[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.