Molly Pitcher

Revolutionary War Figure

Born: 1754
Died: 22 January 1832
Birthplace: New Jersey
Best known as:

Brave water-carrying woman of the American Revolutionary War

A legendary figure of the American Revolutionary War, Molly Pitcher was most likely Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, a resident of Pennsylvania who, in 1822, was awarded an annuity by the Pennsylvania assembly for her service during the fight for independence. There are many versions of her heroic actions during the Battle of Monmouth on 28 June 1778, but the most common is that Mary helped American troops fend off British troops, first by bringing water to the revolutionaries during the battle (earning her the nickname "Molly Pitcher"), then by manning a cannon after her soldier husband succumbed to either the heat or a battle wound. In some variations, General George Washington shows up and awards her a commission as a sergeant (other versions say captain or major). At the time of the battle, Mary was married to William Hays or John Hays (modern researchers now say William). After the war, they settled in Carlisle, Pennsylvania; she was later widowed and her second husband was George McCauley. The annuity granted to Mary McCauley ("M'Kolly" in some documents) was considered above average for widows of soldiers, indicating to some researchers that her service was above and beyond the call of duty. Complicating matters is the story of Margaret Corbin (1751-1800), who apparently carried water and operated a cannon in 1776 at Fort Washington and was pensioned by the military in 1779. Although there is little chance that the matter will be solved conclusively, the consensus seems to be that Mary Hays McCauley was the basis for the legendary Molly Pitcher.

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