Our Georgia History

Nancy Hart

The most famous of Georgia's Revolutionary War women, Nancy Hart (née Morgan) remains the only woman for which a county is named. Born in Kentucky, Nancy moved to Georgia as the wife of Benjamin Hart and settled in Elbert County, Georgia. Her exploits and appearance remain a topic of discussion among Georgia historians.

One of the attributes commonly ascribed to Nancy is being cross-eyed however this is probably a myth. Neighbors and relatives never mention the attribute and one blood relative wrote after the fact that "Aunt Nancy" was "...positively not cross-eyed." Nonetheless, descriptions have her towering at nearly six feet tall, much taller than the average man. A brilliant shock of red hair topped her impressive frame, and depending on whose story you choose to believe, she was excitable, domineering or angry.

Husband Benjamin Hart was an educated man and examples of his signature document many of Georgia's earliest official documents - he was a justice of the peace. The same cannot be said for Nancy Hart, however she did exist and was known to many including future governor George Gilmer, who wrote an interesting passage in his autobiography about the house in which the Harts lived. After describing the cabin after it was blown into a creek following Gilmer said, "...it had always been known as Nancy Hart's cabin..."

Although a patriot, Benjamin Hart was not suited for army life, although he fought alongside his neighbor John Dooly at the Battle of Kettle Creek. While it is possible that Nancy Hart fought at Kettle Creek, most historians discount this claim. It would be her husband's association with Dooly that created one of the most enduring stories about the heroine:

One day, five or six Tories appeared on her doorstep looking for Dooly following the battle of Kettle Creek. She managed to gain the upper hand and trained her musket on the British soldiers, forcing them to march outside. When her husband arrived the group hung the soldiers. Modern version of the story add the following: A common grave, containing five or six bodies was uncovered near Hart's home during the construction of an Elberton Railroad.

Noted Georgia historian E. Merlon Coulter debunked this story throughout his career as professor of history at UGA. The story became popular nearly 50 years after it occurred and there is no contemporary documentation. Finally, other stories told by the same person (a relative to whom Nancy Hart had told the stories) are known to be wrong.

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