Nancy Ann Morgan Hart was born in 1735 in the Yadkin River Valley of Western North Carolina. Not long after her family moved to the Broad River Valley in Elbert County, Georgia. She was married at a young age to a Benjamin Hart from a prominent family. Among his descendants are Thomas Hart Benton, U.S. Senator from Missouri, and Kentucky Senator and orator, Henry Clay.
Although little is known about her early years in the Georgia frontier, it is known that Nancy, in adulthood, was a hardened frontierswoman, an excellent shot, feisty and hot headed. She stood nearly six feet tall and was severely scarred from a bout of smallpox. One early account of Nancy Hart states that she possessed, “no share of beauty—a fact she herself would have readily acknowledged, had she ever enjoyed an opportunity of looking into a mirror.”
When the American Revolution came to Elbert County, Nancy, a Whig and ardent patriot was already being referred to as “Wahatche” or, “War Woman,” by local Native American tribes. She felt it was her duty to eradicate British sympathizers and Tories from the region. With her husband fighting for the Georgia militia, Nancy would often disguise herself as a man and wander into British encampments to gather information regarding troop movements and battle plans. She is also thought to have been an active participant in the Battle of Kettle Creek on February 14, 1779.
In one account of her heroism, British forces descended upon her home demanding food. She sat the six soldiers down and began to feed them. During the meal, Nancy caught the troopers by surprise and took all six captive. Turning the prisoners over to Whig officials, she demanded that they be summarily hung for stealing her food. A subsequent discovery, in 1912, of six skeletons, thought to be over one hundred years old near the site of her former home may substantiate this fabled tale.
Nancy Hart continued to live in the Georgia frontier with her husband and eight children, six sons and two daughters, until the death of Benjamin in the late 1790s. A few years later, around 1803, Nancy’s oldest son John Hart moved the family to Henderson County, Kentucky. Nancy Hart lived out her remaining years there, passing away in 1830.
In the years that have followed her passing, Nancy Ann Morgan Hart has been recognized by Georgia officials as a major figure in the state’s history and has been memorialized numerous times by the state and individual organizations since her death. The Hartwell Dam and Hartwell Lake, created in 1962 and located north of Augusta, Georgia, are both named in her honor. The neighboring county to the north of Elbert County, was renamed Hart County, in honor of Nancy Hart. She is also found memorialized in name by Hart State Park and the Nancy Hart Highway, or Georgia Route 77. The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution Milledgeville, Georgia chapter is the Nancy Hart Chapter. In 1997, Nancy was inducted into Georgia Women of Achievement, which recognizes and honors women of Georgia who have contributed to the state’s development.