Hart, Nancy (c. 1735–1830)

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Hart, Nancy (c. 1735–1830)

Legendary hero of the American Revolution. Name variations: Aunt Nancy. Born Ann Morgan in either Pennsylvania or North Carolina, around 1735; died near Henderson, Kentucky, in 1830; daughter of Thomas Morgan and Rebecca (Alexander) Morgan; married Benjamin Hart; children: Morgan, John, Thomas, Lemuel, Mark, Sukey (Sally), Benjamin, and Keziah.

Facts surrounding the birth and lineage of Revolutionary hero Nancy Hart are sketchy at best. She was born Ann Morgan (but was known as Nancy throughout her life), in either Pennsylvania or North Carolina, around 1735, although there is no documentation to support that date. It is often stated that she was a first cousin to Daniel Boone (whose mother was Sarah Morgan Boone ) and that General Daniel Morgan was a cousin of both Nancy and Daniel, but there is no evidence to support those claims either. Although no date is given for Nancy's marriage to Benjamin Hart, the couple is known to have lived in South Carolina for a short time before moving to Wilkes County, Georgia, around 1771. It was there that Nancy, who was reputedly six feet tall, solidly built, and could handle a rifle as well as anyone, made her reputation as a stalwart defender of the Whig cause during the fierce fighting in the Georgia colony during the Revolution. Although many women and children of patriot families left the region during what came to be called the "War of Extermination," Nancy Hart, or Aunt Nancy as she came to be called, stayed on to fight against the Tories.

Stories abound about her exploits, the most famous of which centers on her capture of a band of Tories. As the tale goes, five or six Tories arrived at her cabin and demanded that she cook them dinner. Hart put a turkey on to roast and plied the men with whiskey while her daughter slipped away to warn neighbors. When the Tories sat down to eat, she grabbed one of their rifles from the corner, shot one of them dead, wounded another, and held the rest at bay until the Whigs took them away to be hanged. Other narratives tell of Hart's exploits as a spy for Georgia's patriot forces. In one, she was said to have crossed the Savannah River on a raft of logs tied with grapevines in order to bring back information from enemy camps.

After the war, the Harts moved to Brunswick, Georgia, where Benjamin died. Nancy later moved to Clarke County, Georgia, and then Kentucky, where she died in 1830. Her Revolutionary exploits were first published in a newspaper story which appeared in 1825, on the occasion of General Lafayette's visit to the United States. In 1848, Elizabeth Ellet included the popular story about the hanging of the Tories in her book Women of the American Revolution. Further stories about Nancy Hart appeared in George White's Historical Collections of Georgia (1854) and Joel Chandler Harris' Stories of Georgia (1896), and Margaret Mitchell wrote a piece on her for the Atlanta Journal. A Georgia county was named for Hart in 1853, and, in 1856, the county seat was named Hartwell in her honor.


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1983.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts