Ghastly Incident of the Chicago Strike

Ray Stannard Baker

Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly/August 2, 1894

Our picture on the first page illustrates a deplorable incident of the “military occupation’’ of Chicago during the recent railway strike—the explosion of the ammunition caisson of Battery F, Second United States Artillery, with the loss of four lives and the infliction of more or less serious injuries on seven members of the battery and seven other persons in addition. The explosion occurred near the corner of Oakwood and Grand boulevards. A detachment of artillery and cavalry was on a practice ride, and was moving at a swift pace. “One of the caissons bumped over a projecting stone in the pavement. It settled down with a jolt. The next moment”—we quote the graphic account of the Chicago Record—“the iron cover of the lumber with the two cannonaders clinging to it shot into the air. As it rose a blinding sheet of flame came up and enveloped it. It was all in the twinkling of an eye. Before the troopers could turn their heads the noise of the explosion followed the fire. It was louder than the report of a thousand guns fired at once.  A perfect fusillade of shots followed, but they were hardly heard in the deafening roar which preceded them. A great cloud of smoke and dust, with flying fragments of men and horses and great chunks of broken wheels, rose up and covered the awful scene of carnage. The troopers had been struck by the concussion as by a mighty wind. They scattered to the right and left. Some of them were thrown to the ground; others were lifted and borne scores of yards down the street. Nearly all of them were knocked partially senseless and deafened.”

The bodes of two of the victims were thrown hundreds of feet into the air, being so dismembered as to be unrecognizable. Nine heavy artillery and cavalry horses were killed outright, the piece of some of them being blown through the air. Heavy caissons were torn literally to atoms. Great chunks of iron and sections of wheels were hurled hundreds of yards. Some of them pierced the stout oak doors and the plate-glass windows of the residences along the boulevard, and some buried themselves deep in the ground. The shade trees, big elms and cottonwoods, which stand along the boulevard, were stripped of their branches and foliage and pierced with hundreds of pieces of shrapnel shot and fragments of iron. The scene, in a word, presented all the horrors of actual war.

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