America's most notorious family feud began in 1865 with the murder of a Union McCoy soldier by a Confederate Hatfield relative. More than a decade later Randall McCoy accused a Hatfield of stealing his hogs. This accusation triggered years of violence and retribution, including a Romeo-and-Julietinterlude that led to the death of a young McCoy woman and her baby. In a drunken brawl, three of her brothers killed a Hatfield, so the Hatfields tied them up and shot them dead. McCoy posses hijacked some of this firing squad across state lines to stand trial, while those still free burned down Randal McCoy's cabin and shot two of his children in a botched attempt to defeat the posses. Legal wrangling ensued, until the 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. But the feud didn't end there. Its legend continues to have an enormous impact on the popular imagination and the region. Here is a fascinating new look at the infamous Hatfield-McCoy feud.
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 fatherís family is related by marriage to the Fighting McCoys.
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.