Nancy Morgan Hart, a heroine of the American Revolution, was born in the Yadkin River valley in North Carolina in the early 1700’s (date unknown). Her exploits against Tories and British military in the backwoods of Georgia are legendary.
Nancy and her family moved when she was a child to eventually settle in the Broad River valley of Georgia. Many prominent figures in American history are related to Nancy; General Daniel Morgan commanded the victorious American forces at the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina on January 17, 1781. Her husband, Benjamin Hart came from the family that produced such notable figures as Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton, and Kentucky senator Henry Clay.
Called “Aunt Nancy” by friends and neighbors, she was described as tall (6’), raw-boned and physically very strong. Imposing might be the word for Nancy. She sported a head of fiery red hair, and had a temper to match. Her feisty personality was characterized by a fearless spirit, and determination to exact revenge on anyone who threatened her family, friends or her sense of independence and fair play.
A domineering wife, she ran the household and managed six sons and two daughters. Though illiterate, “Wahatche” or War Woman, as the local Indians called her, had the skills and knowledge necessary for frontier survival. She was an expert herbalist, hunter and an excellent shot.
Capturing the British Soldiers
In the midst of the Revolution, a group of about a half-dozen British soldiers and militia came by the Hart cabin, possibly seeking food or in pursuit of patriots.
Finding Nancy alone except for her small daughter, the soldiers demanded she make them a meal. Nancy first made sure her daughter was out of danger by sending her out to warn her husband and neighbors.
The British made their first mistake by underestimating the patriot woman and setting their loaded muskets by the door. As they ate and eventually imbibed in too much drink, Nancy grabbed one of the guns and told the men not to move. But when one ignored her threat, she killed him on the spot. She held the others captive until her husband and neighbors arrived. She sought retribution for insults while being forced to feed the enemy, and requested they be hanged. They were. This story was verified when in 1912, construction crews working on the Elberton and Eastern Railroad near the location of the old Hart cabin discovered the soldiers’ skeletons laid out in a neat row, in remnants of British military garb. The bones were dated to well over a century old.
Because of her height, Nancy occasionally dressed as a man and wandered into British camps in the guise of a Loyalist in order to glean information valuable to the patriot cause. She also acted as an unofficial patriot militia sniper, killing British as they came across the river.
After the war however, Nancy sought salvation and solace from the harsh realities of war by becoming an active member of the newly-formed Methodist Society in her community. It was said she’d come to find relief from her hard frontier life, but fought to witness for the Lord as strongly as she had for the American cause.
Nancy died in 1830 and is buried in the Hart family plot in Henderson, Kentucky.
~ Pat Iacuzzi