First Blood

Pike County, Kentucky was still a bastion of Confederate sympathies and Harman had gotten a less-than-welcoming reception upon returning home from the war. The valley around the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River was truly no place for a Union veteran. Only a few of his many relatives had stopped in to see him and his broken leg left him unable to do much. Luckily, he still had his slave, Pete, to take care of him.

One visitor that did make a point to stop by though, was Jim Vance. It wasn’t a friendly visit. It was a warning and it scared Harman to the core.

“The Wildcats is a comin’ for ya, ...”

The next morning, Harman was outside drawing up a bucket of water when two shots echoed from the hills behind his cabin. Splinters of stone flashed up from the side of the well a few feet from where he was standing followed by the eerie whir of a ricocheting projectile. Harman couldn’t have gotten back inside his cabin any faster on two healthy legs.

That night, he and Pete made an agonizing trip to a cave at the southern end of the valley, bringing with them food and blankets. It’s where Harman would stay. He instructed Pete to return in three days with a few buckets of fresh water.

In the morning, it began to snow heavily.

Pete had trouble getting back through knee-deep drifts, spilling much of the water along the way. But he made it.

Unfortunately for Harman though, Pete left a distinct trail in the snow that led straight from the cabin to the cave.

On January 7th, 1865, Asa Harman McCoy had no chance against the Hatfields when they came for him and spilled the first blood of the Hatfield-McCoy feud.

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