The Mayor Calls in the Militia

The Mayor Calls in the Militia

This is the original command sent from Mayor Michael Scanlon to Captain Louis Cox of Battery C of the Massachusetts State Militia (what we now call the National Guard). Battery C was the first of several militia companies and police contingents to be called to Lawrence to help maintain order during the strike. Police and militia came from Lowell, Haverhill, Lynn, Newton, Wakefield, Stoneham, Charlestown, Waltham, and Boston. A troop of Boston Metropolitan Police, and a number of sharpshooters from the US Marine Corps was in the city as well.

The language in the first few lines of the order —“a tumult is threatened”— gives us a sense of how it must have felt to be a city official during the strike. Mayor Scanlon had only been in office a few days. This command encapsulates the fear and panic felt by Lawrence’s power brokers and political leaders at the onset of the strike.

The Washington Post headline for January 16 captures the mood: “Bayonets Awe City: Mill District of Lawrence in Under Martial Law.” Headlines from Lawrence newspapers captured a similar mood: “Heads Broken When Battery Holds Up Mob”; “Three Thousand Strikers March on Soldiers”; “Bloodshed narrowly Averted”; “Bayonets Bar Path of Big Parade” (Erin Dubinski, unpublished paper, 2012).

An interesting addition to the militia came in the form of a contingent of Harvard University students. The New York Times wrote about the arrival of Harvard’s crack Cavalry Troop B arriving in the city in early February. The story noted, “A large number of students will escape the ordeal of a mid-year examination as a result. All will be passed” (Erin Dubinski, unpublished paper, 2012).