Battle of Grapevine Creek (1888)
The Battle of Grapevine Creek occurred in January 1888 on the West Virginia side of the Tug Fork River near what is today the northern portion of the town of Matewan. The battle stemmed from the events of the New Year's Day attack the Hatfields led against the McCoy family. In this battle, the Hatfields fought against a group of men led by Frank Phillips, a bounty hunter closely tied to the McCoy family. Phillips hoped to capture the men behind the New Year's Day attack and force them to stand trial. The battle was a decisive victory for Phillips, ending with the deaths and retreat of the majority of the Hatfield men and the capture of nine who would later stand trial for their involvement in the New Year's Day attack. The Battle of Grapevine Creek is notable for being the final battle of the feud as well as the only one to be fought using the military tactics.
Backstory and Context
Upon the issuing of these warrants in the days following the attack, bounty hunter Frank Phillips, a close friend of the McCoys who was later joined to the family through his marriage to Nancy McCoy, began to hunt those responsible for the attack and subsequent deaths of two of his family members. In his quest to do so he initially tracked down Jim Vance and Devil Anse Hatfield, the de facto leaders of the opposing clan, sparking a fight which resulted in the death of Vance.
The death of Vance sparked the ire of the Hatfield family who, though predominantly in hiding from the law, prepared for a final battle meant to gain revenge against Phillips and his family for the death of one of their own. Reportedly, the Hatfields also hope this final attack would put an end to the feud and secure their role as the victors over the McCoys once and for all. The McCoy family was soon made aware of the incoming attack shortly after Devil Anse and his men set out for the battle, however, and so Phillips was able to quickly round up enough of his own men to stand against the Hatfields. Phillips hoped to intercept Devil Anse and prevent him from reaching his own home while also catching him off guard, so he and his men set off soon after in the hopes of overtaking the Hatfields.
The two groups eventually met around the Grapevine Creek area on the West Virginia side of the Tug Fork River, near what is now the northern area of modern-day Matewan. Immediately upon their encounter, both sides began firing at one another. The shots continued until the McCoys were eventually able to branch into two separate groups, flanking the Hatfields on either side and effectively cornering them and leaving little chance of escape. With their new positions, the McCoys continued their attack, killing multiple Hatfield men. Those who were not killed were forced to retreat, with the nine remaining men being taken prisoner and eventually being forced to stand trial for their actions.
The fight, since referred to as the Battle of Grapevine Creek, is notable because it acted as the final battle of the feud and because it resulted in those involved in the feud facing legal repercussions. In addition, it was also the only military-style battle which occurred during the feud.
Battle of the Grapevine Creek. Revolvy. . Accessed June 19, 2019. https://www.revolvy.com/page/Battle-of-the-Grapevine-Creek.