Blood Feud: The Hatfields and the McCoys: The Epic Story of Murder and Vengeance

Blood Feud: The Hatfields and the McCoys: The Epic Story of Murder and Vengeance

by Lisa Alther


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America's most notorious family feud began in 1865 with the murder of a Union McCoy soldier by a Confederate relative of "Devil Anse" Hatfield. More than a decade later, Ranel McCoy accused a Hatfield of stealing one of his hogs, triggering years of violence and retribution, including a Romeo-and-Juliet interlude that eventually led to the death of one of McCoy's daughters. In a drunken brawl, three of McCoy's sons killed Devil Anse Hatfield's younger brother. Exacting vigilante revenge, a group of Hatfields tied them up and shot them dead. McCoy posses hijacked part of the Hatfield firing squad across state lines to stand trial, while those still free burned down Ranel McCoy's cabin and shot two more of his children in a botched attempt to suppress the posses. Legal wrangling ensued until the US Supreme Court ruled that Kentucky could try the captured West Virginian Hatfields. Seven went to prison, and one, mentally disabled, yelled, "The Hatfields made me do it!" as he was hanged in the Bluegrass State's last public execution. But the feud didn't end there. Its legend continues to have an enormous impact on the popular imagination and to exact an onerous toll on the region itself. With a charming voice, a wonderfully dry sense of humor, and an abiding gift for spinning a yarn, best-selling author Lisa Alther makes an impartial, comprehensive, and compelling investigation of what actually happened, masterfully setting the feud in its historical and cultural contexts, digging deep into the many causes and explanations of the fighting, and revealing surprising alliances and entanglements. Here is a fascinating new look at the infamous Hatfield-McCoy feud.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780762779185
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 05/22/2012
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 784,862
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.08(h) x 1.04(d)

About the Author

Lisa Alther was born in the Appalachian town of Kingsport, Tennessee, and is the author of six bestselling novels, which have appeared in fifteen languages and sold over 6 million copies worldwide. She divides her time among Tennessee, New York City, and Vermont. Her father's family is related by marriage to the Fighting McCoys.

Read an Excerpt

A few days later, as Harmon McCoy was drawing water from the well in his yard, a bullet from the woods zinged past him. He ran inside, stuffed supplies into his saddlebags, grabbed his rifle, and limped up the hill to this cave, where he had been hiding out for several days now.Standing at the mouth of the cave, his thirst sated, he started coughing. It was a dry hacking cough that didn't let him catch his breath. He was freezing. At least at home he would have a chance of getting well before having to deal with the Wildcats again. He had spent this entire war either sick or injured—first his infected gunshot wounds, then his fractured leg, now pneumonia. What next? He started down the path toward home, dragging his aching leg. Below him he spotted two men among the bare branches of the winter trees, their features indistinct in the forest gloom. As he threw aside his blanket and raised his rifle, gunshots sounded up the hill, and an explosion bloomed inside his chest.

Table of Contents

Maps x

Introduction: Murderland xi

Part 1 Origins

1 The Path to Pikeville 3

2 Dark and Bloody Ground 11

3 Border States 30

Part 2 Avengement

4 Hog Trial 43

5 Montagues and Capulets of the Cumberlands 52

6 Pawpaw Murders 61

7 Devil Anse and the Hellhounds 72

8 New Year's Night Massacre 88

9 All Over but the Shouting 98

10 "The Hatfields Made Me Do It!" 111

Part 3 Aftermath

11 Survivors 125

12 Other Feuds 148

13 The Corsica of America 172

14 The Inner Hillbilly 195

15 Man Toys 216

Epilogue: The Hatfield-McCoy Industry 233

Acknowledgments 237

Appendix: "Green Are the Woods" Abner Vance 238

Endnotes 240

Selected Bibliography 270

Index 274

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