Hatfield, William Anderson

The Confusing Confederate Service of Randolph McCoy

Randall McCoy

Randolph McCoy

As the most popular post on this blog continues to be the one discussing the Confederate service of Devil Anse Hatfield, it seems appropriate to also examine the record of Randolph “Randall” McCoy, his chief antagonist in the famous feud. 

Much like Hatfield’s military record, primary documentation of McCoy’s Civil War service is sparse. Oral tradition holds that Randolph McCoy and Devil Anse Hatfield served in the same Confederate unit during the Civil War, but their names, as yet, have not been found together on any unit rosters. But this alone is not unusual as information on many of the local units, especially the short-lived ones, is mostly incomplete.

Devil Anse Hatfield Fights His First Border War

Devil Anse Hatfield West Virginia and Regional History Collection WVU Libraries

Devil Anse Hatfield
West Virginia and Regional History Collection
WVU Libraries

William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield is best known for being the patriarch of the family involved in the famous Hatfield and McCoy Feud. Nearly twenty years prior to the start of hostilities with the McCoy family, however, Hatfield served in various units associated with the Confederate army.

At the start of the Civil War in 1861, Hatfield was a 21-year-old farmer from Logan County, Virginia (now West Virginia). Although he undoubtedly enlisted in a Confederate unit in the first year of the war, his service record during the time is ambiguous. No documentation exists connecting Hatfield to a particular unit in 1861; in fact, anecdotal evidence and family tradition link him to three different regiments during the first year of the war.

Hatfield’s documented Confederate service begins in 1862 when he was commissioned a First Lieutenant of Cavalry in the Virginia State Line. This regional unit was formed in May 1862 in order to protect the territory along the Kentucky-Virginia border where resident loyalties to the North and South were mixed. Those who agreed to enlist in the unit were promised they would serve their time in the rural regions near their home.