by Denise Weimer
|Replica of Hart cabin|
As an author who loves working real history into fiction, I couldn’t bypass the opportunity to bring the real-life Revolutionary War heroines of my home state of Georgia into A Courageous Betrothal, my novella originally part of Backcountry Brides, re-released with Wild Heart Books this month as part of the Scouts of the Georgia Frontier. The emphasis of the series may be on the scouts who defended Georgia’s borders between Colonial times and the War of 1812, but the women shine in this fast-paced novella. Interestingly enough, the three women who were mentioned in or helped inspire the story were not only larger than life in the history books—they were larger than other women and many men physically as well. Truly, women bred to the frontier.
Mammy Kate was the six-foot-tall nursemaid of Patriot leader Stephen Heard, who built a stockaded home that became Washington, Georgia. As mentioned in A Courageous Betrothal, the Tories cast his wife and daughter into the snow, causing them to die of exposure. Heard was captured following the Battle of Kettle Creek and sentenced to death. Mammy Kate and her husband, Daddy Jack, rode fifty miles to Augusta. There Kate offered to wash clothes for the Tories. Close to time for Heard’s hanging, she appealed to extend this service to her master as well, so he would not die in dirty clothing. After obtaining permission, Kate entered Heard’s cell with a large covered basket. In it, she carried Heard, a man of small stature, on her head right past the guard.
Heard served a brief stint as governor. He gave his loyal servants freedom, land, and a house, but Kate served the family until her death.
Hannah Harrington Clark moved with her husband, Elijah, to Georgia in 1773, establishing Clark’s Station or “Woburn.” The area, part of Wilkes County after 1777, became known as “the Hornet’s Nest” due to the unrest between settlers, Loyalists, and Indians. Elijah became a leader of Patriot militia, while Hannah, also a tall, strong-boned woman, raised their children.
One winter, Hannah sewed a dozen fine, frilled-bosom shirts for Elijah, only to have a maid reveal their smokehouse hiding spot to Loyalists. As her house burned at the hands of Tories, British soldiers accosted her and tried to take the only item she saved, a quilt made by her daughters. She refused to give it up even when the Tories wounded her horse.
When Georgia fell to the British in 1780, Hannah followed her husband’s troops on an eleven-day trip to North Carolina. But she returned with him for the surrender of the British and lived to see her son, John, serve two stints as Georgia’s governor.
Nancy Hart inspired the heroine of A Courageous Betrothal, Jenny White. The Harts moved to the Broad River in the early 1770s. Benjamin Hart became a lieutenant under Elijah Clark, but Nancy protected their eight children and served her country at home. Over six feet tall with flame-red hair, Nancy was cross-eyed but a crack shot the local Indians called “Wahatche” or “War Woman.”
During the British occupation of Augusta, she was said to have dressed as a man and pretended to be “addle-pated” to gain confidences in the British camp. On another occasion, while making soap over the fire, one of her children noticed an eye peeking in the cabin chinking. Nancy threw lye into the crevice and went outside to hog tie and take the Loyalist prisoner to local militia.
Another time, six British soldiers, irritated with Nancy, who dressed as a sick woman and misdirected them in their pursuit of a rebel, shot her last turkey and insisted she cook it for them. Nancy broke out the corn liquor and sent her daughter Sukey to the swamp ostensibly to get water but really to blow a conch shell to summon her father and neighbors working in a far field. Meanwhile, Nancy passed the soldiers’ stacked weapons through a chink in the wall. She got caught on the third. Nancy leveled the musket and warned the men she’d shoot any who advanced. One made that mistake and was rapidly dispatched. The others froze, confused by Nancy’s roving eye. When help arrived, Nancy insisted shooting was too good for the intruders. Legend says the settlers hung the party of British. In 1912, a railroad grading crew uncovered six skeletons under three feet of Hart dirt.
Do any stories of heroic women linger in your area?
If you’d like to see how I turned these legends into a historical romance, enter to win an e-book copy of A Courageous Betrothal by commenting below.
Red-haired, freckle-faced, and almost six feet tall, Jenny White has given up on love. She devotes herself to protecting her younger siblings against nature, natives, and Loyalists in Georgia’s “Hornet’s Nest” during the American Revolution. Then she nurses Patriot scout Caylan McIntosh back to health after the Battle of Kettle Creek. The vexing Highlander seems determined to dismantle her emotional armor. Can Jenny trust a man who keeps secrets and surely prefers her sister to lead them on a harrowing exodus to the North Carolina mountains?
Denise Weimer writes historical and contemporary romance from her home in North Georgia and also serves as a freelance editor and the Acquisitions & Editorial Liaison for Wild Heart Books. A wife and mother of two daughters, she always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses.
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