a full pressure of steam, and dashed up the road at a speed of forty miles an hour. The locomotive plowed through the coal on the tracks, scattering it in every direction, and raising a cloud of black dust. The engineer was greeted with a shower of stones, several of which struck him, one stone inflicting a severe wound, causing his face to be covered with blood. A large crowd followed the train, which reached the depot safely.

In the depot the locomotive was seized by several persons in the crowd, while the platform was crowded by a dense throng. Passengers were notified not to get on the cars, and it appeared as though the train would not get out of the depot, and make the remainder of its trip. A squad of twelve officers of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company's police, in charge of Capt. Alderson, who arrived from Pottsville at six o'clock, made a charge upon the crowd, armed with Spencer rifles and Navy carbines. They drove back the crowd for some distance, but afterwards retreated to the baggage room in the depot. During the melee, one of the police discharged his carbine, the ball penetrating the platform.

The 6:20 p.m. accommodation train to Philadelphia, was taken possession of in the cut, near Court street, and prevented from proceeding, and the passengers, among whom were a number of ladies, were compelled to get off. The locomotive was "damped," and the brakes put on. A number of boys entered the cars, and did some damage by cutting the plush covering of the seats. A freight car was also run upon the up track, for the purpose of blockading the railroad in the cut, and prevent the further passage of trains.

It was after eight o'clock in the evening, however, that the terrible event of the day happened. The Fourth Regiment, N.G. of Pa., commanded by Col. T.H. Good, of Allentown, consisting of seven companies, under the general command of Gen. Frank Reeder, arrived in this city, at that hour from Allentown. The companies were as follows: Company B, Allen Rifles, of Allentown; Company D, Allen Continentals, of Allentown; Company E, Blue Mountain Legion, of Hamburg; Company F, Easton Grays, of Easton; Company H. Slatington Rifles, Slatington; Company I, Catasauqua; Company K, Portland, Northampton County. Company A, Reading Rifles, of this city, commanded by Capt. A. P. Wenrich, is attached to the Regiment, but did not report at Allentown for duty.

After conferring with the railroad authorities, the regiment was marched down the railroad, and upon getting in the cut, between Walnut and Penn streets, the soldiers were assailed with cobble stones and brick bats from persons stationed along both sides of the wall guarding the cut. The commanding officer, Gen. Reeder, cautioned his men not to fire but to march steadily forward. A number of the soldiers, however, were struck with stones, and without orders, commenced an indiscriminate firing down Seventh street, and up and down Penn street, driving the crowd before them. It was fortunate that many took high aim, otherwise the loss of life might have been fearful. As it was, the bloodshed was terrible, seven persons having been killed, and twenty-six wounded, as far as ascertained. A number of others may have been slightly wounded, who escaped out of the crowd without the fact having become known.

Following is a list of persons killed and wounded as far as ascertained,:
Daniel Nachtrieb, carpenter, residing at No. 1035 Court street, killed.
John Weaver, fireman, of this city, lately employed by the Reading Railroad, shot through the heart and instantly killed.
John Casidy, engineer, boarding at the General Taylor House, was shot in front of Grosscup's Pharmacy, Penn street above 7th, and reported to have been killed.
"Kady" Schaeffer, laborer, was fatally wounded through the abdomen. Dead.
Milton Trace, roller, 624 Minor street, shot at the foundry gate, through the left lung. Dead.
Valentine Longlott, huckster, 728 Bingaman street, was shot through the leg and testes. His injuries are fatal.
William Clark, No. 812 Elm street, machinist, shot through the groin, wound serious, may prove fatal.
Officer Abner R. Jones, shot through the body; wound serious, will probably die.
John Wunder, 1114 Franklin street, shot in the abdomen from a point above the groin on the right side, the ball coming out on the left side of abdomen through the hip, the bowels protruding; also a flesh wound in the left arm two inches above the waist. His condition is very critical. Attended by Dr. E.Z. Schmucker.
Henry W. Corbit, machinist, 526 South Fifth street, member of the School Board, and ex-member of Common Council, shot through the leg; wound not dangerous.
Alexander Eisenhower, laborer, No. 523 Maple street, shot through the calf of the leg.
Elam Kissinger, boatman, No. 241 Washington street, bother of Sergeant Kissinger, of the police force, shot through the leg.
Christian Groetzinger, shoemaker, 812 Franklin street, shot through left wrist and back of right ear.
John Weiler, reporter on Reading Daily Post, residing at 915 Franklin street, shot through the calf of the right leg.
_____ Quinn, aged 19 years, was shot in the left arm near the shoulder.
Samuel Graul, aged 22, 527 Willow street, shot through the abdomen, the ball entering underneath the breast bone and passing out on his back.
Edward Boyer, bricklayer, 923 Spruce street, was shot through the calf of the left leg.
George W. Palm, laborer, residing beyond Charles Evans" Cemetery, shot in the right ankle.
Albert Mills, shot in the right leg.
Walter Groff, 323 Church street, was shot and dangerously wounded.
Edward Heinaman, aged 19 years, was shot through the jaw.
A stranger from New Jersey, named not ascertained, shot in left arm.
_____ Wentzel, shot through the side and arm; dangerously wounded.
David P. Harden, member of Common Council, Fourth Ward, shot in the foot.
Martin Noonan, laborer, an aged citizen, residing at No. 414 South Seventh street, shot in the head.
Lizzie McGlian, 949 Culvert street, was knocked down by the crowd and badly bruised about the face and body. Attended by Dr. E.Z. Schmucker.
Officer Ludwig Rupp, shot twice through the left ankle; wound serious.
Officer Edward Haggerty shot through the left ankle; wound serious.
Officer Daniel D. Hart, shot in the leg.
Officer Samuel M. Odenweller, shot through the leg above the knee.
Officer Samuel B. Weidner, slightly wounded.
Sergeant Isaac Kissinger, slightly wounded.
Mrs. James McGlinn, 949 Culvert street, has a flesh wound on the left forehead and bruised very much by the crowd walking over her after she fell. Had a child 8 months old in her arms, whose skull was pressed in by being walked on. Both are in a favorable condition.
Attended by Dr. E.Z. Schmucker.

