Engraving of Molly Pitcher at her cannon during the Revolutionary War

Molly Pitcher — 1754-1832

Very few women actually fought in the Revolutionary War although many were present at the battlefields. It was the custom for wives to go to war with their husbands and do the cooking and cleaning for the campsites. On a hot day in June of 1778, one woman made history.

Molly Pitcher was born Mary Ludwig in 1754, the daughter of a New Jersey dairy farmer. Like many young women of modest bank accounts, she became a domestic servant and while working for a Mrs. Irvine in Carlisle, PA, Mary met her husband, William Hays. With the Revolutionary war ramping up in 1777, Hays enlisted in the Continental Army and Mary went along. She assisted by nursing the sick and injured for the regiment while also handling cooking and cleaning duties at the camp.

The Battle of Monmouth took place near the current town of Freehold, NJ on a blistering, hot day. While the fighting raged around her, Mary made many trips to a nearby spring, carrying water to cool both the men and the cannons. The grateful soldiers called her Molly Pitcher. On one of her trips back from the spring, Mary saw her husband collapsed next to his cannon, unable to fight any longer due to the heat and smoke of battle. She immediately assumed his position, helping to load the heavy balls and fire the cannon. She remained at her post until the Continental Army had won the battle. It is said that while loading the cannon, a cannon ball from the British Army passed directly between her legs, fortunately causing no injury. A witness claimed that Mary laughed off the near miss and kept at her work.

For her bravery and work at the front lines, she was awarded a pension by the Pennsylvania Legislature. The story of Mary’s bravery has been handed down through the years and she remains an inspiration to women who must find courage within themselves.

Engraving by J.C. Armitage circa 1859

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