Nancy Harts, Salmon Chase

I was in LaGrange, GA, last weekend for a family get-together and checked out their web page. Turns out LaGrange was home to one of the Civil War’s most colorful and unusual militia companies, the all-female Nancy Harts. Named after a heroine of the Revolutionary War, the group elected two local women as officers.

The women began their military training using William J. Hardee’s Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics (1861) and met twice a week for drilling and target practice. The leaders offered prizes to the best markswomen, and after several mishaps, including shooting a hornet’s nest and a cow, the women became expert shots.

Although the Nancy Harts organized as a military unit, they served primarily as nurses. During the latter half of the war, LaGrange became a medical and refugee center because of its proximity to key battlegrounds and its intact rail line. LaGrange’s four hospitals were often full, and a number of residents, including nearly all the Nancy Harts, took patients into their homes for individualized care.

The “Nancies” never got a chance to fight but did surrender the town in 1865 to Union Colonel Oscar LaGrange, who treated the town leniently.

In another part of the web, Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett pens an article about the forgotten career of lawyer and politician Salmon P. Chase, focusing on his antislavery activities and his interpretation that slavery was unconstitutional. The link is to an abstract but it’s a free PDF download.

Chase had been somewhat of a thorn in Lincoln’s side as well as a potential rival, so Abe sidelined him with a typically Lincolnian move—he accepted Chase’s resignation as Secretary of the Treasury, offered in one of his frequent fits of pique, but then nominated him for Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. This allowed Lincoln to get Chase out of politics and out of his hair while also packing the court with someone who could be trusted to be rabidly antislavery.


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