Margaret Corbin - Revolutionary War Soldier

Margaret Corbin fought beside her husband during the Revolutionary War. It was not unusual for women to accompany their soldier husbands in the fields. They were called "camp followers" and would tend to cooking and laundry chores as well as nurse the injured. The legend of Molly Pitcher rises from such real life women. Margaret Corbin was a remarkable woman who was well respected by others. She took her role in the Revolutionary War to a whole new level. She was devoted to both her husband and the American Cause and did not shy away from the action.

Background -

Margaret Cochran was born near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania on November 12, 1751. Her Scot-Irish parents were farmers at the time of the United States' birth. When Margaret was only five years old, her parents were attacked in a raid on their home. Her father, Robert Cochran was killed and her mother was kidnapped never to be heard from again. Luckily Margaret and her brother were visiting an uncle who subsequently adopted and raised them. Margaret was known as being tough and rough around the edges. History makes no mention of her for the next fifteen years.

The War -

At the age of 21, Margaret married a Virginia farmer by the name of John Corbin. They lived happily in Franklin County where they worked together on the farm. About three years later, John Corbin joined the army. He enlisted in the Pennsylvania Artillery - Continental Line and was off to fight in the Revolutionary War, Margaret refused to be left behind and became a camp follower. But unlike many of the wives who stayed at the camp when there was a battle, Margaret accompanied John on the battlefield to help him. She was what was called then a half-soldier.

John Corbin's job was that of a matross. A matross was an artillery soldier who assisted the gunners with loading, firing and sponging the big guns. The matross also served as a guard for the store wagon and marched along beside it. Margaret worked by her husband's side and knew his job as well as he did.

John's division was stationed at Fort Washington in New York on November 16, 1776. This fort on Manhattan Island was very important in the war effort. While John was stationed at a pair of cannons on a hill, the British army attacked. The Americans were outnumbered and were asked to surrender. The commander of the fort, Colonel Magaw, chose not to. The Hessian soldiers made several attempts to charge the hill but were driven back by cannon fire. In the mayhem, the gunner at John's cannon was killed. John took over with Margaret at his side now serving as the matross. Then John took fire and was killed.

Margaret -

Margaret didn't hesitate. She took over the cannon and kept firing. She didn't stop until she was hit by grapeshot and fell to the ground. The Americans eventually surrendered and the Hessians took over the fort.

Later that day, Margaret was discovered by a doctor who was wandering the hill looking for survivors. She was alive but badly injured. The grapeshot had nearly torn off her left arm and had entered her jaw and her chest. She was sent on a 100 mile trip in a wagon to Philadelphia where she was treated. She recovered but her body was never the same again.

Having lost the use of her left arm, Margaret struggled to get by for many years. She became surly and drank too much. In 1779 the Board of War looked in on her and became aware of the shabby conditions in which she lived. They were impressed by her bravery in the war and her perserverence in the aftermath despite her wounds and awarded her with half the monthly pay of a Continental soldier, She was the first woman to receive a military pension from the United States. She also received $30 a month from the state of Pennsylvania. This is what the Board of War said on her behalf -

"As she had the fortitude and virtue enough to supply the place of her husband after his fall in the service of his country, and in the execution of that task received the dangerous wound under which she now labors, the board can but consider her as entitled to the same grateful return which would be made to a soldier in circumstances equally unfortunate."

Margaret lived out the rest of her life in Highland, New York. She was known for being rude and eccentric yet was still respected in the community. Because of her disability she was never well-dressed and was mostly snubbed by the ladies of New York's polite society. She didn't care. Margaret preferred to hang out with her fellow veterans. She died in 1800 at the age of 48.

Margaret Corbin was all but forgotten about for one hundred and fifty years. Thanks to the Daughters of the American Revolution, Margaret's legacy was restored. In 1926, the DAR disinterred her remains and reburied them in a cemetery behind Old Cadet Chapel at West Point. The monument they placed there shows a bronze relief of Margaret with ramrod ready at the cannon she tended on that fateful day in 1776. She is one of only two Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Old Cadet Chapel's cemetery. Margaret finally got the recognition she deserved for her bravery.

Mollies -

The camp followers who accompanied their husbands in the field during the Revolutionary War were often referred to as "Mollies". Margaret Corbin was called Captain Molly by the other women because of her strong personality and towering height. She was the first "Molly Pitcher", the moniker that was mostly associated with Mary Ludwig Hays who manned her husband's cannon in 1778. Mary was not wounded but as a representative of the "Molly Pitcher" image was more marketable than the handicapped Margaret. Many historians suggest that Molly Pitcher may be a composite image influenced by the actions of many real life women. Either way, Margaret Corbin received the battle scars deserving of a prominent place in history. 

