The first known event linking the Hatfields and McCoys was at the end of the Civil War. Devil Anse Hatfield, many members of his family, and many of the McCoys fought for the Confederate Army.
With West Virginia's admittance to the Union in 1863, Devil Anse realized that, as a Southern sympathizer, he, his family and property were in real danger. Now, in the name of home defense, he formed the Logan Wildcats, which was one of the most feared guerrilla bands to patrol the Tug River's banks.
Randall McCoy’s younger brother, Asa Harmon McCoy, was a Union soldier who had waited two years to enlist in the Union Army as a private for 12 months.
Suffering a broken leg and discharged on Christmas Eve 1864, he returned home to a chilly warning from Devil Anse's ruthless uncle, Jim Vance, who despised Harmon because he had joined the Union Army, that he could expect a visit from Devil Anse's Wildcats.
Frightened by gunshots as he drew water from his well, Harmon hid in a nearby cave, supplied with food and necessities each day by his slave, Pete. But Harmon's fate was sealed. His tormentors followed Pete's tracks in the snow, discovered the ailing Harmon and shot him dead on Jan. 7, 1865.
At first, Devil Anse Hatfield was the prime suspect. Later, after finding the Wildcats' leader had been confined to his bed, the guilt turned squarely on Vance and, according to some accounts, "Wheeler" Wilson, the real gunman.
In the end, the case died with no suspect brought to trial.
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