Nancy Hart

Edited by Debra Michals, PhD | 2015

Georgia frontierswoman Nancy Morgan Hart was a legendary hero of the American Revolution who made it her mission to rid the Georgia territory of British Loyalists (Tories). According to various accounts, she captured six, killed one, and oversaw the hanging of five others. She also served as a spy.

A good deal of folklore surrounds Hart’s story. Born Ann Morgan in either Pennsylvania or North Carolina around 1735 (little is known of her actual birth date); Hart was called “Nancy,” a nickname for Ann. She was said to be an imposing, red-headed woman who grew to be six feet tall and muscular. Hailed for her fearlessness, local Cherokees referred to her as “Wahatche” or “war woman.” Possibly a relative of frontiersman Daniel Boone, she was illiterate but knew much about frontier survival. She was a skilled herbalist, hunter and an excellent shot, despite being cross-eyed. She married Benjamin Hart at the late age of 36, and in the 1771 the couple settled along the Broad River in Wilkes County, Georgia. She had six sons and two daughters.

During the Revolution while her husband was away, Hart managed their farm, though she often snuck off to spy on the British. Dressed as a man, she would enter British camps pretending to be feeble-minded to gain information, which she handed off to the Patriots. Hart also engaged in the war and may have been present at the Battle of Kettle Creek on February 14, 1779.

The British frequently stopped at the Hart house, keeping an eye on the patriotic woman. In one instance, Hart’s daughter noticed a Tory spying through a hole in the wall. Hart was making soap and threw a boiling ladle-full through the crack, scalding the spy. She and her daughter then tied him up and turned him over to the Patriots.

Hart’s most famous act involved five or six British soldiers, who killed her last turkey and demanded that she cook it for them. She devised a plan to get the soldiers drunk on her corn liquor, take their guns and hold them captive. Hart sent her daughter Sukey to get some water and to use a hidden conch shell to alert neighbors of the British presence. While the soldiers ate and drank, Hart began sneaking their guns out through a hole in the wall. Caught holding the third gun, she drew it and threatened to shoot. When a soldier rushed at her, she killed him and wounded another; the rest surrendered.

When her husband returned, Hart was holding the British soldiers at gunpoint. They, along with neighbors, hung the soldiers from a nearby tree. In 1912, six bodies were found buried near the Hart home, believed to have been those of the British soldiers, giving credence to the Hart legend.

In the late 1790s, the Harts moved to Brunswick, Georgia, where Benjamin died around 1800. Hart then returned to Broad River, but found her cabin had been washed away. She settled in Henderson County, Kentucky in 1803, near her son, until her death at roughly age ninety-three. In the 1930s. the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a replica of the cabin, using some of the original stones. A Georgia county, city, lake, and highway are all named for the state’s most famous female Revolutionary War hero.