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The Battle of the Tug is the name of one of the battle during the Mine Wars of West Virginia in the early 1920's. It was a three day struggle between former mine workers fired for unionizing, nonunion miners, law enforcement, and mine operators. This conflict happened in Mingo County, close to the border of West Virginia and Kentucky.


  • Common Family of Coal Camps (1920s)
  • West Virginia Miners (1910s)
  • Williamson, WV
  • Williamson, WV (present)

It was in January of 1920 when the United Mine Workers of America attempted to unionize the southern parts of West Virginia and her miners. This included the Tug Valley coalfields in the towns of Williamson and Matewan. Although the mine owners and operators did not wish their miners to unionize, and punished any of those who did by evicting them and their families from their homes and firing them from their job. Workers were replaced with nonunion miners, and small skirmishes involving gun fire and brawls would ensue throughout the year.

On May 12, 1921, a three-day conflict concluded the strife met with the former miners and nonunion workers. It would be known as the Battle of the Tug, a battle that would create much collateral calamity for those fighting and those who were not. Bullets would rain down onto the coal camps. Thousands of shots would be made destroying telephone wires, windows of homes, families would scream in fear as Kentucky Guardsmen, WV State Police, Deputy Sheriffs and the miners would battle amongst the towns. Dynamite would be used to destroy bridges and schools would be closed for fear of a similar fate. Fortunately, only three people were killed during this struggling time. Sid Hatfield was one amongst them who was arrested for assault and damages.

During this time, Governor Morgan would try to contact President Harding to have him send federal aid to calm the infighting in West Virginia. This would lead to be fruitless, but the Mine Wars had not seen the last of its battles. 

Savage, Lon. Battle of the Tug, The West Virginia Encyclopedia. November 5th 2010. Accessed March 17th 2020. https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/788.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

https://www.wvminewars.com/history

https://jacobinmag.com/2018/03/west-virginia-teachers-strike-mine-wars

http://www.cityofwilliamson.org/history-of-city-hall.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/welcome-williamson-w-va-where-there-are-6-500-opioid-n843821