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A Battle For Calhoun
Part 16; Legendary Nancy Hart
by Maricia Mlynek
     

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Legendary Nancy Hart

For the past three months, I have sifted through countless pages of Civil War history in Calhoun County. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting acquainted with some of the infamous characters like Perry Conley and Col. J.C. Rathbone. There is one individual that I have saved until now. She is the legendary Nancy Hart.

Hart is the type of character that writers dream about. Tall tales and epic stories can come from a “Lady Guerilla” more quickly than one can imagine. Over the years, historians have had different reactions to the female bushwhacker. Some have forgotten her completely, while others have over exaggerated her beyond recognition. A Roane county native, Hart is significant to Calhoun because of her activities within its borders during the war.

We will spend the next several weeks discussing this notorious female. It is difficult to decipher fact from fiction when it comes to this “mountain spitfire.” A brief introduction to Hart would help you to see she was not an ordinary woman. The following are actions taken by Hart that are listed in many different accounts of history.

Hart served as a Confederate spy, guide, and scout for the Moccasin Rangers--specifically Perry Conley’s band from the West Fork. She reported Federal outpost strength and activities to General Bill “Mudwall” Jackson.

Hart was arrested early summer of 1862 by Lt. Colonel Starr of the 9th West Virginia Infantry, but escaped after killing one of her guards and stealing Starr’s horse. She returned a week later with 200 of Jackson’s Cavalry to raid the town of Summersville.

Sources list Hart anywhere from 20 years old to mid-20s. Her build has been described as “medium.” Her eyes are described as black and beady. Though she was most likely an average looking young girl, the tales of her breathtaking beauty and ravishing good looks are numerous. Historian Boyd Stutler describes her as, “a pert, vivacious mountain girl who could ride and shoot with the best of them.”

Hart’s background is cloudy and uncertain, but one fact remains clear, she was certainly a southern sympathizer and active in the fight against the Yankees. Her raiding activity with the Moccasin Rangers shows that she was no coward and definitely not the run of the mill farm girl.

Next week: Hart’s Role As A Spy Begins.

 

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