Prior to the release of his latest book on the subject, area author and historian Philip Hatfield, Ph.D., will lead a tour of the Hurricane Bridge battlefield for the public on Saturday, June 1.
The tour of the historic site of the 1863 Civil War skirmish will get underway at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at 2486 U.S. 60 at the Red Barn, near the Midland Trail intersection. (Participants should park on the side of the road.)
“The battle had a lot to do with the strategic foothold the Union was able to get in the Kanawha Valley during the Civil War,” Hatfield said. “I think it’s been underestimated in terms of importance to early Kanawha Valley campaigns. At the time it occurred in 1863, there were a lot of guerilla acts in the area. Union civilians were under constant pressure from Confederate Gen. Albert Jenkins, while the Union [military forces] wanted to open an outpost and keep the supply lines open.”
Hatfield said a marker noting the skirmish has been paid for and should be erected soon at Hurricane City Park.
“The tour is a way to call attention to the battle,” he said, “and the book will focus on it and try to get folks more aware of what happened there in their own back yard.”
A Hurricane resident and native, Hatfield has written three books and more than 30 scholarly articles on the Civil War, as a sideline. His fourth book, “The Battle at Hurricane Bridge,” is due for publication in June from 35th Star Publishing. The book will feature previously unpublished details related to the action occurring at Hurricane Bridge on March 28, 1863.
Saturday’s tour will cover main areas of the battlefield and focus on not only the military aspects but the civilians involved and the impact the skirmish had on them as well.
“The idea is to make it real to people and something they can relate to and personal,” Hatfield said. “It’s not just talking about the generals, but the individual soldiers, their letters and diaries. ... The Union guys who stood up and formed regiments — that took a lot of courage, and their families are the ones who paid for it.”
A portion of the proceeds from Hatfield’s book sales will be donated to Hurricane City Park to purchase equipment for youth sports programs.
In addition to “The Battle at Hurricane Bridge,” Hatfield will release another new book, possibly by July, entitled “Sacrifice All for the Union: The Civil War Service of Captain Jonathan Valley Young,” telling the story of a Union officer and his family from Putnam County in the Civil War.
“The books have a lot of details about what happened to civilians during the war in Putnam County,” Hatfield said. “It was going on on both sides of it, and I think it’s what people need to see so they can relate to the whole picture of war. It was just devastating to everyone.”
Hatfield has also written “The Other Feud: William Anderson ‘Devil Anse’ Hatfield in the Civil War,” “How the North Carolina Militia Helped Start the Civil War” and “The Rowan Rifle Guards: A History of Company K, 4th North Carolina State Troops 1857-1865.”
A descendant of Devil Anse Hatfield of Hatfield-McCoy Feud lore, Hatfield said his interest in history stemmed from parents and grandparents who also had keen — and family-related — interests in the past.
“Devil Anse was a cousin of my great-great-grandfather,” he said. “My grandfather knew Devil Anse. A lot of family tradition was handed down over the years. I heard so many stories about the Hatfields and the Civil War and didn’t know what to believe. When I really started researching it, I got more into the facts.”
He published his first book in 2010.
“I kind of grew up with a passion for it. It’s just something that needs to be preserved. History is important, and writing is just one way I can get out there and tell the story. The tours are a way to connect with people and make it real to them. It’s more than a face or a picture or some obscure facts in a book. This makes it up close and personal. It’s something I love to do,” Hatfield said.
Each of Hatfield’s books will be available in the near future from 35th Star Publishing, run by Steve Cunningham of Charleston.
“Steve has done a lot of great things to promote West Virginia history. He was familiar with some of my other stuff and expressed an interest in it. I’m happy to work with him on it; it’s exciting to be able to tell West Virginia stories,” Hatfield said.