Nancy Hart Douglas

Nancy Hart Douglas

Nancy Hart Douglas (1846–1913) was a scout, guide, and spy for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Serving first with the Moccasin Rangers, a prosouthern guerilla group in present-day West Virginia, she later joined the Confederate Army and continued to serve as a guide and spy under General Stonewall Jackson.



Born Nancy Hart in 1846 in Raleigh, North Carolina, she and her family moved to Tazwell, Virginia, when she was an infant. Hart lived with her family in western Virginia until the outbreak of the Civil War, at which time she developed great sympathy for the Southern cause. During the early years of her life on her family's farm, she became an expert with rifles, pistols, and riding horses. She could reportedly operate a gun or handle a horse as well as a man. She eventually moved in with her sister and brother-in-law, Mary and William Clay Price. William Clay Price was not a soldier, but would go and do things for the Confederate army in the evenings. One day the Union soldiers came to question him. They took him away and killed him down the road from his family. This fueled Nancy's rage and hatred toward the Union cause.

Civil War

In early 1861, after a contingent of Union troops passed through her town, Hart's sympathy for the Confederacy prompted her to leave home and join the Moccasin Rangers, led by the infamous Perry Conley. She became a valuable asset to the Rangers, serving both as a spy and a guide to the local region. Hart became so famous and such an enigma for Union forces in West Virginia that a reward was offered for her capture in 1862. Shortly thereafter, she and a female friend were captured by Union troops led by Lt. Col. Starr and taken prisoner in Summersville, West Virginia. Here, she was photographed unsmiling and unemotional, by an itinerant photographer.[1] According to legend, Hart did not smile because of the attire she had to wear for the picture. Civil War telegrapher Marion H. Kerner, an officer who befriended Hart at the encampment, later made her story famous in the magazine, Leslie's Weekly.

That same night, Hart escaped from the Union camp on Starr's horse and joined a regiment of about 200 Confederate soldiers led by Major R. Augustus Bailey (by this time the Moccasin Rangers had disbanded). A week later, the Confederate troops overran Summersville, burning many of the public buildings and taking Lt. Col. Starr prisoner. Marion Kerner was also captured, but due to the kind treatment he had given Hart during her own imprisonment, she convinced the Confederate officers to release him.[2] Francis Miller's 1911 "Photographic History of the Civil War" repeats the claim Hart was captured by Lt. Col. Starr of the 9th West Virginia; a photograph was taken of Hart; she killed a guard with his own gun and a week later led a Confederate unit which captured Starr and the 9th West Virginia July 25, 1862 [3]. Official Records of the Civil War mention the capture of Companies "A" and "F" of the 9th West Virginia Infantry at Summerville, West Virginia, July 25, 1862—but have no mention of an arrest/escape of a Nancy Hart in 1862.[4] Likewise the Official W.V. Adjutant General Report on the 9th W.V. do not show any casualties for July 18–25, 1862[5]

After the war

After the war, Hart married the former Ranger Joshua Douglas, and they lived in Spring Creek and Richwood, West Virginia during the remainder of their lives. They had two sons. Milking cows, Nancy Hart Douglas died in 1913 and is buried on Mannings Knob near Richwood.


Nancy Hart's story has been recreated in the novel Rebel Hart by Edith Hemingway and Jacquelin Shields.


  1. ^ Canon, Jill. Civil War Heroines. Santa Barbara, CA: Bellerophon Books, 2000.
  2. ^ An 1882 account claims that Kerner had Hart photographed .pp.105-106
  3. ^ Miller history Vol. VIII p. 287
  4. ^ Official Records Series 1 Volume 12 {Part II}
  5. ^ WV Adjutant General Report .pp.229-259

External links

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