The History of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud

Hatfields and McCoys film still - The History Channel

The History Channel will be airing a three-part miniseries about the Hatfield and McCoy families starting on Memorial Day. The miniseries stars Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton, Mare Winningham, and lots and lots of guns and violence. Historian Altina L. Waller, author of Feud: Hatfields, McCoys, and Social Change in Appalachia, 1860-1900, was interviewed extensively for the accompanying documentary to the miniseries.

Feud: Hatfields, McCoys, and Social Change in Appalachia, 1860-1900, by Altina L. WallerThe Hatfield–McCoy feud has long been a part of American folklore and legend. It is also a serious historical event. In Feud, Waller tells the real story of the Hatfields and McCoys and the Tug Valley of West Virginia and Kentucky, placing the feud in the context of community and regional change in the era of industrialization.

Waller argues that the legendary feud was not an outgrowth of an inherently violent mountain culture but rather one manifestation of a contest for social and economic control between local people and outside industrial capitalists—the Hatfields were defending community autonomy while the McCoys were allied with the forces of industrial capitalism. Profiling the colorful feudists “Devil Anse” Hatfield, “Old Ranel” McCoy, “Bad” Frank Phillips, and the ill-fated lovers Roseanna McCoy and Johnse Hatfield, Waller illustrates how Appalachians both shaped and responded to the new economic and social order.

Don’t miss the Hatfields and McCoys miniseries, airing on The History Channel May 28-29. Then, dig deeper into the history with a copy of Waller’s Feud. Waller will be joining us with a guest blog post next week, so stay tuned!

Update 5/29/12: Waller answers the question “How realistic is it?” for the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog.

Update 6/11/12: Waller offers a full assessment of the historical accuracy of the miniseries in a guest blog post, “The Hatfield-McCoy Feud.”


  1. great show…kept our family around the living room together 3 days in a row !Kevin Costner tends to be involved in quality productions.i thought the filming and acting were impeccable!Kudos to Tom Berenger for a brilliant performance as a dispicable “Jim Vance”.BTW I’ve watched it complete twice.There were some discrepancies in historical facts,but everything I,ve read so far has discrepancies?Thanks.

  2. I thought the movie was great I am a bartender from Washington state and have met a real Hatfield James Hatfield of Spokane , Wa. I have always been interested in this fued and thought the movie very good and enjoyed it. Way to go Kevin right up there with Dances Tatonka Kevin.

  3. I watched the mini series and not until then did I know that this was based on two familes. Since then I have been reading what I can on the feud. However, reading and watching the mini series has left me w/ some questions. Any1 know who to contact? Thank you

  4. Loved the 3 part mini series. I grew up hearing about the feud (hense my last name) and was excited to see the story air on TV. I have many books and other literature on this topic and have seen some differences in the movie … but that’s Hollywood for you. I also visited the Kentucky and West Virginia feuding area during the McCoy 2000 reunion sponsored by Coca-Cola. They offer tours to visit the grave sites, homestead areas, and site where the 3 McCoys were executed near the Paw Paw trees. It’s worth the visit if you are interested in this story.

    By the way – I am a very distant relative to Devil Anse Hatfield (his 5th great grand father is my 8th great grand father).

    Shelley Hatfield Spurling

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