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The Civil War in Missouri

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1864 Labor Unrest and General Order No. 65

Strike

Highlights

  • In 1864, labor discontent had taken hold of the country. 
  • The cost of goods was rising much faster than wages, and strikes began to break out in cities across the North. St. Louis was no exception. 
  • Faced with low wages, and frustrated by the hiring of women and boys at substandard wages, many workers went on strike. 

In-Depth

By 1864, labor discontent had taken hold of the country. The cost of goods was rising much faster than wages, and strikes began to break out in cities across the North. St. Louis was no exception. Faced with low wages, and frustrated by the hiring of women and boys at substandard wages, many workers went on strike. Industries on strike included “stove and hollow ware molders, machine molders, brass finishers and molders, carpenters and joiners, ship carpenters and caulkers, brick molders, steam-and-gas pipe fitters, paper hangers, horseshoers, plasterers, painters, tinners, and members of the typographical union”  as well as shoemakers. 

Employer Response

Highlights

  • In response to the strike, employers turned to military authority to solve the problem. 
  • This had its desired effect. General William Rosecrans, the head of the Union forces in Missouri, became convinced that the strikers were “bad men”  and were hindering the production of Federal gunboats by disrupting the production of iron. 
  • He issued General Order No. 65 on April 29, 1864, which forbade association with labor unions and required the names of strikers to be turned over to Federal authorities. 

In-Depth

Employers struck back fiercely against the union activity. Molders working for Oliver and Giles Filley, who were leaders among St. Louis Republicans, fired strikers and published their side of the story in the Missouri Republican and Democrat newspapers. Employers also turned to military authority to solve the problem. Their lobbying likely resulted in General William Rosecrans, the head of the Department of the Missouri, becoming convinced that the strikers were “bad men”  and were hindering the production of Federal gunboats by disrupting production of iron. He issued General Order No. 65 on April 29, 1864, which forbade association with labor unions and required the names of strikers to be turned over to Federal authorities. 

Effect

Highlight

  • This order had the desired effect of ending the strikes. It also symbolized the growing conflict between labor and capital that would continue through the latter part of the 19th and into the 20th century.

In-Depth

This order had the desired effect of ending the strikes. It also contributed to the growing conflict between labor and capital that would continue through the latter part of the 19th and into the 20th century, and the coming to power of a new economic order in Missouri, one that desired industrial growth and the expansion of railroads. They would largely come to oppose slave labor as they believed it stood in the way of these things. 

General Order No. 65 (Click to Read Full Text)

Original Text
General Order No. 65
Hdqrs. Dept. of the Missouri
St. Louis, Mo., April 29, 1864

It having come to the knowledge of the commanding general that combinations exist in the city of St. Louis, having for their object to prevent journeymen mechanics, apprentices, and laborers from working in manufacturing establishments, except on terms prescribed to the proprietors thereof, by parties not interested therein, which terms have no relation to the matter of wages to be paid to employees, but to the internal management of such establishments; and it appearing that in consequence of such combinations and the practices of those concerned in them, the operations of some establishments where articles are produced which are required for use in the navigation of the Western waters, and in the military, naval, and transport service of the United States, have been broken up, and the production of such articles stopped or suspended, the following order is promulgated. Any violation thereof will be punished as a military offense:

I. No Person shall directly or indirectly attempt to deter or prevent any persons from working, on such terms as he may agree upon, in any manufacturing establishment where any article is ordinarily made which may be required for use in the navigation of the Western waters, or in the military, naval, or transport service of the United States.

II. No person shall watch around or hang about any such establishment for the purpose of annoying the employees thereof, or learning who are employed therein,

III. No association or combination shall be formed or continue, or meeting be held, having for its object to prescribe to the proprietors of any such establishment whom they shall employ therein, or how they shall conduct the operations thereof.

IV. All employes in such establishments will be protected by military authority against all attempts by any person to interfere with or annoy them in their work, or in consequence of their being engaged in it.

V. The proprietors of every such establishment in the county of St. Louis will forthwith transmit to the office of the provost-Marshal-general the names of all persons who have, since the 15th day of March, 1864 left their employ to engage in any such combination or association as that above referred to, or have been induced to leave by the operations of any such combination or association, or by the individual efforts of any one concerned therein. The places of residence of such persons, so far as known, will be stated, together with a list, by name, of all who have taken an active part in any combination or effort to control the conduct of any such establishment or to prevent persons from working therein.

VI. The post commander, Col. J. H. Baker, Tenth Minnesota Volunteers, is charged, under the direction of the district commander, with the execution of this order. All persons applying for the aid of the military forces in this connection will report direct to Colonel Baker.

VII. In putting down this attack upon private rights and military power of the nation by organizations led by bad men, the general confidently relies upon the support and aid of the city authorities, and of all right minded men.

By command of Major-General Rosecrans:
O. D. Greene
Assistant Adjutant-General