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Throwback Thursday: Nancy Morgan Hart, War Woman

Throwback Thursday: Nancy Morgan Hart, War Woman

Revolutionary War, Wilkes County, Ga.

Nancy Morgan Hart was sweeping the floor when six British loyalists-Tories-burst into her home. They demanded she tell what she knew about a Whig leader they were chasing. Hart, who only minutes earlier had helped that same man in his escape, replied calmly, "Haven't seen any strangers in my neck of the woods for days."

The leader locked gazes with Hart, then abruptly turned on his heel and stomped from the house.

Cra-a-ack! Squawk! The leader returned with Hart's prize gobbler. "We're hungry," he said, handing her the dead turkey and nodding in the direction of the kitchen. "And thirsty."

While Hart prepared the Tories' meal, she kept them well supplied with liquor. By the time the food was ready, the now-relaxed men stacked their firearms against a wall before seating themselves at the table and digging in. They weren't expecting any trouble from a lone woman and her children. But trouble is what they got!

Each time Hart served the men, she walked from the kitchen to the table-and in between the Tories and their stacked muskets. With each pass, she'd slip one musket through a chink in the wall.

"Stop!" barked the leader, spotting what Hart was doing and rising from his chair.

Without hesitation, the sharp-shooting Hart grabbed one of the remaining muskets and cocked it. "Anybody moves a muscle, I'll shoot," she warned.

The man took a step forward and Hart felled him. She quickly picked up a second musket and was ready when a second man decided to try his luck, only to meet the same fate as the first. With yet another gun trained on the remaining Tories, the rest of the men held their places as Hart sent one of her children to bring back her husband, Benjamin, and some neighbors.

Benjamin wanted to shoot the Tories. But Nancy declared shooting was "too good" for them, and the men were hung instead.

It would be more than 100 years later, while workers were grading a railroad near the site of the old Hart cabin, that the remains of the six century-old skeletons would be unearthed. They had been laid neatly side-by-side.

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At 6 feet tall, with red hair, crossed-eyes and a smallpox-scarred face, Revolutionary War heroine Nancy Hart Morgan cut an impressive figure. Add to that a hot temper, fearlessness and superior marksmanship skills, and Hart was someone to be reckoned with.

So when Hart committed to American independence from the King of England, she went after the enemy with all the fierceness of her nature. She used her gun and her wits to capture and kill Tories, and she offered herself up as a spy for the local militia. Hart's fierceness earned her the nickname "Wahatchee" by Cherokee Indians living in the area, a term thought to mean "war woman."

The Early Years
Nancy Morgan Hart was born Anne Morgan around 1735, most likely in North Carolina. Very little is known of her early life other than she was unschooled, but quite smart. She was probably related to Daniel Boone and was a cousin to Revolutionary War General Daniel Morgan.

Nancy married Benjamin Hart sometime after 1755, and the couple had eight children-six boys and two girls. By 1771, four years before the Revolutionary War broke out, the family settled into a log cabin in Wilkes County, Ga. It was here that Nancy, who was commonly addressed by friends and neighbors as "Aunt Nancy," earned a reputation as an expert herbalist and became a highly sought-after midwife.

Patriot and Spy
It was here also, near the Hart cabin, that many of Hart's war exploits took place. You see, during much of the war, Hart's husband was away in the Georgia militia, and it was up to Nancy to take care of herself and the children. One time, as she cooked up a batch of lye soap in the cabin, she was surprised to see an eye peeking in through a crack in the logs. Hart quickly filled a ladle with the boiling, soapy water and flung it through the crack, catching the peeping Tory by surprise. She then marched outside, tied up the still-screaming man and turned him over to the militia.

Hart often acted as a self-appointed Revolutionary War sniper. Hiding in the bushes near her home, she'd ease her rifle into the notch she'd cut into a tree stump and gun down Tories as they crossed the river. Then she'd blow on a conch shell to summon neighbors and her husband, if he was in the area, to help deliver the dead men to the authorities.

She also served as a spy for the Whigs (Americans who were fighting for independence from the British). On one occasion, she lashed together four logs with grapevines, crossing and re-crossing the Savannah River to find out the location and goings-on of an enemy camp on the Carolina side. She then passed the information on to the militia. On another occasion, she disguised herself as a man, pretended to be crazy and walked into a British camp. She walked out with important information on British troop movements-information that would assist General Elijah Clarke in winning the Battle of Kettle Creek.

 

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