An American Vendetta: Hatfield and McCoy Feud

An American Vendetta
By: T.C. CRAWFORD with a Foreword by F. Keith Davis
Softcover, 158 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9852640-8-6


An American Vendetta: Story of Barbarism in the United States. Initially published in 1889, An American Vendetta represented one of the earliest journalistic accounts of the now-famous Hatfield and McCoy Feud. During that time period, many across the country first came to hear of the story through the pages of this book.

Besides telling the complex and bloody story of the feud—often in blunt and the harshest of terms—this volume, penned by New York World reporter, Theron C. Crawford, presents the only known interview with feudist Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield conducted in Hatfield’s home in Logan County, West Virginia.

In his book, Land of the Guyandote, Mountain State historian Robert Y. Spence explained that in October 1888, Crawford traveled to southern West Virginia, and was escorted to Logan County by John B. Floyd, a state senator and friend of the Hatfields. The two men actually stayed over at the home of Devil Anse, as the interview process continued into the night.

Understandably, critics have noted that Crawford, for some unknown reason, comes off with a derogatory tone about the territory—“a barbarous, uncivilized, and wholly savage region”—and also about the Hatfield clan.

Yet, Dr. Coleman C. Hatfield, grandson of Cap Hatfield, wrote in his book, The Tale of the Devil: The Biography of Devil Anse Hatfield: “Crawford’s account of the feud is of interest for perhaps two important reasons: this was the first extensive work depicting the troubles between the families, other than occasional articles that appeared in The Louisville Courier-Journal and other area newspapers; secondly, the fact that Crawford worked in New York City, the information capital of the nation, meant it would receive more attention than other accounts.” Dr. Hatfield also felt that because Crawford's work was illustrated (by a penman named Graves,) it helped set the stereotypical image of the mountaineer in popular imagination.

At the time of Crawford’s writings, the family conflict was at its greatest intensity. The brutal massacre at Randall McCoy’s cabin by the Hatfields, which resulted in the death of two of his children, Alifair and Calvin, had taken place just months earlier, on New Year’s Day, 1888. One week later, “Crazy Jim” Vance was killed by Hatfield archenemy, “Bad Frank” Phillips. It was in the shadow of this bloody backdrop that Devil Anse, during his interview with Crawford, stressed that he wanted peace with the McCoys—but had no intention of disarming or surrendering to law officers or bounty hunters. Peace, it turns out, was still a few years off.

After many decades, this part of feud history, "American Vendetta," is available again. T.C. Crawford’s colorful interviews, his vivid and raw description of the region, and the brutal feud accounts make this volume fascinating to read and a must for every library collection.

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"Now (T.C. Crawford's) work is a time capsule. The people are presented as products of their isolated place. The place is depicted as barbaric but the people are not. There is much to learn from in this first-hand account of life in the mountains of America. The reprint is a valuable addition to feud literature and to folklore scholars." — Excerpt from a review by Phyllis Wilson Moore.