Great Railroad Strike of 1877 – July 14, 1877

The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment found itself on the move in 1877. The Regiment started the year stationed in Louisiana. The Regimental headquarters and four companies were stationed at Jackson Barracks, LA. The rest of the Regiment quartered throughout Louisiana. The Regiment had been stationed there since 1874 to assist with enforcement of the Civil Rights legislation passed at the end of the Civil War. Military units had occupied parts of the South since 1865.

On July 14, 1877, employees of the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad hub located at Martinsburg, West Virginia decided to strike. The employees learned that B&O was cutting wages, the third cut in a year. The strike spread to Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Illinois and Missouri. They turned deadly, with as many as 100 people killed in clashes. The strikes also saw the destruction of rail stations, locomotives and freight.

President Rutherford B. Hayes ordered Federal troops to assist. The Regiment moved to Pennsylvania, and from there elements were dispatched to Indianapolis, IN; Newport Barracks, KY; Pittsburgh, PA; Scranton, PA; and Wilkes-Barre, PA. President Hayes decision to call in troops to affected areas quieted down the riots, ending the strike in 45 days.

The entire Regiment concentrated at Wilkes-Barre by September 3, 1877. This was in preparation for a change of station to Montana. The headquarters and six companies were to go to Helena. The remaining four companies would travel to Fort Missoula. The Regiment left Wilkes-Barre September 21 and arrived at Corrinne, Utah, on the September 28. From Corrinne, they marched to their new stations and immediately went to work building quarters.

The following year saw the passage of the Posse Comitatus Act. The Act forbid the use of the Army to enforce the law against civilians. The law was a reaction to the use of troops to occupy the South, but would prohibit future uses of the Army, like President Hayes solution to the railroad strike.