Friday, July 08, 2011

Hatfield: "THE OTHER FEUD: William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield in the Civil War"

[The Other Feud: William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield in the Civil War by Philip Hatfield (Author-Createspace, 2010). Softcover, illustrations, tables, notes. Pages main/total:80/99. ISBN:9781453886748  $12.99]

Much has been published about the Hatfield-McCoy feud from the popular and academic presses, but Philip Hatfield's The Other Feud explores instead the Civil War years of William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield's life. Just how much of this Civil War service information is freshly presented in the book, I'll have to leave to those familiar with the extensive Hatfield-McCoy literature. Earlier biographical works, such as The Tale of the Devil, do claim to cover the period.  A slim volume of small physical dimensions and large print, The Other Feud has the modest goal of summarizing Hatfield's Civil War career as well as discussing to what degree Civil War differences fed the famous feud, a subject of some controversy.

Utilizing service records and the excellent research of SE Kentucky-SW Virginia Civil War researchers Jeffrey Weaver and Randall Osborne, the author traces William A. Hatfield's association with the Virginia militia, Virginia State Line, and 45th Virginia Infantry Battalion. Making use of the O.R., books, newspapers, and manuscript material, the narrative often strays away from sustained mention of Hatfield personal involvement in events (his presence in assumed), instead summarizing the military movements and actions of the state and Confederate units. The work is most speculative in its dealing of the 1864-65 period following Devil Anse Hatfield's desertion from the 45th Virginia Battalion. His name is absent from the rolls of Bill Smith's guerrilla unit and, according to the author, no supporting documentation has been discovered. Nevertheless, author Hatfield wholeheartedly adopts the traditional view that "Devil Anse" fought with Smith. Even with the recognition that muster roll information for partisan units was necessarily spotty at best and it was often in an irregular fighter's best interest not to have his name in print, the author might have been better served to leave the details of this aspect of the Devil's life more open to debate.

As for the question of the alleged Civil War origins of the feud, the text is largely inconclusive as to the depth of the role played by the great national conflict*. It does, however, persuasively argue against the popular notion that the feud had a North (McCoy) vs. South (Hatfield) character. In support of this, author Hatfield provides a pair of nice tables which list the wartime services of prominent members of the post-war feud. These appendices demonstrate no clear sectional divide. While no feuding Hatfield directly served in Union forces, relatives did, and McCoy feudists fought on both sides.

Happily, the author also writes dispassionately, refreshingly avoiding the pitfalls of biographical history penned by direct or collateral descendents. On the down side, the book needs some editing work and would have benefited from a bibliography and index. A concluding chapter summarizing the author's findings would also have been helpful. In the end, The Other Feud's often presumptive assessment of William A. Hatfield's personal involvement in the war tends to raise as many questions as it attempts to answer. While in broad terms the book achieves what it sets out to do, given its limitations of length and scope, readers might best view it as a starting point for further exploration.

* - The book does not cite James Prichard's excellent recent article from Virginia at War, 1863 (UP of Kentucky, 2009). Prichard takes the view that the character of the post-war Hatfield-McCoy feud was a direct consequence of Civil War mountain guerrilla warfare and offers details pertaining to Hatfield's involvement in that aspect of the war. While Philip Hatfield's work doesn't aspire to the scholarly reaches of Prichard's creation of a broader sociological context, it would have been worthwhile to address the article's conclusions.

7 comments:

  1. AnonymousMay 30, 2012

    Where did the name "Devil" come from?

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    1. I have no answer for you on that one. I've never researched it myself, but I think you will find that the monikers of historical figures rarely have origin stories that everyone accepts.

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  2. AnonymousMay 30, 2012

    The History Channel series leaves one with the impression that Anse Hatfield was a Captain and deserted his troops under fire. Can that be verified?

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    1. I don't know anything of the circumstances of his desertion. IIRC, the above book did not give any indication that he was a commissioned officer.

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  3. thanks for sharing.

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  4. The Real McCoyDecember 27, 2012

    Devil Anse deserted and began stealing,killing and taking what he desired from McCoys and there allies such as the Clines, Mounts and others while they were out of the region fighting in the civil war. Devil Anse knew that during a war zone was a great time to take what he desired and is the reason for his deserting the civil war after only being present in the civil war for a few good months. There were not much at all of any civil war battles being fought along the Tug River which devides WV and KY. where Devil Anse stole lots of his properties in part due to his uncle being a Mingo Co "then" Logan Co WV Judge and also president at that time of the court. When his uncle lost his political position Devil Anse lost virtually everything he had illegially acquired and moved deeper into Logan Co WV near Sarah Ann and lived in a shabby shack util his death. I have not found any records in my 17 years of researching the feud that show anything whatsoever that Devil Anse was a succesful Timberring Business Operator such as the miniseries developers have portrayed Devil to have been. Lately and in part due to the miniseries Devil Anse Hatfield has been portrayed as an Angel but the truth that is yet known Devil Anse was 100 percent pure Devil which is why he was named Devil. Several new statements made by authurs and others have said that Devil Anse was not present at some of the slaughterings of mostly McCoy women and children. However, those authurs fail and overlook the fact that Devil Anse was the leader and put his crew up to those bloody and crel murders. Those authurs overlook the fact that in a court of law if you mastermind a crime you are the number one guilty person such as Devil Ance was. Due to the miniseries Devil Anse can be looked upon as a great guy but the fact of him killing inacent women and children can not be hiden and the truth will stand when all else fails.

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  5. I must correct Anderw on this point: Devil Anse was a 1st Lieutenant in Co B 45th Battalion VA Infantry and the book gives ample evidence to this effect - his service records are cited from the National Archives/CSR.

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