Part I of the History Channel's epic mini-series, Hatfields & McCoys, launches with the first scene taking place on the battlefield of the Civil War where two Confederate soldiers, 'Devil' Anse Hatfield (Kevin Costner) and Randall McCoy (Bill Paxton) fight side by side. There is no inkling of a feud as the two men battle the same cause. Instead, there is a sense of camaraderie and friendship – that is, until Hatfield makes the decision to defect leaving his brother-in-arms to struggle alone.
As Hatfield makes his way back to West Virginia to reclaim his role as patriarch of his clan, McCoy is left on the battlefield to witness the utter carnage imposed upon his entire company. He is the only survivor and is taken to a military prison until the end of the war. It’s here that Randall McCoy’s bitterness toward Anse Hatfield begins to breed. McCoy sees himself as honorable for staying and serving his country and all he sees in Hatfield is cowardice and disgrace. McCoy’s righteous indignation will give rise to the seeds of anger, resentment and unforgiveness that will permeate the countryside for decades to come.
The post-war clash between the families begins when a Hatfield murders a McCoy over a petty bar room insult. Subsequent killings then continue to take place over equally trivial matters. The feud intensifies, however, when Anse Hatfield’s son, Johnse Hatfield (Matt Barr) falls in love with Roseanna McCoy (Lindsay Pulsipher). Predictably, both families disapprove of the union. As a result, Roseanna’s brothers kidnap Johnse with full intentions of killing him. Roseanna gets word of her brothers’ ill intentions and sets out for the Hatfield estate in an effort to save her lover.
Part I ends with scenes set in a torrential thunderstorm indicative of the ominous emotional gales swirling below the surface of so many lives. Roseanna McCoy braves the rainstorm and tells Anse Hatfield the whereabouts of Johnse while imploring him, at the same time, not to harm her brothers. All the while Randall McCoy angrily disavows his once-favorite daughter, Roseanna, for her part in the ill-fated love affair with Johnse Hatfield.