Founding Momma: Molly Pitcher
Who is Molly Pitcher? The stories of countless women, who made heroic and significant efforts to found America, do not end with their support of their husbands and hard work to maintain family farms, businesses and homes. Nor do they end with the sacrifice of loved ones, life savings and homes or their long hours of making ammo and tending to the injured. The founding mothers took their fight for freedom to every aspect needed by their families and country.
Case in point: Molly Pitcher, the name that has become the face of the role of women at the battlefront of the Revolutionary War.
Many believe that Molly Pitcher is actually several women, whose stories have been blended into one, a composite myth. Most believe Molly is actually one person, Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, and her story has lived on to represent the many fighting women in America’s quest for freedom.
Her name is said to have come from her endless trips to take pitchers of water to soldiers engaged in battle. When her husband collapsed from fatigue during battle, Molly took over the operation of his cannon.
Mary Ludwig, sometimes called Molly, was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1754 and moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1768, where she met William John Hays, a local barber, and married him in 1769.
Hays enlisted in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War’s Philadelphia Campaign, which returned him to the New Jersey area. It was customary for wives of enlisted soldiers to accompany their h
usbands in battle and supply any aid or help that was needed. Throughout the Revolutionary War, wives (sometimes also older nieces and daughters) stood solidly with their loved ones and served their country in whatever way they could, facing the same dangers, fear and death. Thus, Mary/Molly went with her husband and served by his side.
Eye Witness Reports Tell the Story
In the Battle of Monmouth in Freehold, New Jersey on a scorchingly hot day in June 1778, Molly became known as the determined woman providing nearby spring water to the soldiers and also pouring the water over the cannons to keep them cool enough to continue operation. Her persistent effort garnered her the name,
Molly Pitcher, but her fame did not end there.
When Molly’s husband dropped to the ground, she dropped her water pitcher. Without a second thought, she took his place at the
cannon and manned the weapon through the rest of the battle until victory.
Witnesses tell of the cannon ball that shot between her legs, as Molly was reloading her cannon. Pausing only to be relieved the shot had not been any higher and ignoring that parts of her petticoat and skirt were now missing, she persisted in battle.
Remaining with the Continental Army until the war ended, Molly and her husband finally returned to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1783. After her husband’s death, she married war veteran, John McCauley and worked in the State House in Carlisle. Molly died an honored war veteran on January 22, 1832 at the age of 78.
Molly’s tireless bravery and efforts were honored in 1822 by the Pennsylvania Legislature for her wartime services. She was awarded $40 and received an annual commission of that same amount for life. A monument in the honor of Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley/Molly Pitcher was erected in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and commemorates her heroic acts in battle.
Perhaps the most important part of the story of Molly Pitcher is that it serves as a reminder of the numerous heroic deeds of countless colonial women, who rank among America’s Founders and were crucial to America’s freedom.
http://www.ushistory.org/valleyforge/youasked/070.htm https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1999/summer/pitcher.html https://www.revolutionary-war.net/molly-pitcher.html