At Homestead, Pinkertons were trying to escort replacement workers into a steel mill. The strikers opened fire first, murdered a few Pinkertons, tried to burn alive Pinkertons who were attempting to surrender, and then after accepting the Pinkertons' surrender, proceeded to torture them.
From The New York Times, July 7, 1892, John T. McCurry quoted:
I was down at the foot of Beaver Avenue, Allegheny, yesterday, when Captain Rogers employed me to go up the river on his boat â" the Little Bill.
Our boat had in tow one barge of Pinkerton men and the Tide had the other. While going up, the Tide was disabled, and we took our barge up in front of Homestead, and then went back for the Tide's.
We made a landing at the Homestead mills about five o'clock this morning. The shore was crowded with the locked out men and their sympathizers.
The armed pinkerton men commenced to climb up the banks. Then the workmen opened fire on the detectives.
The men shot first, and not until three of the pinkerton men had fallen did they respond to the fire.
I am willing to take an oath that the workmen fired first, and that the Pinkerton men did not shoot until some of their number had been wounded.
The workmen were so strong in numbers that it was useless for the three fifty or four hundred Pinkertons men to oppose them further, so they retreated to the barges, carrying their dead and wounded.
One Pinkerton man was shot through the head and instantly killed, and five were wounded.
We backed out into the river, anchored the barges, and then took the dead and wounded men up to Port Perry, whence they were sent on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to Pittsburg. We then went down to Homestead again.
We were going along peaceably and expecting no trouble. When we reached the mills the strikers opened fire on the Little Bill from both sides. It was then I was hit.
The bullets broke the glass and splintered the woodwork. Captain Alexander McMichaels was at the wheel. The bullets crashed through the glass pilothouse, and to save his life, he had to rush below. Captain Rogers was on board, and he displayed great bravery.
When the firing commenced, we all laid down on the floor to escape the bullets, but I was not quick enough, and was wounded. There was a cessation in the firing, and the pilot secured control of the boat before it ran into the bank, which it came near doing.
There was no one on board at the time we were fired upon, but the crew, Captain Rogers, and one Pinkerton man, J.H. Robinson of Chicago.
When we approached Homestead from Port Perry we could see the attempts to set fire to the barges.
The strikers had a carload of what appeared to be oil, and were pouring it on the river and igniting it. The barges at this time were out in the middle of the river.