Valley Forge FAQs

Molly Pitcher

Q.Can you tell me any thing about Molly Ludwig Hayes and if she had any responsibilities at Valley Forge or did she just follow her husband there for support. It is hard to find any information on Molly before the Battle of Monmouth.
Robin Mcbroom, Lancaster, Ohio

A.If you are using the Internet as your resource, you can find a few sites using the subject of Mary Hays/ Mary Ludwig Hayes/ Mary Ludwig McCauley and Molly Pitcher.

"Molly Pitcher" was a nickname for women who carried water to the troops during the war.

Here is a little background on Mary that I can share:

Born in 1754, Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley was the daughter of a New Jersey dairy farmer. At the age of 13, she went to work as a domestic/servant. During the same year — still at 13 — she married a man by the name of William Hays (a barber). When the Revolutionary War began, William enlisted and became a gunner in the Pennsylvania Artillery. Mary eventually joined her husband as a campfollower during the Philadelphia Campaign (1777-1778) in New Jersey eventually wintering with the Army at Valley Forge.

We all have come to know her as "Molly Pitcher." She gained this title later on at the Battle of Monmouth. The only contemporary witness to the scene in June of 1778 describes the scene of the husband and wife — Mary and William — working together: "A woman whose husband belonged to the artillery and who was then attached to a piece in the engagement, attended with her husband at the piece the whole time. While in the act of reaching a cartridge and having one of her feet as far before the other as she could stemp, a cannon shot from the enemey 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 observed that it was lucky it did not pass a little higher, for in that case it might have carried away something else, and continued her occupation."

At the close of the War, William and Mary Hays returned to Pennsylvania. They settled in Carlisle where Mary went back to work as a domestic as well as a "charwoman" in the State House in Carlisle. After the death of William, Mary remarried another Rev War vet by the name of John McCauley. She was awarded a pension in 1822 by the Pennsylvania State Legislature and it wasn't until the anniversary of the War in 1876 that a marker — noting her exemplary service — was placed on her grave. She died on January 22, 1832.

Another "Molly Pitcher" was Margaret Corbin (b. 1751) — who took up a cannon when her husband was killed at Fort Washington on Manhattan Island, New York in 1776. She was seriously wounded there herself when her arm was almost severed and her breast was lacerated by grapeshot. She lived until about 1800 after receiving charity payments from the Invalid Regiment and later a small pension from Congress. She was known throughtout her community as a bad-tempered, hard-drinking eccentric by the nickname of "Captain Molly!"

SAS, Courtesy The Valley Forge Historical Society

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