Devil Anse Hatfield

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William Anderson Hatfield
Hatfield (seated second from left)
with his family in 1897
William Anderson Hatfield

September 9, 1839
DiedJanuary 6, 1921 (aged 81)
OccupationTimber merchant
Levisa Chafin
(m. 1861)

William Anderson Hatfield (September 9, 1839 – January 6, 1921), better known as Devil Anse /ˈæns/, was the patriarch of the Hatfield clan during the infamous Hatfield–McCoy feud which has since formed part of American folklore. Anse survived the feud and agreed to end it in 1891.


Hatfield was born September 9, 1839, in western Virginia (now Logan, West Virginia), the son of Ephraim and Nancy (Vance) Hatfield.[1] His nickname "Devil Anse" has a variety of supposed origins: it was given to him by his mother; by Randolph McCoy; earned from his bravery during battle in the American Civil War; or as contrast to his good-tempered cousin, Anderson "Preacher Anse" Hatfield.[2]

A Southern sympathizer, Hatfield enlisted in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. He was commissioned a First Lieutenant of Cavalry in the Virginia State Line in 1862, a group made to protect the territory along the Kentucky-Virginia border where resident loyalties to the North and South were mixed.[3] The Virginia State Line eventually disbanded in 1863 and Hatfield enlisted as a private in the newly formed 45th Battalion Virginia Infantry, before being appointed first lieutenant and later captain of Company B. His unit spent most of its time patrolling the border area against bushwhackers sympathetic to the Union as well as engaging in guerrilla warfare against Union soldiers. Devil Anse himself has been connected to battles and killings of several Union fighters, including trackers Ax and Fleming Hurley in 1863.[4]

Devil Anse and his uncle Jim Vance later formed a Confederate guerrilla fighting unit called the "Logan Wildcats."[5] One of the group's victims was Union General Bill France; killed in revenge for losing one of their members to France's unit.[6] In 1865, he was suspected of having been involved in the murder of his rival Asa Harmon McCoy, who had fought for the Union Army and was waylaid by The Wildcats on his return home. Hatfield had been home ill at the time of the killing, which was probably committed at the instigation of his uncle, Jim Vance. This may have sparked the beginning of the notorious feud between the two families that claimed many lives on both sides.

Devil Anse was the patriarch leader during the Hatfield-McCoy feud. His family and Randolph McCoy's fought in one of the bloodiest and most well-known feuds in American history.[7] He was instrumental during the execution of McCoy boys Tolbert, Pharmer and Bud, as well as being present during the Battle of Grapevine Creek before most of his sons and friends were arrested for the murder of the McCoys.

Hatfield was baptized on September 23, 1911 in Island Creek by William Dyke "Uncle Dyke" Garrett and converted to Christianity (he had maintained a largely agnostic or anti-institutional view of religion prior to this conversion). He went on to found a Church of Christ congregation in West Virginia.[2] He was an uncle of the eventual Governor of West Virginia, and United States Senator, Henry D. Hatfield.

Marriage and children[edit]

Hatfield married Levisa "Levicy" Chafin (December 20, 1842 – March 15, 1929), the daughter of Nathaniel Chafin and Matilda Varney, on April 18, 1861 in Logan County, West Virginia (then Virginia). Their 13 children were:

Name Nickname Lifespan Son/Daughter Notes
Johnson Hatfield Johnse 1862–1922 Son Most known for his brief affair with Roseanna McCoy. Later married her cousin Nancy McCoy.
William Anderson Hatfield, Jr. Cap 1864–1930 Son Killed Jeff McCoy in 1886. Deputy sheriff of Logan County, WV
Robert Lee Hatfield Bob 1868–1931 Son Operated a saloon at Wharncliffe, Mingo County, during the 1890s
Nancy Bell Hatfield Vance-Mullins Nannie 1869–1939 Daughter Her first husband, John Totten Vance, killed James Thompson in 1897
Elliott Rutherford Hatfield 1872–1932 Son Physician in Kanawha County, WV
Mary Hatfield Hensley Simpkins Howes 1873–1963 Daughter Her husband, Frank Howes, was a fiddler from Catlettsburg, KY
Elizabeth Hatfield Caldwell Betty 1876–1962 Daughter
Elias M. Hatfield 1878–1911 Son Murdered in Fayette County, WV
Detroit W. Hatfield Troy 1881–1911 Son Murdered in Fayette County, WV
Joseph Davis Hatfield Joe 1883–1963 Son Republican sheriff of Logan County, WV
Rosada Lee Hatfield Browning Rosie 1885–1965 Daughter
Emmanuel Willis Wilson Hatfield Willis 1888–1978 Son Killed Dr. Thornhill in Mullens, WV[citation needed]
Tennyson Samuel Hatfield Tennis 1890–1953 Son Republican sheriff of Logan County, WV
Hatfield Family Cemetery


Hatfield died on Thursday, January 6, 1921 in Stirrat, Logan County, West Virginia at the age of 81 of pneumonia at his home along Island Creek. He is buried in the Hatfield Family Cemetery along West Virginia Route 44 in southern Logan County. His grave is topped by a life-sized statue of himself made of Italian marble. Levicy outlived her husband by eight years. Her great nephew was the political kingpin, Logan County sheriff Don Chafin.

In popular culture[edit]

Hatfield was portrayed by actor Kevin Costner in the miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. For his role, Costner won both the Emmy and Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Miniseries or TV Movie.[8]

He makes a spectral appearance in Manly Wade Wellman's collection of short stories, Who Fears the Devil?.


  1. ^ "Devil Anse Hatfield Biography (1839–1921)". A&E Television Networks. December 4, 2014. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Alther, Lisa (2012). Blood Feud: The Hatfields and the McCoys: The Epic Story of Murder and Vengeance. Globe Pequot. ISBN 978-0762785346.
  3. ^ Lively, Mathew W. (March 25, 2013). "Devil Anse Hatfield Fights His First Border War". Civil War Profiles. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
  4. ^ Davis, William. Virginia at War, 1863. University Press of Kentucky; 1st edition (December 5, 2008). pp. 70-71. ISBN 978-0813125107
  5. ^ Hatfield - McCoys at
  6. ^ Blitz, Matt (December 29, 2014). "THE REAL FEUD BETWEEN THE HATFIELDS AND MCCOYS". Today I Found Out.
  7. ^ "The Hatfield and McCoy Feud". Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  8. ^ "Hatfields & McCoys | Television Academy". January 14, 2013. Retrieved March 24, 2017.