Molly Pitcher, bringing her legend to life
The woman we call Molly Pitcher
Many women have fought in wars all over the world and are rarely given credit for their contributions. Women fought in the Revolution and the American Civil war. A woman named Mary Ludwig who was born in colonial America around 1754, manned a cannon and her husbands gun, (or should I say ladied a gun?) and fought against the British Troops.
She was born in colonial Trenton. New Jersey had been the home to the Algonquin Native People for thousands of years. An ancient site of native people was found south of Trenton and has been dated back to 10,000 before Christ. In 1524 explorer Giovanni da Verrazano sailed along the shores of New Jersey, a wild land unknown to Europeans at that time. In 1618 the Dutch had built a small trading post in the area. By 1638 Swedes came in merchant ships surviving the long journey across the sea to form a new settlement in the land that belonged to the Lenni-Lanape. At Pavonia in 1643 an enormous number of native Lenape people were slaughtered by the Dutch. The Engish eventually took over the Dutch Colonies in New York, along with the trading posts and farming settlements in New Jersey. The Engish Middle Colonies were formed and more and more people were brought to the New World to clear forest land and dig farms for new settlements.
Mary Ludwig was born into a German family who lived near the Delaware River. When she was only about 4 years old, the French and Indian War had broken out and became a bloody conflict. In Trenton, barracks were built to house Colonial forces. The colonial population had swelled over the years and in the great conflict of the French and Indian War the Lenni-Lenape sided with the French hoping to push white people from Europe out of their homeland.
The Ludwig family was not one of wealth or social standing. As a tennager, Mary took an employment position as a house servant for a family in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It was common for young girls to earn money this way back then and help support their families. She met a man by the name of John Casper Hays and they were married by 1769. Mary may have been as young as fifteen years old. In 1777 John would enlist in the Continental Army and serve as an artilleryman. He fought at Valley Forge and endured a long hard winter along with his troops in the frozen fields and forests of New Jersey.
Sometime around the Spring of 1778, Mary Ludwig Hays joined her husband on the battlefield. She became known as Molly Pitcher. Many women assisted the Army by providing nursing and medical care, cooking food, or just plainly carrying water from a near by well to the troops in need. Molly was known as a water girl and earned the knickname Molly Pitcher. Hays, her husband loaded cannon while Molly brought fresh water to drink.
On June 28, 1778 in the battle of Monmouth fighting became quite fierce. John Casper Hays was injured and fell unconscious. Molly took over his gun position and in the mist of heavy battle she began to load the cannon herself and fire the heavy machine. She was seen at a distance by Generals lifting the cannon balls, loading, and firing cannon during the raging battle. John Casper Hays died in or shortly after Monmouth and the British were defeated in this battle. Today, one can relive these an other historic events by taking the tour of Monmouth Battlefield in the State of New Jersey.
When the American Revolution came to an end Mary would marry again. For the rest of her life she worked as a washerwoman in Pennsylvania. In 1822 she was given a well deserved pension for her military contribution and a bonus pay for her service. She earned every penny.
Women have fought in many wars throughout American history. During the Iraq and Afghan Wars American women have fought in combat and should be given the well deserved rights and honors that come with such a sacrafice. Even today, the United Stated Congress has not yet passed legislation including women in combat. In honor of all the women that have served our nation, maybe it is time they should.
By Joanne Kathleen Farrell, author of Liberty for the Lion Shield
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