The story of Nancy Hart is one that has been passed down for generations. By some accounts, the incredible stories of Nancy Hart’s bravery are just folklore. But if you ask the families of the people who knew her best, they’ll tell you they’re all true.
Who was Nancy Hart
Nancy Hart was a true American patriot who stood up against Brittish soldiers and Tories (Americans who sided with the Brittish in the war). She is considered a heroine for her bravery and efforts during the American Revolution from 1775-1783. Nancy Morgan Hart is reported to have been born around 1735 in North Carolina or Pennsylvania. Her given name was Ann Morgan, but everyone used her nickname Nancy. Little is known about Nancy Morgan Hart’s family tree and early life, but it is said she was related to many prominent figures in American history including Daniel Boone and Daniel Morgan, general in the battle of Battle of Cowpens in 1781.
Nancy married Benjamin Hart of North Carolina and had at least 8 children with him. They moved to the Georgia Piedmont area in the early 1770s. Although Nancy Hart was illiterate, she relied on her many survival skills to keep her family safe and protected. It is said that she was a skilled herbalist, hunter, and marksman – skills which served her and her family well. She is described as a large woman reaching 6 feet tall and having a muscular build. She had fiery red hair and a temperament to match. Those who knew her speak of how she would fiercely defend herself and family against anyone who crossed her. Nancy Hart lived nearly 100 years moving to Kentucky with her before her death. The Hart family cabin in Elbert County, Georgia washed away in a flood before her death, but a replica has been erected using pieces of the original building to commemorate her service to our country.
Nancy Hart’s role in the Revolutionary War
Being a woman, Nancy Hart was often underestimated during the Revolutionary War. However, she was a staunch patriot who acted fearlessly to protect her family and country. These incredible stories of her actions during the war earned her a permanent place in southern history.
She once threw a ladle of hot lye soap into the eye of a peeping Torie soldier
As the story goes, Nancy’s daughter spotted a soldier peeping through a hole in the wall of their cabin. Having developed an intense hatred of the Torie soldiers who frequently pillaged and killed her neighbors and friends, Nancy took a ladle of boiling lye soap and fearlessly tossed it into the hole at the peeping tom. While he was disabled from the burning liquid, Nancy hogtied the soldier and turned him over to patriot forces.
She disguised herself as a man to spy on British troops
As she was a large woman, it was easy for her to pass as a soldier and enter the camps of the Brittish soldiers. It is said that she would listen to their conversations and return home to deliver the sensitive information to American troops.
She fought in the Battle of Kettle Creek
On February 14th, 1779, Nancy Hart contributed to the battle of Kettle creek along with her husband and sons. In this battle, a legion of Brittish Loyalists was outsmarted and defeated by a small band of American Patriots who killed their Colonel and freed dozens of patriot prisoners. (source)
She held 5 (or 6) Tories at gunpoint in her family’s cabin
The most famous of stories about Nancy Hart is the telling of how she held 5 (or by some accounts 6) Tories at gunpoint after tricking them into getting drunk in her cabin.
They say that a group of soldiers came along one day and instigated an argument over whether she was helping a Patriot soldier who had escaped capture by British troops. When she wouldn’t concede to their aggression, they shot her only turkey and demanded that she cook it for them for supper. A clever woman, she changed her tone and suddenly began to indulge the soldiers with food and drink. As they became inebriated, she sent her daughter to the creek for water and to alert her husband and neighbors that the soldiers had entered their home. Discretely, she began to move the soldier’s guns out of her home but her actions were spotted by one of the men. Undaunted, she lifted the gun and threatened to shoot the soldiers if they made a move toward her. Underestimating her fearlessness, two soldiers charged at her. One was shot and killed, the other severely wounded. Her husband and neighbors arrived shortly after to find her holding the soldiers at gunpoint. The story claims that Nancy thought shooting the men was too lenient so they were hanged from a tree. In 1912, a construction crew found the bodies of 6 men buried near the Hart family cabin – some with broken necks as if they’d been hanged.
She built a bridge of logs and grapevines to cross the Savannah River and spy on British troops
Hearing that a group of Tories was plotting on the South Carolina side of the river, a group of patriot soldiers in Georgia were desperate for intel on their activities. When none of the men volunteered for the mission, Nancy Hart built herself a bridge from logs tied together with grapevines so she could cross the water and spy on the British soldiers. (source)
She hid in the brush near the river and shot soldiers as they crossed
According to some, Nancy Hart carved a notch in an old tree stump near her cabin. Hiding in the brush around the stump with her gun ready to fire, she would shoot down the British soldiers as they crossed leaving their bodies for her husband to deliver to appropriate authorities. (source)
She was feared by the Cherokee Indians who called her “Wahatche” (war woman)
Hart’s actions before and during the war earned her a reputation with the local Indian tribes who referred to her as “Wahatche” which means war woman. Wahatche creek near her home may have been named for her.
Nancy Hart facts
While there is little to support some of the claims of Hart’s incredible exploits, the stories of her cunning and bravery are quite impressive. Mostly passed down through family and friends, there is no doubt that Nancy Hart was an impressive woman. Because there are no official accounts of Nancy Hart’s bravery, some would dispute the credibility of these stories. However, we do know that Nancy Hart was a real person and did live in the Lake Hartwell area in the late 17 and early 1800s. Her legacy inspired the naming of Hart County, the town of Hartwell, Lake Hartwell, and Hartwell Dam.