Georgia’s War Woman

“The Red Coats are coming! The Red Coats are coming,” said Sukey. “Let ‘em come,” said Ma. Little did these Tories know what they were about to encounter. Chasing some Whigs, the Tories were about to reach their doomsday, for Georgia’s War Woman was determined to rid Northeast Georgia of the British loyalists.

Ma was Nancy Morgan Hart, an intrepid frontier woman, fearless, and hot headed; she would tolerate no one who got in the way of her or her family. She became a hero of the American Revolutionary War for her exploits to stop the British from invading her backwoods country around the Broad River and beyond.

The Fame of Nancy Hart

Today, her reputation as well as her name are all over Northeast Georgia: Hart County and its county seat Hartwell; Lake Hartwell and the Hartwell Dam; Hartwell State Park, and Georgia Highway 77 named the Nancy Hart Highway.

Ann Morgan, better known as Nancy or Georgia’s War Woman, was likely born in North Carolina about 1735. When she was in her 30s, she married Benjamin Hart; they had 6 children (4 boys and 2 girls). The Harts moved to South Carolina and later to the Broad River Valley of Northeast Georgia. Benjamin set off to join the Georgia Militia, fighting for American independence. Nancy remained home with the children, fighting in her own way.

Nancy was a large woman, standing 6 feet tall, muscular and illiterate. She had red hair and was cross-eyed with a face scarred from Smallpox. Nancy exemplified the traits of a backwoods survivor: she was an excellent shot, despite her crossed eyes; she was an excellent herbalist and knew how to live off the land. From her exploits, the local Cherokee named her Wahatche or War Woman. She was known to have captured six Red Coats, one of whom she killed, and she supervised the hanging of the other five.  

Fact or Fiction?

It is hard to know fact from fiction concerning Nancy, as her endeavors were never written down. Folklore has kept these stories alive. One of the most famous is the demise of six Tories on her property.

Her daughter Sukey spotted the red coats approaching their cabin. They were looking for information concerning the maneuvers of the Tories. Nancy denied any Tories had passed through her woods. Not believing her, they shot her prized turkey and demanded she feed them. Nancy invited them in and had them deposit their guns in the corner. She first offered them her home-made hootch and got them intoxicated before serving them the turkey dinner.

Nancy Feeds the British

While they were eating, Nancy sent Sukey out to get water for the men. She was instructed to blow on a conch shell to warn the neighbors they had trouble. Before any neighbors could arrive, Nancy began passing their guns out through a hole in the wall. Before she could get them all out, a soldier discovered the ploy and grabbed one of the remaining guns. Before he could shoot it, Nancy shot him. She tied up the other drunken soldiers and, with the help of her neighbors, hung them from a nearby tree. The truth of this story is likely when, in 1912, railroad excavations near the Hart cabin uncovered six skeletons.

Nancy also became a spy for the Whigs. She would dress up as a man, visit the Tory camps acting as a deranged lunatic and learn of their battle plans. She happily passed this information onto the Patriots.

Another of the stories which have come down through time describes Nancy making lye soap. Her daughter spotted a Tory peeking through a hole in the wall. Nancy threw a ladle full of the soap through the hole, burning the spy’s eyes. Finally, she moved outside, tied him up, and turned him over to the Patriots.

A Story Without Ending

Sometime during the 1780s, the family moved to Brunswick, Georgia, where Benjamin died. Nancy subsequently returned to the cabin in the Broad River Valley, only to find it had been decimated by a flood. She moved to her son John’s home on the Oconee River near Athens until he took her and his family to Henderson County, Kentucky to live among some relatives.

In Kentucky, Nancy found religion. She marched to a nearby Methodist church, only to find the door securely locked. She pulled out her knife and tore away the hinges. She was determined to join the group inside. She continued to fight the devil as hard as she had once fought the Red Coats.

In her honor, the Daughters of the American Revolution gathered the stones from her devastated cabin and rebuilt it on site in honor of this feisty woman, heroine of the War for Independence. Nancy Morgan Hart, Georigia’s War Woman, continues to live on in the annals of Georgia’s history and present-day remembrances.

