• “Lesser-known figures of the American Revolution” Third Prize – Grace Miller

    Molly Pitcher: American Patriot
    If you were a woman in the 1700s, you were either a nurse, tending to the soldiers’ wounds, or staying at home, continuing to raise your children. However, sometimes women wage wars between men. Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, better known as Molly Pitcher, was one of these ladies 

    Mary Ludwig was born in Trenton, New Jersey around 1744 according to her tombstone. Her second surname, Hays, came from her stepfather, John, and her husband, William. William Hays was a barber, but also an artilleryman. In 1777, William enrolled in Proctor’s 4th Artillery of the Continental Army. During that winter, Mary joined him in the winter camp at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania as one of the caretakers.
    Mary served as one of the water carriers, where she would, of course, carry water to the troops and artillerymen. This explains how Mary earned her nickname “Molly Pitcher,” because the troops would shout, “Molly! Pitcher!” when they needed water.

    Joseph Plumb Martin quotes in one of his memoirs, “A woman whose husband belonged to the artillery…with her husband at the piece the whole time. While in the act of reaching a cartridge…a cannon shot from the enemy passed directly between her legs without doing any other damage than carrying away all the lower part of her petticoat. Looking at it with apparent unconcern, she…continued her occupation.”

    Martin had been describing what had occurred one day during the war: Because it was extremely hot, William collapsed. As he was carried off the battlefield, Mary took his place at the cannon. In the midst of the battle, a British musket ball tore off the bottom of her skirt. Amazingly, just seconds later, she continued reloading the cannon.  Now, whenever William had to step out of battle, Mary would take his place.

    After the fight, General George Washington asked about the woman he had seen on the battlefield, and in commemoration of her courage, he made Mary a non commissioned officer.

    Mary and William returned to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and gave birth to a son named Johannes (John), but sadly, William died later in 1786. Mary remarried in 1793 to John McCauley, a stone cutter and another Revolutionary War veteran. This new marriage was not a happy one, and McCauley even caused Mary’s financial downfall. John McCauley disappeared between 1807 and 1810 and has not been heard from since.

    Mary earned her living as a general servant for hire. In 1822, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania awarded Mary a pension of what is now $778 in modern-day America. She died in 1832 and is currently buried in Carlisle under the name “Molly McCauley”. 

    Molly Pitcher may not be as remembered as George Washington, but she is a hero of our nation nonetheless. Thank you, Molly!

    Grace Miller, PGMS 6th Grade

    posted to Cedar Street Times on July 4, 2021

    Topics: Pacific Grove Middle School

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