Riots, Protests, and Other Civil Disturbances
The Railroad Strike, July 1894

A railroad strike, nationwide in scope, was ordered on June 28th, 1894, the effects of which were drastically felt throughout California. In this situation, because the U. S. Mails were carried by the railroad, the Federal Government was involved immediately. Through prior arrangements, requests for National Guard assistance would be initiated by the U. S. Marshal.

Although the effects of the strike were felt throughout the State, the most militant group was located in the Sacramento area. The size of the group of strikers and sympathizers in the
State's capital city frustrated the efforts of local agencies to control the situation. The Governor, on July 3, 1894, ordered troops of the National Guard to Sacramento to aid in the quelling of "disturbance." Many of these units were from the San Francisco area which is considerably cooler during the summer than is Sacramento. This change in weather conditions, combined with initial shortages of food and equipment, reduced the effectiveness of these units. Concurrent deployment of other Guard units to other railroad communities throughout the State were significantly more effective. During one phase of this strike, which had many sympathizers, elements of the National Guard were on duty from Bakersfield in the south to Dunsmuir in the north.No other community experienced the problems of control comparable to the situation which existed in Sacramento. Strikers from other areas commandeered trains and converged in Sacramento in an obvious attempt to exploit the uncertain conditions to their advantage.

Because the early efforts of the units in Sacramento were not effective, the subsequent assignments resulted in troops being deployed in positions around the areas occupied by the strikers. This resulted in a "waiting game" type of situation, where neither side gained any advantage over the other. The strikers, as the days passed, gradually became disenchanted and when, on the 10th of July, troops of the Regular Army arrived in Sacramento, the stage was set for the restoration of control to the hands of the local authorities.

The combined efforts of the Regular troops and the National Guard soon permitted the trains to resume operations. Although the first train to leave Sacramento to the south was wrecked, by July 14th the trains were operating approximately on schedule.

Guard units remained on duty in the Sacramento area until July 22nd, when it became apparent that conditions were near normal. The original mission having been fulfilled, the units were gradually released for return to home stations, the last being dismissed on July 30, 1894.

Link to Official History (1940)



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Updated 8 February 2016