Politics and Violence in the Appalachian South
Publication Year: 2013
The notorious conflict between the Hatfield and the McCoy families of West Virginia and Kentucky is often remembered as America's most famous feud, but it was relatively brief and subdued compared to the violence in Breathitt County, Kentucky. From the Reconstruction period until the early twentieth century, Breathitt's 500 square miles of rugged upcountry land was known as "the darkest and bloodiest of all the dark and bloody feud counties" due to its considerable number of homicides, which were not always related to the factional conflicts that swept the region.
In Bloody Breathitt, T. R. C. Hutton casts a critical eye on this territory for the first time. He carefully investigates instances of individual and mass violence in the county from the Civil War through the Progressive era, exploring links between specific incidents and broader national and regional events. Although the killings were typically portrayed as depoliticized occurrences, Hutton explains how their causes and implications often reflected distinctly political intentions. By framing the incidents as "feuds," those in positions of authority disguised politically motivated murders by placing them in a fictive past, preventing outsiders from understanding the complex reality.
This meticulously researched volume offers the first comprehensive narrative of the violence in this infamous Kentucky county, examining Breathitt's brutal history and its significance to the state, the South, and the nation. While the United States has enjoyed unparalleled longevity as a republic, Hutton's timely study reminds readers that the nation's political stability has had a tremendous cost in terms of bloodshed.
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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When I first decided to write about Breathitt County, Kentucky, I expected I’d be writing a local study similar to most of the serious scholarship on Appalachia. What I discovered was a place where those in power needed violence in order to maintain their control, while those who refused to knuckle under to them saw violence as a tool themselves. These were flawed ...
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The means used to achieve political goals are more often than not of greater This is a history of Breathitt County, Kentucky, in its first seven or so de-cades of existence, before and after it became known as Bloody Breathitt. I consider the county and its nickname two separate entities; Breathitt (pro-nounced “breath-it”) County is a political unit, founded in 1839 in eastern ...
1. "To them, it was no-man's land"
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Without hazarding any thing, I think, Sir, I may say, more of the happiness which we live, than upon the State or the United States’ Government.As an old man, George Washington Noble recalled watching a “pitched battle” when he was a child in Breathitt County, Kentucky, in the 1850s. It was a semiofficial Court Day event, a hand-to-hand tussle for money and ...
2. "Suppressing the late rebellion"
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As the nation was rent apart, so was the commonwealth; as the state so was the county; as the county, the neighborhood; as the neighborhood, the family; as the family, so brother and brother, father and son.He has only one idea: the revolution; and he has broken with all the laws and codes of morals of the educated world. If he lives in it, pretending to ...
3. "The war spirit was high"
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Even though we are in full possession of the enemy’s country, the conflict may break out again in the interior or through assistance from his allies. No doubt this may also happen after the peace, but this only shows that wars do not always contain the elements necessary for a complete decision By the end of 1865 Breathitt County had been thoroughly chastened for ...
4. "The civilizing and Christianizing effects of material improvement and development"
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On Christmas Day 1884, Louisville’s Courier-Journal printed an unsigned letter from Breathitt County touting “the richest undeveloped timber, coal, and iron district in America.” In the last three years “Northern parties” had bought nearly twenty-five thousand acres of forestland (Breathitt County’s average land value was estimated at 92¢ per acre).1 The long-anticipated ...
5. Death of a Feudal Hero
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After Jeremiah South’s death in 1880, his family experienced a number of setbacks. Barry, his most enterprising son, replaced him as penitentiary executive but, like his father, ran afoul of the reformers who sought to hu-manize Kentucky’s appalling penal system.1 Barry South’s 1887 bid for state treasurer was trounced in the Democratic primary just months before he ...
6. "There has always been the bitterest poitical feeling in the county"
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So it should be noted that when he seizes a state the new ruler must determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict. He must inflict them once for all, and not have to renew them every day, and in that way he will be able to set men’s minds at rest and win them over to him when he confers his benefits. Whoever acts otherwise, either through timidity ...
7. "The feudal wars of Eastern Kentucky will no doubt be utilized in coming years by writers of fiction"
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...“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it In 1898 the Reverend John J. Dickey interviewed Edward Callahan “Red Ned” Strong to find out what the elderly Breathitt County native knew (or had heard) about his grandfather’s role in the “Clay County Cattle War” between 1805 and 1807. The violent events that comprised the cattle war had ...
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When we say that Americans are lawless, we usually mean that they are less conscious than other peoples of the august majesty of the institution of the State as it stands behind the objective government of men and laws The offending old building was eventually torn down and replaced by the structure that serves as Breathitt County’s court building at this writing ...
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Other Works in the Series
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Bluecoats and Tar Heels: Soldiers and Civilians in Reconstruction North CarolinaRaising Racists: The Socialization of White Children in the Jim Crow SouthMountains on the Market: Industry, the Environment, and the SouthThe New Southern University: Academic Freedom and Liberalism at UNCEntangled by White Supremacy: Reform in World War I–era South Carolina...
Page Count: 444
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: New Directions in Southern History