Kentucky began as a neutral state caught between the Union states to its North and the Confederate states to its South and East. This neutrality did not last long as they were quickly drawn into the turmoil of war. In the Big Sandy Valley men served 2 to 1 for the Union cause.
The young men who volunteered to protect home and country soon learned that becoming a hero would be a drawn-out affair. The Big Sandy Heritage Museum has a display cabinet of artifacts carried by common soldiers during the Civil War. Some are as innocuous as a drinking cup while another shows the effects of countless miles of sweaty marching upon the remaining playing cards from a deck which surely was the center of wins, losses, and occasional fistfights.
When court adjourned Dec 18, 1861, Civil authority broke down in our remote mountains. The region was left void of any law enforcement of any kind except for when either army came through. Nowhere else in the country is it like this except for the isolated mountains on the border. During this three and a half years of lawlessness the people of the Big Sandy Valley were forced to take the law in to their own hands to protect their famillies.
Tensions among neighbors remained very high after the war. Small personal fights often led to feuds involving members of opposing sides that formed along Civil War alliances.