- Services of the army during the labor strikes of 1894 -- military control of the Pacific Railways -- United States troops in the City of Chicago -- orders sent to General Miles, and his reports -- the proclamation of the President -- instructions to govern the troops in dealing with a mob -- the duties of the military misunderstood -- orders of the President in regard to the Pacific Railways.
in 1894 the vast development of railroad communication between the Mississippi valley and the Pacific Ocean, and the similar building of new cities and founding of industrial enterprises in the region between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific, both in anticipation of the future development of the country rather than in response to any demand then existing, having been substantially completed, or suspended for an indefinite time, a large amount of capital so invested was found for the time unproductive, and a great number of laborers were left in the Pacific States without any possible employment. The great majority of these laborers were, as usual, without any accumulated means to pay their transportation to any other part of the country, and hence were left to drift as they might toward the East, subsisting by whatever means they could find during their long tramp of many hundreds of miles. Similar and other causes had produced at the same time industrial depression throughout the country, so that the  unfortunate laborers drifting eastward were only an additional burden upon communities already overloaded with unemployed labor. Thus the borrowing of foreign capital to put into unprofitable investments, and the employment of great numbers of laborers in making premature developments, met with the consequences which are sure to follow disregard of natural laws. The management of the Pacific railroads did not appear to appreciate the wisdom of mitigating, so far as was in their power, the evil which had resulted from their own policy, by giving free transportation to the laborers who had been stranded on the Pacific coast. Hence all the transcontinental roads were soon blocked by lawless seizures of trains, and suffered losses far greater than they saved in transportation. Indeed, the requisite transportation of destitute laborers eastward would have cost the roads practically nothing, while their losses resulting from not providing it were very great. Every possible effort was made for a long time to deal effectively with this evil by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings; but such methods proved entirely inadequate. The government was finally compelled, in consequence of the almost total interruption of interstate commerce and of the transportation of the United States mails and troops, to assume military control along the lines of all the Pacific roads, and direct the department commanders to restore and maintain, by military force, traffic and transportation over those roads. For some time these lawless acts did not seem to result from any general organization. But they gradually developed into the formidable character of a wide-spread conspiracy and combination, with recognized general leaders, to obstruct and prevent the due execution of the laws of the United States respecting transportation and interstate commerce. The principal center of this conspiracy, and by far the most formidable combination,  was in Chicago, where the greatest material interests, both public and private, were at stake, though many other important railroad centers and many thousand miles of road were involved. There the insurrection was so great in numbers and so violent in its acts as to require the most prompt and energetic action of a very large force to suppress disorder, protect property, and execute the laws. The city police were utterly powerless in such an emergency, and deputy United States marshals, though employed without limit as to numbers, were no more effective. The State militia were not called out in time to meet the emergency. Hence nothing remained but for the National Government to exercise the military power conferred upon it by the Constitution and laws, so far as the same were applicable.1 Fortunately, the acts of Congress passed in pursuance of the Constitution, although never before made effective in a similar case, were found to give ample authority for the action then required. Fortunately, also, the wise foresight of the government in establishing a large military post at Fort Sheridan, near Chicago, made a regiment of infantry, a squadron of cavalry, and a battery of artillery immediately available for service in that city. But, unfortunately, the commanding general of that department was absent from his command, where superior military capacity was so much needed at that time. Although the troops west of the Mississippi had been engaged for a long time, under the President's orders, in overcoming the unlawful obstruction of railroad traffic above referred to, the general appears not to have anticipated any emergency which would in his judgment require or justify such use of the troops in his own department, and hence remained in the Eastern States, where he had gone some time before. From this it resulted that when the troops at Fort Sheridan were ordered into Chicago,  the execution of the order devolved on subordinate officers, and the troops were so dispersed as to be unable to act with the necessary effect. It having become apparent that the services of troops would probably be required in the city of Chicago, and in anticipation of orders from the President, instructions were telegraphed on July 2 to the commanding general of the Department of the Missouri to make preparations to move the garrison of Fort Sheridan to the Lake Front Park in the city. The reply of his staff-officer, Colonel Martin, showed that the department commander, Major-General Miles, was not in Chicago, and the adjutant-general of the army did not know where he was, but, after several inquiries