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Molly Pitcher

Biography for Kids >> History >> American Revolution

Who was Molly Pitcher?

Molly Pitcher was a woman from the Revolutionary War. There are a lot of stories about how Molly fought in different battles during the war. In most of the stories, she bravely takes over firing a cannon for her wounded husband.

Was she a real person?

In general, historians believe that the stories about Molly are folklore, but that they are based on real tales about a number of real women. The two most famous of these women are Mary Ludwig Hays and Margaret Corbin.
Molly Pitcher loading cannon in battle
Molly Pitcher
Published by Currier and Ives

Where did the name "Molly Pitcher" come from?

Molly Pitcher is likely a nickname used by soldiers for the women who carried water out to the battlefields. The name "Molly" was often used as a nickname for "Mary." The name "Pitcher" probably came from the pitchers they used to carry the water.

The cannons that were used during the Revolutionary War needed to be constantly cooled down with fresh water. After firing a shot, the soldiers would soak a sponge attached to the end of a ramrod and then clean out the inside of the barrel.

Mary Ludwig Hays

Mary Ludwig Hays is often cited as the inspiration for the Molly Pitcher stories. Mary grew up in Pennsylvania and then married a barber named William Hays. When William enlisted in the Continental Army, Mary became a camp follower. At Valley Forge she helped take care of the soldiers by doing laundry, cleaning, and cooking.

Mary's husband became an artilleryman working on a team that loaded and fired cannons. Mary helped out by being a water carrier. Whenever the team needed water for the cannon they would shout out to her "Molly, we need another pitcher!", perhaps giving her the nickname Molly Pitcher.

During the Battle of Monmouth, Mary was working as a water carrier when her husband was wounded. Mary had been watching him load the cannon for a long time and knew exactly what to do. She immediately took over for him at the cannon and fought for the rest of the day.

At one point during the battle, an enemy musket ball flew right between Mary's legs. Mary bravely made the remark "I'm lucky that didn't pass a little higher", then she continued to load the cannon.

Margaret Corbin

Another woman who inspired the Molly Pitcher legend was Margaret Corbin. Margaret was the wife of John Corbin, an artilleryman with the Continental Army. John's nickname for Margaret was "Molly." Similar to Mary Hays, Margaret worked as a camp follower and also a water carrier for the cannons.

Margaret was carrying water for the cannons at the Battle of Fort Washington in New York when her husband was killed. She quickly took over firing his cannon. As the British advanced, Margaret came under heavy fire and was wounded when a musket ball struck her arm. The British eventually won the battle and Margaret was taken prisoner. Because she was wounded, the British set her free on parole.

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    Works Cited

    Biography for Kids >> History >> American Revolution

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