1877 — Crazy Horse dies

A great war leader of the Ogala Lakota people, Crazy Horse fought the US Cavalry for more than a decade, in many successful battles in the 1860s and 1870s, most notably at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876. Crazy Hprse was acclaimed a great and brave warrior among his own people and other Indian tribes who fought against or alongside him.

But the battles, successful though they were, took a heavy toll. The Indians had greater knowledge of the territory in most of them, and were often tactically superior to their foes – but the white man had apparently endless numbers and superior technology (especially in terms of killing from range). Crazy Horse surrendered on May 5, 1877 at the Red Cloud Agency, located near Fort Robinson, Nebraska. He lived near there until his death exactly four months later.

Referenced in:

Born fe Rebel — Steel Pulse

1877 – Michael Davitt is released from prison

Michael Davitt was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), a revolutionary movement that espoused armed uprising as the only way to rid Ireland of British rule. He mostly participated in arms smuggling operations, and it was on one of these that he was arrested in 1870.

He was sentenced to 15 years hard labour in Dartmoor Prison, where he was subjected to casual brutality and solitary confinement. The letters he sent, describing his treatment, were read aloud in the British House of Commons by sympathetic politicians, and a public outcry against the treatment of Davitt and other Irish prisoners led to his early release. He received a hero’s welcome on his return to Ireland, and returned at once to the struggle, albeit now concentrating on non-violent political actions.

Referenced in:
A Forgotten Hero — Patrick Street

1877 – Ten members of the Molly Maguires are hung in Pennsylvania

In 1877, Franklin B. Gowen was the wealthiest coal mine owner in the world. He was the President of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, a mining concern, and also of the related Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. But it wasn’t enough.

Why, in some of his coal mine, the men who worked there had the unmitigated gall to complain about his safety standards (after 110 men died in a mine fire in 1869) and even to unionise (as if Gowen’s hired thugs hadn’t killed 10 people while busting a strike on his railroad that same year).

Nevertheless, Gowen’s business ineptitude (he managed to bring the railroad the brink of bankruptcy twice in the 16 years he ran it) and corruption (he was the prime mover behind one of the great price-fixing deals of the 18th century, which helped to maintain his coal fortune) knew virtually no bounds. In 1877, he hired the Pinkertons to infiltrate a supposed secret society called the Molly Maguires, which he claimed existed inside the union at his mines and committed assorted crimes at the behest of its members.

Evidence of a sort was produced, and men were accused, tried and convicted – in the newspapers. The actual legal proceedings were mere formalities. Ten men were hung on June 21, 1877 for assorted crimes, some of which may even have existed (let alone been committed by the men in question). Another ten would be executed by the state – and several more killed by vigilantes – before Gowen’s bloodlust was sated.

Today, some historians question whether the Molly Maguires even existed, while others insist that they did, but were mischaracterised. The is a general consensus that Gowen was a murderous buffoon, however.

Referenced in:

Molly — Molly Maguire
Molly Maguires — The Dubliners
The Sons of Molly — The Irish Balladeers
Lament for the Molly Maguires — The Irish Rovers