by telegraph, learned that the general had started that afternoon from Long Island for Washington instead of for Chicago. The next day (July 3), in the President's room at the Executive Mansion, in reply to my suggestion that his presence was needed with his command, General Miles said he was subject to orders, but that in his opinion the United States troops ought not to be employed in the city of Chicago at that time. No reply was made by the President or the Secretary of War, who was also present, to that expression of opinion, but the President approved my further suggestion that General Miles should return at once to his command. The general started by the first train, but could not reach Chicago in time to meet the emergency. It became necessary in the judgment of the President to order the Fort Sheridan garrison into the city in the afternoon of the same day (July 3). The instructions given the day before about moving the troops to Lake Front Park were not complied with. From that point they could most readily have protected the sub-treasury, custom-house, post-office, and other United States property, and also have acted in a formidable body at any other point where their services  might properly have been required. But instead of that, the troops were so dispersed that they could not act with much effect anywhere, and could give no protection whatever to the vast amount of United States property exposed to destruction. This error appears to have resulted in some measure from the too great deference paid by commanding officers to the advice or wishes of civil officers to whom they were referred for information, and much more from lack of knowledge of the lawful relations existing between the national troops and the civil authorities in this country, although those relations had been plainly defined in an order dated May 25, quoted below. Like ignorance in respect to the proper tactical methods of dealing with insurrection against the authority of the United States caused halting and ineffective action of the troops. To correct this error and make known to all the rules which must govern United States troops in all like emergencies, the subjoined order, dated July 9, was issued. The extracts from correspondence quoted below indicate the nature of the errors above referred to, and their correction some time after the arrival of General Miles in Chicago. The garrison of Fort Sheridan proved sufficient, notwithstanding the first faulty disposition and action of the troops, to hold the mob in check until reinforcements arrived from distant stations and the State troops were brought into effective action. Finally, the proclamation of the President of the United States, quoted below, which was issued at the moment when ample military forces had been placed in position to enforce his constitutional mandates, very quickly terminated all forcible resistance to the execution of the laws of the United States. The same result, though perhaps with greater destruction of life and far less destruction of property, would probably have been accomplished in a single day by the Fort Sheridan garrison alone, acting in one compact body, according to  the tactics prescribed for such service. If a like occasion ever again occurs, the action of the troops will doubtless be governed by such tactics. Delay is too dangerous in such cases.
Additional troops were concentrated in Chicago as rapidly as they could be transported, until the force there aggregated about two thousand men. More were in readiness to move if necessary. 
The following extracts from correspondence and orders, and the proclamation of the President, with the foregoing explanation, sufficiently indicate the methods by which the unlawful combination in Chicago was suppressed:
It appears to have been thought in Chicago that ‘the request of the United States marshal,’ with whom the commanding officer of the troops had been directed to ‘confer,’ was equivalent to ‘orders of the War Department,’ notwithstanding the order of May 25, above quoted, strictly prohibiting any such use of troops. Hence the faulty disposition of the troops which was corrected when the mob was approaching the heart of the city. Then ‘some of the troops on the outskirts of the city’ were withdrawn, and ‘in the evening the battery and one troop of cavalry’ were moved ‘to the Lake Front Park, for the purpose of attacking the mob should it reach the vicinity of the government building between Adams and Jackson sts.’ And during the afternoon and night of the 5th and morning of the 6th an effective force was concentrated on the Lake Front Park, forty-eight hours after the time when the orders from Washington indicated that the Fort Sheridan garrison should be at that place. On July 9, the day after the President had issued his proclamation, it appeared in Chicago that ‘the duties of the military authorities are now clearly defined.’ The President's proclamation was ‘understood by the military to be in the interests of humanity,’ and to concern, in some way, ‘the State militia,’ as if they had been  ‘called into service’ of the United States. It was ‘the duty of the military forces to aid the United States marshals.’ Again, ‘it is expected the State and municipal governments will maintain peace and good order. . . . Should they fail or be overpowered, the military forces will assist them . . .’