Nancy Morgan Hart (1735-1830)

NANCY MORGAN HART

Nancy Morgan Hart is most known for holding six British soldiers at gunpoint, but this is only one of her patriotic efforts against the British.  Hart was determined to rid the area of Tories, colonists loyal to the King. 

Nancy Morgan was born in Orange County, North Carolina, in 1735. She grew up to be a very tall, muscular woman with red hair, blue eyes and a scarred face. Nancy was feisty and had a quick temper.  Local Cherokees referred to her as “war woman.”  She was illiterate but ran her household well and was knowledgeable about frontier survival.  She was a skilled herbalist and an excellent shot, despite the fact that she was cross-eyed.  She did not marry until age 36, something very unusual on the frontier, and then moved with her husband Benjamin Hart, to the Wilkes River of Northern Georgia.

Hart was one of the most patriotic women in Georgia.  While her husband was away fighting the war, Hart was alone on the frontier with her children, but managed to sneak away periodically to work as a spy.  She would masquerade herself as a man and enter British camps pretending to be feeble minded in order to gain information.  She may have also been present at the Battle of Kettle Creek on February 14, 1779. 

The Tories made frequent stops at the Hart house keeping a close eye on the patriotic woman.  In one instance Hart’s daughter noticed a Tory spying on the family through a hole in the wall.  Hart was making soap at the time and threw a ladle full of boiling soap through the crack scalding the spy.  They then hog-tied the man and turned him over to the Patriots. 

Hart’s most famous act involved six British soldiers.  They killed Hart’s last turkey and demanded she cook it for them.  She also generously shared her corn liquor, ensuring that the soldiers she intended to capture were intoxicated. While the turkey was cooking, she sent her daughter to fetch some water from the spring and gave the girl instructions to alert her father, who was working in the field, by blowing on a conch shell they had hidden for this very reason.  While the soldiers were preoccupied with their dinner and wine, Hart began to sneak their guns through a hole in the wall.  She had gotten two of them through but was caught in the act while trying to steal the third.  She quickly drew the gun on the soldiers and threatened to shoot whichever one moved first.  She kept her word and after one of the soldiers made an advance on her she shot and killed him.  The rest of the soldiers were wary to make a move but decided to try to rush the woman.  She shot and wounded another soldier.  The soldiers realized that they were disadvantaged and surrendered.  They offered to shake hands but Hart did not dare lower her gun. 

When her husband arrived, Hart still had the British soldiers at gunpoint.  Her husband suggested they shoot them, but Hart thought that was to good for them and instead her husband and a few neighbors hung the men from a nearby tree.  In 1912, six bodies were found buried near the Hart home and believed to have been there for over a century thus confirming the Hart legend. 

After the war and her husband’s death, Hart moved several times.  She eventually settled in Henderson County, Kentucky around 1803.  Nancy Hart died in 1830 and was buried in the Hart family cemetery outside of Henderson. 

A replica of the cabin Hart lived in was erected in the 1930’s.  Chimney stones were found from the original cabin and used in the new construction.  In Georgia, Hart is revered as a hero from the American Revolution.  A county, city, lake, and highway were all named after the patriotic woman.

Additional Resources:

Websites:

Books and Articles:

  • Diamant, Lincoln, Ed.  Revolutionary Women: In the War For American Independence. (Westport: Praeger, 1998).
  • E. Merton Coulter, "Nancy Hart, Georgia Heroine of the Revolution: The Story of the Growth of a Tradition," Georgia Historical Quarterly 39 (June 1955): 118-51.
  • Nancy Hart: an American Heroine by: Robert Louis Freear, 1908. 
  • Nancy Hart, the War Woman by:  Edna Arnold Copeland, 1950.

 

Works Cited:

 

Biography researched and written by NWHM Intern of Summer 2006 Albrey Diece