Women of Washington

Communicating America’s Founding Principles

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Judy Leithe, Contributing Editor

Georgia Frontierswoman and Patriot Spy
By Marcia Williams, Colonial Researcher

Nancy Morgan Hart (1735-1830) was a legendary hero of the American Revolution who made it her mission to rid the Georgia territory of British Loyalists.  Even the local Cherokees referred to her as “Wahatche” or “war woman.”

Of Irish heritage, Nancy Morgan was said to be an imposing six-foot tall, red-headed woman who, though illiterate, knew much about frontier survival.  She was a skilled herbalist, hunter and, despite being somewhat cross-eyed, was an excellent shot.  She married Benjamin Hart at the late age of 36, and in 1771 the couple settled along the Broad River in Wilkes County, GA.  They had six sons and two daughters.

While her husband was away fighting in the Revolutionary War, Hart managed their family and farm.  She frequently dressed in men’s clothing and wandered through nearby British (Tory) camps pretending to be a simpleminded man, while gaining pieces of information which she handed off to the Patriots.  She also engaged in the war and was likely present at the Battle of Kettle Creek in Wilkes County, Georgia; a decisive battle which took place on February 14, 1779, when a militia force of local Patriots defeated a British encampment.

The British occasionally stopped at the Hart house in order to keep tabs on this staunchly patriotic woman.  In one instance, one of the Hart daughters noticed a Tory peeking through a crack in the wall, and secretly informed her mother.  Hart, who was making soap near the fireplace, filled her ladle with boiling soap water and flung it through the crack.  She was rewarded with a scream.  She hog-tied the Tory and took him as a prisoner to the local militia. 

The most famous story about Nancy Morgan Hart involves five British soldiers who came to her cabin and demanded information about a Whig (Patriot) leader.  This man had been at her cabin earlier, and she had helped him, but she told the Tories no one had been in her area for days.  The Tories didn’t believe her, but one of the soldiers discovered her last turkey and shot it.  They entered her cabin, stacking their weapons in a corner, and ordered her to cook the turkey.  Hart also readily agreed to their demands for liquor by opening several jugs of their home brew.

She sent her daughter Sukey outside to “get water,” and secretly instructed her to blow the conch shell alerting neighbors that “Britishers” were at her cabin.  Meanwhile, she moved around the cabin, cooking and serving the men, while gradually passing some of their weapons through a chink in the wall to Sukey.  At one point, they noticed what she was doing and sprang to their feet, ordering her to stop.  She responded by saying, “The first one to move will be shot.”  A Troy moved forward and she shot him.  Dead.  As she took another weapon, a second Tory lunged for her.  He was also shot.  The remaining men did as she asked, until help arrived.  They wanted the remaining soldiers to be shot, but Hart insisted they be hung.

The accounts of this incident were not written down at the time, but passed on orally through history.  However, in 1912, workmen were grading a railroad bed near the site of the old Hart cabin; the excavators found five (some say six) skeletons near the place called Tory Pond.  Some seemed to have broken necks. 

With appreciation for the research done by the National Women’s History Museum, and the Daughters of the Revolution (DAR).  The DAR has erected a replica cabin near the site of the Hart cabin, using chimney stones from the original fireplace.  Georgia has a county named Hart County; there is a Lake Hartwell; as well as a highway named Nancy Hart Highway.