Fact: Nancy Hart is said to have been related to Daniel Boone
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The First White Man to Climb the Appalachian Mountains

Somebody had to do it! That somebody was Dr. Johannes Lederer, a German doctor who was also an explorer. Lederer was the first white man to climb the Appalachian Mountains. He was born in or near Hamburg, Germany in 1644. He arrived in the Jamestown Colony at the beginning of 1669, not to do medicine but to explore the mountains. He became the first white man to climb the Appalachian Mountains.

The early Americans believed the South Seas, the Indian Ocean, and the China Sea were but a few days journey west. Early Spanish maps showed only a narrow strip of land on the other side of the Appalachians. Today we know this as the Midwest and West.

The Spaniards to the south were busy digging for gold; they didn’t care about exploring or annexing land. The Native Americans had ventured into the mountains, primarily traveling north and south. They didn’t know too much of what existed to the west. It took a new 25-year-old German to navigate the oldest mountains in a new land.

Appalachian Mountains –

The First Attempt

In March of 1669, Lederer explored the Blue Ridge Mountains to the present site of Charlottesville, Virginia. He took three Indians with him as guides. On the fifth day, they reached what they thought was the top. Instead, they found larger mountains in the distance. Or were these clouds? The Indians thought they must be in the presence of God. Continuing on the next day, they found the air thick and cold. Brilliant blue waters ran down the mountain sides.

Three days later, Lederer and two Indians began climbing again. They climbed on their hands and knees through the bush. They reached dizzying heights and said they could see the Atlantic Ocean. However, it was the Pacific Ocean they were hoping to see. The cold and the snow were so intense the explorers gave up and returned to Jamestown.

The Second Attempt

The next year, Lederer, took with him a Major Harris, five Indians and horses. They made a second attempt to find a passage over the mountains. They left from present day Richmond, Virginia, stopping at the Staunton River. They continued to Spencer, NC through the Uwharrie Mountains. Finally they reached Rock Hill, South Carolina on the Catawba River. Major Harris and the Indians were so weary, they decided to abandon Lederer.

Shenandoah Valley –

Now alone, Lederer headed southwest, trying to avoid the mountains.  He eventually turned back east, fearing the Spaniards might capture him. He arrived at Appomattox two months after he began. When Major Harris returned to Jamestown, he gave his disapproval to the enterprise.  He tried to praise his own worthiness and discredit Lederer, assuming Lederer would not return alive.

The Third Attempt

Lederer was not one to give up, so he set out on a third attempt to cross the Appalachians and find the Far East. By now, it was August 1670. His companions included a Colonel Catlet, nine English horses and five Indians. This time, the party followed the Falmouth River to its source in the Blue Ridge Mountains. However, the river died out. The explorers trudged on, crossing the Shenandoah Valley. Due to the steep mountains on the other side of the valley, Lederer and a few Indians climbed by foot. His other companions gave up and left Lederer alone with one Indian.

Lederer and his Indian did reach the top, but they again encountered the severe cold. They also felt extremely tired. They agreed to abandon the effort and return someday in the future. Thus, Lederer reached the top of the Appalachians, but he failed to find an easy passage down the other side.

Lederer’s Diary

Fortunately, Lederer kept a diary of his explorations including some drawings of maps. He also left information about the location, customs, and beliefs of the Indians he encountered. Lederer had a mind for business. He traded with the Indians to supply Jamestown with furs, plants, and other necessary objects.

Lederer wrote an account of his explorations at the invitation of Sir William Talbot, Governor of the Maryland colony. He wrote in Latin since he was not skilled in English. Talbot translated this report, including a map, and took it to London, and had it printed. The title was The Discoveries of John Lederer In three several Marches from Virginia, To the West of Carolina (London, 1672).

Lederer Pushes On

“A map of the whole territory traversed by John Lederer in his three marches.” Image courtesy of the Research Laboratories of Archaeology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

After a short stay in Maryland, Lederer moved to Connecticut. There he finally practiced medicine. Not content there, he boarded a ship to Barbados and returned to Germany. No knowledge about him from exists from this point on. Still, Lederer earned praise as the first white man to climb the Appalachian Mountains.

Fact: The Appalachian Mountain range is the oldest in America
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