In the Kingdom of Devils: The Harpe Murders and the Legacies of the American Revolution


LAC Burkhardt




For residence at the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute during academic year 2018-2019


On paper, the American Revolution ended in 1783. But for some, it continued. This project investigates the violent legacies of the revolution, especially in the southern borderlands of the early republic. It follows the lives of two brothers from North Carolina, who experienced some of the worst violence of the war as boys and, later in life, became killers. Micajah and Wiley Harpe committed dozens of murders across Appalachia in the 1790s. Using memoirs, oral histories, folklore, genealogy, and insights from psychology and criminology (as well as traditional historical documents like court records), “In the Kingdom of Devils” revisits the Harpe murders in order to explain how the United States’s founding moment left behind so many violent, alienated men.