LaGrange's All-Female Civil War Militia
from the Northeast Georgia Seven in
Touring the Backroads of North and South Georgia
During the Civil War, the women of LaGrange organized themselves into a military company which they named the "Nancy Harts" for the Revolutionary heroine (see Tour 4). Preceding the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) of World War II by 80 years, the Nancy Harts were ready to fight and had even become excellent markswoman (although their first practice ended in the death of a cow). Two of the Harts, 3rd Lt. Andelia Bull and 2nd Cpl. Sallie Bull, held the practice at their father’s, Judge Orville Augustus Bull, pasture. Their first rounds were fired with eyes shut and resulted in the death of one of their father’s cows.
They continued their target practice with few mishaps. Former 1st Cpl. Leila Pullen (later Mrs. James Allen Morris) remembered the day one woman’s shot hit a hornet’s nest, "The hornets responded to the attack!"
Every capable woman of LaGrange, married or single, enlisted as a Nancy Hart, and the captain of this group was Mrs. Brown Morgan, who actually outranked her husband who was a 1st Lt. in the Confederate Army. They had no uniforms and twice a week they were drilled in their long-skirted dresses by Dr. H.C. Ware, who could not fight with the Confederated because of a physical disability. The women used whatever weapons they could find, and according to Mrs. Morris in a paper she wrote for the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) in 1902, "It was an open question whether the muzzle or the breach was more dangerous. I have yet a feeling of how the flint lock fowling piece of my grandfather got in its vigorous kicks. But we soon became expert and didn’t mind shooting." Formed in 1861, the Nancy Harts had to wait until 1865 before they faced their first battle, but until that time, they staged military marches and continued target practice twice weekly. They also served as nurses in the local military hospitals.
According to the story, when Wilson’s Raiders invaded the defenseless city of LaGrange after the War had ended in 1865 (it was April 17 and Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9), the Nancy Harts in their incongruous costumes marched out to meet them in battle. Col. O.H. LaGrange, which happened to be the name of the man leading the Raiders, was so impressed that he "surrendered" to them immediately.
According to Mrs. Morris, "We were standing in front of my house when we saw coming down College Hill a body of blue coats rushing upon our defenseless city . . ." Mrs. Morris noticed that one of the prisoners of war was Major R.B. Parkman, and that he was riding next to LaGrange.
She went on to say, "I said, ‘Major, I regret to see you in this plight.’
"The Colonel inquired, ‘Miss, is this your sweetheart?’
"I replied, indignantly, ‘Yes, he is.’
"’Such honesty deserves reward,’ the Colonel said. ‘I will give him a parole and let him spend the evening with you.’
"Both officers dismounting, Major Parkman then introduced us. "Colonel LaGrange, I have the pleasure of introducing you to a regularly commissioned officer of the Nancy Harts.’
"The Colonel very pleasantly replied, ‘I should think the Nancy Harts might use their eyes with better effect upon the federal soldiers than their rusty guns.’"
Parkman then asked Mrs. Morris if she could invite the Colonel and two of his officers to tea as they had been very kind to him. The Nancy Harts then broke ranks and all proceeded to the home of Mrs. Morris. When they arrived, they discovered all the servants had disappeared and the female soldiers retreated to the kitchens to prepare food for the invading army and their prisoners of war.
Confederates and Federals, alike, left the following morning for Macon where they learned the War was over. The prisoners were released.
In an ironic twist of events, LaGrange remained in Macon where he found met and married a young woman and took her back North with him. Mrs. Morris, as her name reveals, did not marry Major Parkman but rather a James A. Morris of Morristown, Pennsylvania, whom she met after the war in the home of Confederate General John B. Gordon in Atlanta.
Mrs. Gordon was the former Frances Haralson of LaGrange, daughter of General Hugh A. Haralson (see later in this tour), and while not a Nancy Hart, she actually followed her husband to war. Gordon was wounded five times at the Battle of Sharpsburg, Virginia, and gave up only when he fell unconscious from his horse. Mrs. Gordon nursed him back to health, and he states in his Reminisces of the Civil War that had it not been for his wife, he would not have lived following this battle.
A funny story is told about Mrs. Gordon’s constant attendance on her husband. At one point, Confederate General Jubal Early watched a carriage as it pulled into camp and asked who was inside. When he was told it was Mrs. Gordon’s carriage, he is said to have remarked, "Humph, if all my men kept up as well as Mrs. Gordon does, there would be no stragglers."
Yet another story is told of Mrs. Gordon in 1864 when The LaGrange Reporter carried a story headlined, "A Gallant Lady and a Cowardly Cavalry." Written by the paper’s Winchester, Virginia, correspondent, the article related how Mrs. Gordon seized the Division Headquarter’s flag during the retreat from that town and rushed into the street calling for all her husband’s men to rally around the flag and she would personally lead them back into battle. According to the newspaper, she succeeded in rallying 200 men and they rushed back into the fight.
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