LaGrange vs. LaGrange
by Mort Kunstler
LaGrange, Georgia, April 17, 1865
As with most military conﬂicts, the call to duty naturally depletes the male population who marches off to war. This often leaves the care of the farms and homesteads in the hands of their able-bodied wives. Sometimes the war comes to town, requiring women to take up arms in defense of their homes and ﬁresides.
In April of 1861 the LaGrange Light Guards of the Fourth Georgia deployed to ﬁght for the Confederacy. This unit was made up of thirteen hundred troops, the majority of LaGrange’s men. Their sudden absence left the town vulnerable to a Union attack. As a result the women of LaGrange eventually formed an all-female militia known as the “Nancy Harts.”
Inexperienced with the use of tactics and ﬁrearms, the women turned to A. C. Ware, a local physician who remained in town due to a physical disability, for assistance in their training. He turned to William J. Hardee’s manual, titled Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics. The ladies of LaGrange met twice a week for drilling and target practice. Prizes were awarded for the best shots.
On April 17, 1863 the Nancy Harts marched to the campus of LaGrange Female College to meet the Union cavalry that was advancing on the town. Outgunned and outnumbered, the women peacefully surrendered the town to Union Colonel Oscar H. LaGrange. In return, Union troops spared the town’s homes and properties and focused their destruction on the railroad as it was helpful to the Confederate war effort.
After the war, members of the Nancy Harts returned to their prewar duties, though many were forced to make life-changes because more than a quarter of LaGrange’s enlisted men did not return home. Many of these women joined the LaGrange chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and worked diligently to preserve the memory of their sons and husbands.
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