America's Biggest Feud Hatfields and McCoys Part 6

About the history of America's biggest feud between the Hatfield and the McCoys in the southern United States

AMERICA'S BIGGEST FEUD

The pressure brought on the Hatfields by Cline eventually encouraged a new outbreak of hostilities. In a council among Devil Anse, Jim Vance, and other leaders of the clan, it was decided that some of the McCoys must be eliminated before it was too late to head off the new drive they were making to bring their archfoes to justice. Randolph and his son Calvin, witnesses in the '82 slayings, were major targets.

The first day of 1888, a Sunday, dawned clear and cold. Smoke climbed early from the Chimneys on the West Virginia side of the Tug, for the word had been given for the Hatfield clan to gather.

One of the first to answer the summons was Ellison Mounts, illegitimate son of a Hatfield, a husky 24-year-old called "Cotton Top" and considered a half-wit by most of his neighbors. Devil Anse was sick that day and turned the leadership over to Vance.

At 10:30 that night, with the moon shining so brightly that some of the Hatfields donned masks, the McCoy home was surrounded. Then Vance yelled, "Come out, you McCoys, an' surrender as prisoners of war!"

When no one appeared, the attackers fired in the windows and set the house on fire. A daughter, Allifair, ran out and was killed. Behind her came Calvin, who was slain in a fusillade of shots. Old Mrs. McCoy, trying to reach her daughter, was clubbed over the head with the butt of a gun and left for dead. When the raiders departed, the home was in full blaze.

This attack was the last of the feud. So atrocious was it that within a week it was being reported in newspapers all over the country under such headlines as a MURDEROUS GANG AND A TERRIBLE STORY.

At Pikeville, a posse was organized under the leadership of Frank Phillips, deputy sheriff, a desperate man who hoped to collect the reward offered for the capture of the Hatfields. Armed to the teeth, the men made raid after raid into West Virginia, "kidnapping" clansmen wherever they could be found and placing them in jail. In time, nine were behind bars, among them Wall Hatfield, still another of Devil Anse's brothers. The leader himself, as well as Cap, managed to elude the posse. Jim Vance was surrounded in the mountains and, when he resisted, was slain.

Now began an official and extensive exchange of correspondence between the two governors. Meanwhile, bodies of militia were standing by in the two states, ready to push to Tug Fork if needed.

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