The Story of Molly Pitcher
An Artillery wife, Mary Hays McCauly (better known as Molly Pitcher) shared the rigors of Valley Forge with her husband, William Hays. Her actions during the battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778 became legendary. That day at Monmouth was as hot as Valley Forge was cold. Someone had to cool the hot guns and bathe parched throats with water.
Across that bullet-swept ground, a striped skirt fluttered. Mary Hays McCauly was earning her nickname “Molly Pitcher” by bringing pitcher after pitcher of cool spring water to the exhausted and thirsty men. She also tended to the wounded and once, heaving a crippled Continental soldier up on her strong young back, carried him out of reach of hard-charging Britishers. On her next trip with water, she found her artilleryman husband back with the guns again, replacing a casualty. While she watched, Hays fell wounded. The piece, its crew too depleted to serve it, was about to be withdrawn. Without hesitation, Molly stepped forward and took the rammer staff from her fallen husband’s hands. For the second time on an American battlefield, a woman manned a gun. (The first was Margaret Corbin during the defense of Fort Washington in 1776.) Resolutely, she stayed at her post in the face of heavy enemy fire, ably acting as a matross (gunner).
For her heroic role, General Washington himself issued her a warrant as a noncommissioned officer. Thereafter, she was widely hailed as “Sergeant Molly.” A flagstaff and cannon stand at her gravesite at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. A sculpture on the battle monument commemorates her courageous deed.