Folk songwriter Nell Robinson has traced her family lineage back to the 1700s and, by doing so, realized her ancestors have fought in nearly every American conflict since that time.
The startling discovery prompted the creation of Nell Robinson & the Rose of No-Man’s Land, a collection of music and narratives she recorded with producer Joe Henry. Special guests include Kris Kristofferson, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, John Doe, actress Kathy Baker and author Maxine Hong Kingston.
With Veterans Day approaching, the timing seems right to revisit the album, which was released independently last week. In the haunting song “Wahatchee,” Robinson recounts the story of Nancy Ann Morgan Hart, a Revolutionary War figure who lived in rural Georgia.
“We are reported to be kin to her — a point of some debate,” Robinson says with a smile. “Ann was a Revolutionary War spy, a frontierswoman, good with a rifle/gun, fierce and powerful, known as ‘Wahatchee’ — meaning ‘war woman’ in the local Native American language.”
While Ann Hart’s husband, Col. Hart, is off fighting, she is home with their daughter Sukey. Before long, six hungry British soldiers arrive at their door — right after killing the Harts’ neighbor, James Dooley. This frightening moment is where Robinson and co-writer Laurie Lewis capture a moment of family bravery — and certainly a sense of bravado.
“Ann and Sukey coaxed them indoors and fed them with their last turkey and a bit of brandy,” Robinson says. “Lulled into a sense of security, they miss Ann and Sukey stealing their guns.”
While the Redcoats are getting drunk, Sukey sneaks off to call her father with a conch shell, prompting him to quickly return home. Upon finding the intoxicated soldiers, he insists they should be shot. Instead, Ann Hart suggests six nooses. By the final verse, the family’s oak tree is put to good use. Although the British soldiers never lived to tell the tale, the legend lives on.
Hear “Wahatchee” from Nell Robinson & the Rose of No-Man’s Land.