The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Nancy Hart

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Born: 1843 or 1846 in Raleigh, NC. Moved to Roane County near Spencer, WV, in 1853
Died: 1913, buried on Mannings Knob near Richwood, WV.

Nancy Hart: Confederate Spy

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Nancy Hart, a young resident of Roane County, joined the Moccasin Rangers, a Confederate guerrilla unit made up largely of residents of nearby Calhoun County. Only about 15-18 of age at the time, her legend claims she was already an expert with rifles, pistols, and riding a horse. Her level of proficiency was said equal to any man of the region.

The young Ms. Hart soon began serving as a scout for the Confederacy, and according to some accounts she performed scouting duties for General "Stonewall" Jackson. She also acted as a spy, posing as a farm girl who offered the sale of vegatables and eggs to Federal troops. After learning what she could, she then reported her findings about the enemy's plans and activity in the region.

Not long after a large reward was offered for her capture in 1862, Ms. Hart was apprehended by Union forces lead by Lt. Col. Starr, 9th West Virginia, and held prisoner in a make-shift jail located in a two-story house in present-day Summersville, WV.

According to tradition, Ms. Hart was a striking young burnette, of exception beauty, which is credited with playing havoc with the Union guards. During one evening she managed to grab the pistol from her naive young guard, with which she shot the guard dead with a single shot. Leaping out an open second-story window and stealing Lt. Co. Starr's horse, she managed to escape behind Confederate lines.

About a week later, on July 25, 1862, Hart guided forces in an attack against the federal forces at Summersville, consisting of 200 Confederates, led by Major R. Augustus Bailey, of Patton's 22nd Virginia Infantry. During the engagement, many of the buildings in Summersville were burned, and Lt. Col. Starr was among the Federals taken prisoneer.

Following the war, Hart married Joshua Douglas and the couple made their home at Spring Creek in Greenbrier County. She later lived in Richwood, WV, Nicholas County, in 1906-1908. Civil War telegrapher Marion H. Kerner made the exploits of Nancy Hart famous in an article published in Leslie's Weekly in 1910.

External links to more information about Nancy Hart

Nancy Hart Confederate Spy


Nancy Hart - 1862

An itinerant photographer. who just happened to be traveling through the Summersville area not long after Nancy Hart's capture, took the photo shown above. According to some traditional accounts, Ms. Hart is frowning in the photo because she had been "forced" to dress-up for the posed portrait. Apparently one of Ms. Hart's biggest objections was due to her being required to wear a Union soldier's hat.