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Comments 39 comments

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Your Hubs are always worth waiting for!

Here's a link to her gravestone:

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

Thanks, WillStarr. I plan on adding that photo of her grave but I've had to redo my computer and am still disorganized. I got inundated with malware and all kinds of other crap so after numerous attempts to eradicate the beasts decided a start-over was in order. Thank you so much for reading.

Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 5 years ago from Stepping past clutter

This is amazing. I was not aware of women like Margaret and am happy to be informed. Life was tough for them, during the early American days- perhaps we can draw inspiration from them for these tough economic times. Thank you so much!

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

Thanks, Storytellersus - glad you enjoyed. And yes women were tough in those days.

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Actually, women have been tough all along when the chips are down. There are great stories of how women coped bravely throughout our history, including the pioneer days of the old west, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.

I like writing about the brave, hardy women who endured the trying times of the old west, side by side with their husbands.

This is a great Hub!

drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

And Margaret Corbin finally received a wonderful tribute - this beautiful hub written by you, susie. Well done.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I had run across things in the past about another kind of woman in war. There were some apparently who passed themselves off as men so they could serve.

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

Thanks again, WillStarr.

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

Drbj - Thanks - she certainly deserved the recognition the DAR provided for her. Thanks so much for stopping by. It's always good to see you.

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

Dahoglund - During the Civil War women were known to dress like men to serve. Here's a link -

Thanks for reading.

iZeko profile image

iZeko 5 years ago

Very well done! I learned something new reading this hub.

bohemiotx profile image

bohemiotx 5 years ago from Tyler, TX

Very good article. I'm sending this link to the local DAVA commander in East Texas.

prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

I love the story of Margaret Corbin. She's a tough woman. Thanks for share with us. Vote it up!


LordUr-ros profile image

LordUr-ros 5 years ago from Virginia

Very nice! Clear to the point and rich with information. She would like this one.

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

HI, Susanne - wow, what a gal. It was great to read about the bravery of a woman. How she took over the cannon after her husband perished right in front of her...amazing.

akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

What a cool gal - I'd like to think I'd be so brave except I doubt it! I'd probably ask if I could bake something for them if they'd quit fighting!! Remarkable woman and you did her proud.

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

iZeko - Glad you enjoyed.

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

Bohemiotx - Thanks - I appreciate it.

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

How appropriate for July! Thank you for sharing this about Margaret Corbin and honoring her memory for us.

I would like to link this to my 4th of July hub if you have no objection.

Voted up.

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

RTalloni - Thanks - I would be honored.

lilyfly 5 years ago

Wonderful, and to receive a stipend shows they understood her value, if underestimating it, all the same, but isn't that the way we treat all our soldiers? Wonderful start to the day... thank you for the hub... lily

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

Thanks, Pras - I appreciate you stopping by.

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

LordUr-Ros - I hope she would. Thanks for reading.

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

Dolores - yes, Margaret was a strong woman. Always nice to see you.

Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

The Scotch-Irish have produced so many amazing people in America's history and this is one I'd never heard of before. Well done Suzie.

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

Akirchner - It is also doubtful I'd be that brave. Thanks for stopping by and you can bake for me anytime :)

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

Hi lilyfly - You're welcome - glad you enjoyed.

Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

Fascinating story, Suzanne, and very well presented. I long ago lost my sexist pig attitude to women and wars - I am well aware of what certain women are capable of and how they can advance their cause or defend their territory, often as well as any man. It sounds as though whe was quite a lady!

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

Alastar - Nice to see you here. Yes, the Scotch-Irish certainly have left their mark on America's history.

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

Gordon - Women have been involved in war efforts for a very long time. Glad you could stop by.

platinumOwl4 profile image

platinumOwl4 5 years ago

Hello suziecat7, a book on this very subject fell off the shelf in the library recently, almost knocked me out. My first thought was of you. Lo and behold you have published on the subject as I thought. Love it. Have a good one.

LABrashear profile image

LABrashear 5 years ago from My Perfect Place, USA

I love history - especially when there's a rough and tough gal involved!

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

Platinum - Thanks.

LABrashear - Me too!

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

LA - me too!

Abby 35 4 years ago

thanx 4 this research!!!

meow48 profile image

meow48 4 years ago from usa

really liked this well written hub. thankyou for bringing history alive.

diamond 4 years ago

im doing a project and this a really good place to look

lulu34 3 years ago

this video helped me learn a lot

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 3 years ago from Asheville, NC Author

Glad it was helpful.

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