Southern ladies organized into a disciplined unit of well-trained soldiers. The year was 1861. The place was LaGrange, Georgia. The story is true. Forty-six women of the Methodist Church put together the only all-female militia to face a battle in America’s history. They called themselves the Nancy Hart Militia, named for a Revolutionary War heroine from Georgia. The Nancies never intended to go looking for a fight, but all the able-bodied men of LaGrange had left to join the Confederate Army, and they were alone. The women wanted only to defend their graceful Southern town and protect their families. There was one able-bodied man with military training in LaGrange, Dr. Augustus C. Ware. He was one of several doctors in the town. He tried to join the Confederate Army but was turned down repeatedly due to a health condition. The women who decided to organize the militia turned to Dr. Ware for training. Under his guidance the women learned how to march and drill to become a precision unit. He also taught them how to handle firearms. Drill and target practice took place several times a week for the four years of the war. During that time many of the women in this unique militia became sharpshooters though none had ever handled a weapon before the first shot of the Civil War rang out.
The Nancies, as they called themselves, stayed at home tending children, running plantations and family businesses, but they were diligent about training to be a fighting force, if it ever came to that. It did. On Easter Sunday in 1865 the Nancy Hart Militia got word a large contingent of Federal soldiers were coming. A union force was expected to invade LaGrange the next morning. At daybreak when the more than 2000 Union soldiers came over the hill at the edge of town, they faced an astonishing sight. An armed unit of women dressed in bonnets and gowns had formed a line across the road.
The commander of the Union force was stunned by the resolve he saw in the women’s eyes. The commanders of both forces met in the middle of the street to try and resolve the standoff. The Nancies demanded the soldiers not burn a house or harm any resident of LaGrange. The Union commander agreed if the women would lay down their arms And though war related structures – the depot and the tannery -were burned no home was destroyed or citizen harmed. As the sun went down, The Nancies invited the Union officers to supper in a gesture of courtesy after four bitter and devastating years of war.
Journalist, Sue Pearson, has written a novel and produced a documentary for PBS about The Nancies. Sue's connection goes much deeper than passionate research and the love of history, as she finds her genealogical roots based in the very town of LaGrange, Georgia, where these courageous women joined together. Buy them today!