There are several stories about Nancy Hart that are of
interest. She was a part of the notorious Moccasin Ranger band from the
West Fork, which was controlled by Perry Conley. The first story about
her wartime gallantry was found in Boyd Stutler’s
West Virginia in the
According to Stutler, Hart first appeared in the early
summer of 1861, riding with Conley’s Rangers. The Home Guard was on a
raid into Stinson Creek to pursue some of the Moccasins. Though its
first day was unsuccessful, the second day placed the group eye-to-eye
with Conley and Hart.
The old theory of “save the women and children” was
apparently not practiced by Conley. The story depicted in history states
that Conley made a run for it, leaving Hart at the mercy of her captors.
What the captors didn’t realize was that she was at the mercy of no one.
She was captured and taken prisoner. Abandoned by Conley
and under the control of the Home Guard, Hart made her case and pled her
innocence. Her captors were convinced that this lady was not dangerous
or knowledgeable, so they released her.
Her sly ways and quick reactions to situations seemed to
keep Hart a step ahead of everyone. When released, the woman that was
dubbed “not at all dangerous to the Federal cause,” headed straight for
the West Fork in Calhoun County. There, she met up with Conley and the
Rangers again. This time she carried a wealth of information.
Not only had she seen the movement of Federal troops,
but she had gained a great deal of information about the Home Guard, its
headquarters, and its operations. This was the beginning of Nancy’s role
as a spy during the Civil War.
She carried critical information to the CSA, posing as a poor, innocent mountain girl, and,
frankly, she did it well. Her captors would soon learn of their mistake,
and opinions of Hart’s threat to the Federal cause were quickly changed
to “very dangerous.”
Next week: Captures and escapes.