—and this notwithstanding the well-known law on that subject to which allusion was made in the despatch of July 5 from the headquarters of the army. The President's proclamation was strictly limited to ‘the purpose of enforcing the faithful execution of the laws of the United States, and protecting its property, and removing obstructions to the United States mails,’ for which purpose the proclamation stated ‘the President has employed a part of the military forces of the United States’—not is about to employ, but has employed, under specific orders, which were telegraphed to Colonel Martin on July 3, to do certain things which were precisely the things specified in the proclamation of July 8, and not ‘to aid the United States marshals’ in doing those things or any others. Yet it was not until July 9, six days after the order to Colonel Martin, that those duties became ‘clearly defined,’ and then they were misunderstood in the very essential particulars above specified. The lawless interruptions of traffic on the Pacific roads had continued from the latter part of April till early in July,—two months and a half,—in spite of all the efforts to enforce the laws, in each special case, by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings. Yet as soon as full discretionary authority was given to the several department commanders to act promptly as each emergency might require, all obstruction to the operations of the Pacific railroads rapidly disappeared. The ordinary course of judicial proceedings is generally far too slow to produce satisfactory results when military force is required. Fortunately the Constitution and laws  of the United States do not require such ineffective mixture of civil and military methods. When the civil power ceases to be effective and the President is required to exercise his authority as commander-in-chief of the army, his acts become purely military, untrammeled by any civil authority whatever. This is perhaps one of the strongest and most valuable provisions of the Constitution and laws—one which, if generally known, is most likely to deter the lawless from any attempt to act in defiance of the judicial authority of the United States. The General Order No. 15, issued at the time herein referred to (May 25, 1894), was based upon the foregoing interpretation of the Constitution and laws. Under the Constitution and existing statutes of the United States it is not proper to use the troops, either in large or small numbers, to ‘aid the United States marshals.’ When the civil officers, with their civil posse, are no longer able to enforce the laws, they stand aside, and the military power, under the orders of the commander-in-chief, steps in and overcomes the lawless resistance to authority. Then the civil officers resume their functions, to make arrests of individuals, hold them in custody, and deliver them to the courts for trial. It is not the duty of the troops in such cases to guard prisoners who are in the custody of civil officers; but it is the duty of the troops, if necessary, to repel by force of arms any unlawful attempt to rescue such prisoners. This distinction should be clearly understood by all army officers, and it is of universal application. Tle duty of the army is, when so ordered by the President, to overcome and suppress lawless resistance to civil authority. There military duty ends, and the civil officers resume their functions. The distinction between the authority of the United States and that of the several States is so clearly defined that there can be no possible excuse for ignorance on that subject on the part of any officer of the army. But  the relation between the civil and the military authorities of the United States had not been clearly defined, after the passage of the ‘Posse Comitatus Act,’ until the order of May 25, 1894, was issued. But that can hardly excuse continued ignorance of the law a month or more after that order was issued; and it is worthy of note that at least one department commander showed himself familiar with the law before the order was issued, by correcting the mistake of a subordinate, which called attention to the necessity of issuing some such order. Of course that order had the sanction of the President, after consideration and approval by the Attorney-General, before it was issued. The acts of Congress creating the Pacific railroads and making them military roads justify and require that the government give them military protection whenever, in the judgment of the President, such protection is needed. It is not incumbent on the commander-in-chief of the army of the United States to call on civil courts and marshals to protect the military roads over which he proposes to move his troops, whether on foot or on horseback or in cars. It appears to have been almost forgotten that the transcontinental railroads were built, at great expense to the national treasury, mainly as a military bond between the Atlantic States and the Pacific States, and that this is by far their most important service, and this explains the meaning of the language employed in the acts of Congress creating them. At the time of the massacre of Chinese laborers at Rock Springs, Wyoming, during President Cleveland's first administration, I was ordered by the President to go to that place from Chicago and suppress that violation of the treaty obligations between this country and China. On my arrival at Omaha, I was informed by press reporters that a grand conclave at Denver that night was to consider a proposition to order out all the train-men on  the Union Pacific Railroad the next morning, for the purpose, as I understood, of preventing the passage of my train. I told the reporters they might telegraph those people in Denver, but not for publication, that I was traveling over a military road, on military duty, under orders from the commander-in-chief of the army; that interference with that journey would be regarded by me as an act of war, and would be so treated. I heard no more on that subject. That interpretation of the Pacific Railroad acts was suggested several times, but never officially accepted until 1894. The following are in substance the orders sent on July 6 and 7, by the President's direction, to all the department commanders ill the country traversed by the Pacific railroads, and the President's proclamation which followed two days later, under the operation of which traffic was resumed throughout all that vast region of country as rapidly as trains conveying troops could be moved. No serious opposition or resistance was offered anywhere.