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.