Mountain State of Mind

EPISODE 5: Novelizing the Battle of Blair Mountain

The Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921 in southern West Virginia was the largest civil insurrection since the Civil War and the largest labor rebellion in American history. Former West Virginia journalist Topper Sherwood, who now calls Berlin his home, has written a novel titled “Carla Rising,” inspired by the remarkable events of that time. Listen to “Mountain State of Mind” podcast interview with Sherwood about the inspiration for the novel.

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The podcast is a companion multimedia piece to a review of “Carla Rising” by Paul Nyden in the May 15, 2016 issue of the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Below is an excerpt from that review. Click on the link below to read the full review:

Carla Rising,” by Topper Sherwood

Martinsburg, W.Va.: Appalachian Editions, 2015

312 pages. Paperback, $16.99.


For the Charleston Gazette-Mail

“Carla Rising” is an engaging novel about labor unrest that sparked the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain, one of the most famous confrontations in American labor history.

The battle was waged in company towns and across mountainsides in Logan and Boone counties. Many striking coal miners, evicted from their homes by company guards, created tent colonies and marched toward Logan, headed toward a confrontation with thousands of county sheriffs, private mine guards and strikebreakers backed by coal operators.

Topper Sherwood’s novel is filled with fascinating stories about the personal debates which undoubtedly took place. “Carla Rising” — focused on a female character of that name — delves into the intense internal conflicts on both sides of the long, often violent union-company conflict.

Between Aug. 25 and Sept. 2, 1921, more than 10,000 union coal miners battled local law enforcement officers and coal company guards along Blair Mountain Ridge. It was the largest armed conflict in American labor history.

Coal miners first gathered in the town of Marmet near the Kanawha River to start their long march to help unionize mines in Logan and Mingo counties. More than a million rounds were fired during the historic battle, which ended only after 2,500 federal troops and a squadron of bomber planes were ordered in by President Warren Harding …