Twenty soldiers were wounded several of them seriously. Four were taken to the residence of Co. D.C. Keller, Penn street below Seventh, and four were taken to the Mansion House and the remainder in the depot.

The following is a list of the soldiers wounded during the march through the deep cut on Seventh street, now at the depot:
1st Lieut. G.P. Roth, Co. B, in the back, slight.
2nd Lieut. Geo. McDowell, Co. H, left breast, slight.
Corporal C.G. Weber, Co. B, abdomen, severe.
Private Lewis Heckman, Co. E, scalp wound, severe.
Private O.C. Bunting, Co. F, right shoulder, slight.
Musician Fred'k Snyder, Co. F, abdomen, slight.
Musician Charles Leidy, Co. F, scalp wound, severe.
Private B.F. Hunt, Co. H., ankle, slight.
1st Sergeant H.M. LaBar, Co. K., left elbow, right forearm, right knee, and right foot, severe.
Private Josiah Hilligass, Co. B, right leg, slight.
Private Albert Kildare, Company I, right shoulder, slight.
All the above injuries are caused by pistol shots, stones, and missiles of various kinds.
Several young ladies were on the portico of Jacob Walter's restaurant, South Seventh street, looking over the balcony, when several flower pots alongside of them were broken by bullets.

Gen. Reeder was struck on one of his hands with a stone, and all the members of his staff were more or less injured.

Some of the escapes reported last night were truly miraculous. Col. Keller was in his doorway with his wife and son Frank when three bullets whistled past them, one going between the Colonel's legs, and lodging in the wall inside the door-way, and another passing through the transom over the door.
Mr. Henry Hartman, a TIMES AND DISPATCH compositor, 643 Walnut street, had a shot through his hat.
John W. Maharg, employee of the TIMES AND DISPATCH, 333 Washington street, was shot through the coat.
Chief Cullen was shot at and a bullet passed through his clothes at the end of his vest.

The Fourth Regiment were quartered during the night in the new passenger depot. Picket were through out, and a number of persons were captured and confined in the guardhouse.

Crowds of men were engaged during the night at different points along the railroad, in tearing up rails and committing other deeds of violence, the military having fallen back to the depot. The railroad was reported last night to be obstructed as far as Exeter station, six miles from this city, where the accommodation train due in this city at 7:40 p.m., was compelled to stop. The watch-house at Seventh and Penn streets was destroyed, and a freight car, loaded with tobacco and other goods, was wrecked at seventh at Cherry streets. Piles of tobacco were carried away by persons on the street.

Mayor Evans arrived from Ocean Grove, at eleven o'clock last night, in a special car from Allentown, and was engaged until three o'clock this morning in looking after the general condition of things.

The proclamations of Mayor Evans and Sheriff Yorgey, calling upon law abiding citizens to preserve the peace, will be found in another column.

Several companies of U.S. regulars accompanied by Maj. Gen. W. S. Hancock, are expected to arrive this morning, as also the Sixteenth Regiment, N.G. of Pa., from Norristown, with Maj. Gen. William J. Bolton.

After the attack by the military last evening, a large crowd proceeded to the Reading Rifles Armory, Fourth and Penn streets, where four or five men were on guard. The crowd succeeded in effecting an entrance into the armory and captured all the rifles, some 58 or 60 in number. They also broke into and seized all the guns in L. Royet's gun-smith establishment, South Seventh street.

The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company offer $15,000 reward, as follows: $10,000 for such information as will lead to the arrest and conviction of any person or persons who took part in the burning of the Lebanon Valley Railroad bridge, and $5,000 for any information which will lead to the arrest and conviction of any person or persons obstructing its railroad, or destroying any of its property.

Charles Haverstick, No. 1012 Washington street, found at Seventh and Penn streets, last evening, a coat, vest, handkerchief andc., of the Orderly Sergeant of the Allen Continentals, of Allentown, the inside of one sleeve of which was stained with blood.

During this morning from two to four o'clock, the strikers were engaged in cutting down telegraph poles along Seventh street, South of Penn, cutting the wires and obstructing the railroad.

The entire number of killed reported at four o'clock this morning was nine, seven of the bodies being in charge of Undertaker Charles Henninger.

Credit: Courtesy of the Historical Society of Berks County
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