Nancy Hart was active with Conley's Rangers for possibly
a year. After the death of Conley in 1862, the band began to separate.
There were two regular Confederate companies in the
area. Some men enlisted with Company A of the 19th Virginia Cavalry,
which was under the command of Captain George Downs. Others enlisted
under Company E, commanded by Captain Absalom Knotts of the 14th
Virginia Cavalry. There were some that chose to stay in the hills and
battle the war in their own way.
As for Hart, she married one of Perry Conley's Rangers.
His name was Joshua Douglas, and he had enlisted with Captain Downs. As
Douglas went to war with the 19th Virginia, Nancy moved into the
mountains of Nicholas County.
By this time she was wanted. Her capture was sought by
most of the Federal troops in the region. Hart is said to have not been
able to read or write; however, she had a different kind of intellect.
She could turn on the charm and become quite agreeable when necessary.
Some found themselves smitten by her ways. One of her captors even had
her picture taken.
Hart seemed to have enjoyed being captured. It almost
appeared a game to her. One infamous captor was Lt. Colonel William C.
Starr, who had forbidden any guard to cross Nancy's door or lay a hand
on her. Any man who dared would be shot at sunrise. It is most likely
that Nancy knew of this order. She undoubtedly used this against the
poor homesick boy that guarded her.
She made a quick connection with the boy and talked him
into allowing her to hold his firearm. This was his last mistake. She
sent a bullet through his heart, made her way out of her quarters,
mounted Starr's favorite horse, and escaped into the brush of the
Next week: Captors become prisoners.