A Molly Pitcher

Revolutionary War Image

Old Cemetery, Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Mary Hays McCauly was an artillery wife who shared the hardships of Valley Forge with her husband, William Hays. It was during the blazing heat at the Battle of Monmouth, June 28, 1778, that she became known as the legendary Molly Pitcher, as she carried water to cool the hot guns and bathe the parched soldier throats. When her husband fell wounded while manning the canon, without hesitation, Molly stepped forward and took his place.

Molly Pitcher was a name given to women during wartime who carried water during battle. The woman or women who were Molly Pitchers at the Battle of Monmouth Battle served the Revolution well. However they were not the only Molly Pitchers of the American Revolution. Molly Pitchers participated in all the American wars before the American Revolution.

The image, Molly Pitcher, was originally uploaded at Flickr by oppositeofsuper. It is posted here by barneykin, administrator of “The Revolution flickred” pool.


14 Responses to A Molly Pitcher

  1. katie says:

    molly pitcher is an idol to many people she was a great person and always will be remembered that way the acts of kindness she gave giving her life to many people she saved our country not literally she had help but she was a big part in it amazes me on how she can do everything shes done

  2. amber says:

    Molly Pitcher is a true heroine for what she did, if I was fired at and it just barely missed me I would probably back down and freak out

  3. opiejeanne says:

    Amber, maybe not. Maybe the adrenaline of the near-miss would pump up your anger and you’d do just what she did. 🙂

  4. julia says:

    just so you know she is an american hero to all or she should be at least

  5. julia says:

    just another message to all she is my hero

  6. brittney says:

    thanks for the info i needed it for S.S.

  7. samantha says:

    ya me to

  8. samantha says:

    she is realy great i mean i hae to dress up like her in walk through the american revolution and ive learned alot abot her shes tough like me LOL

  9. CheerChica101 says:

    Hey people! i am studying Molly Picther and i really need info. lol if u have some, post it on the message board! thank you! bye

  10. mary bluming says:

    Thanks for all this info.
    I needed it for a project in social studies!!!

  11. Cathleen Corbett says:

    Dear Researchers,) I urge you to read thoroughly the following website of the United States Field Artillery Association (USFAA): http://www.usfaa.com/awards/mollypitcher/

    After much reading, I find it the most credible and careful on-line research to be found about Mary Hays. (Only its recounting of certain of Molly Pitcher’s heroics on the battlefield cause concern, due to a failure to cite credible sources.) It says research has long revealed that the “real Mary Hays/Molly Pitcher” is not the same woman as the one born Mary LUDWIG. The Mary Hays memorialized by those who knew her in Carlisle 100 years after the Revolution was married firstly to William Hays before she was widowed and became Mary Hays McCauley, through a second marriage to John, (or George?) McCauley, also reported to be a veteran. Two hundred years after the Battle of Monmouth, an historian, Samuel Steele Smith, attempting to research Wesley Miles’ account of Mary Hays McCauley, (or Molly McCauley, as she commonly was known in Carlisle before her death,) uncovered several terrible errors which continue to corrupt nearly all accounts of Molly Pitcher to this day. A contemporary of Wesley Miles, a questionable historian named William Stryker, searched local marriage records looking for Miles’ Mary Hays. He found a Mary Ludwig who had married a Casper Hays. Searching the regimental records, the only Hays Stryker could find was a John Hays, an infantryman, not an artilleryman as was reported in an eyewitness account of Molly’s deeds on the battlefield. Stryker decided that Casper and John must be one and the same. He must not have been concerned that battle records didn’t line up. Samuel S. Smith dug deeper and found the service records for William Hays, an artilleryman. Later probate records listed a Mary as his wife and beneficiary. Obviously, two different Hays in the same war had two different wives. At any rate, we know Mary Ludwig was married to Casper. Would careless historians now try to claim Casper was the same as William? (One needs to remember how common a name was Mary in those times.) Smith tried to correct the public record. By then, however, the damage was done. The town of Carlisle had put up an expensive monument to Mary Ludwig Hays about sixty years earlier, and countless “historical” accounts of Molly Pitcher/Mary Hays start with totally erroneous and romantic stories of her beginnings as a German dairymaid, along with the wrong birth and Ludwig family records supplied by Stryker. We can’t know for sure if Mary Hays McCauley was the ‘Molly Pitcher” of legend. We rely on the unsupported testimony of Wesley Miles, written 100 years after the battle, for that. But if we are to believe that Miles personally knew her, we should also believe his description of her. He called her Irish, as did everyone else who personally recalled her. We know Mary’s husband, William, was born in Ireland. There is no proof, but the repeated references to Mary — long widowed by the time of Miles’ recollection — as “Irish” suggest she may have had a brogue. Would locals continue to speak of her as the “Irish woman” if her connection to the old country was ancestral? No marriage records have been found for Mary and William. I suggest a renewed search in Ireland for anyone interested in learning her true maiden name. According to Molly MacCauley’s obituary, Mary was in her mid-thirties when William enlisted. The research found on the U.S. Field Artillery Association website also states that the first stone erected by the people of Carlisle in response to Miles’ testimony got her birth and death dates wrong. (The obituary, supported by tax records, listed her age as 90 at the time of death, not 78 or 79.) Sadly, most current accounts, even those that have cleared up the Ludwig mess, continue to use the discredited birthdate. I know this because my child, like so many school children, had to dig through mountains of trash to find the gems of truth. From everything we’ve read — and had to eliminate — my best stab at historical accuracy is this: Mary Hays (McCauley) likely accompanied her husband, William Hays, a matross, onto the field of battle at Monmouth Court House. It was difficult for matrosses to keep up with their job of assisting the gunner and swabbing the cannons without someone else hauling the water. Many women were seen assisting with the delivery of water over the course of the war, often toting drinking water to exhausted troops. (“Molly Pitchers” became a generic term.) Credible eyewitness accounts place two women on the Monmouth battlefield, one at the guns. Joseph Plumb Martin’s FULL account does not suggest that the woman near him took over her fallen husband’s cannon as legend has it. (And he was close enough to quote her.) That embellishment likely is the result of people hearing about Margaret Corbin who did do that in battle two years earlier. In fact, much of the lore surrounding Molly Pitcher sounds suspiciously like the true account of Corbin that, apparently, is well-documented. (In fact, a number of Revolutionary War “journals” were reprinted many years later with mentions of Molly Pitcher suddenly added as an after-thought. One has to be very careful about which journals to trust.) What Martin does say, though, is testament to “Molly Pitcher’s” courage and to her plucky, sharp-tongued temperament (which coincides with Miles’ later description of Mary Hays.) Martin’s journal says the unknown woman serving near him helped her husband with his task of tending the cannon the entire day. When she barely straddled a shot that would have crippled her (and, perhaps, later killed her,) she made a joke of it and carried on. That is courage enough! I am very hopeful that historical societies and organizations will do everything they can to get the story straight. The wonderful Molly MacCauley certainly deserves it. The USFAA website says the Carlisle Historical Society published an article called “Goodbye, Molly Pitcher” in the summer of 1989 in an attempt to straighten out the Ludwig mess but the town was very resistant to admit an embarrassing correction was necessary. The article was based upon research conducted and published by geneologist/researchers in 1976. Perhaps a member of the Historical Society, or a member from circa 1989 🙂 , has records that will shed more light on this. Certainly SOMEONE needs to start getting various historical entities to research and correct their records. Every year, eight and nine-year-olds across America face the choice of regurgitating unsupported legend, or performing a level of investigative research that clearly is beyond most adults. My child nearly was driven to tears. I wish you all luck. Some people would rather repeat a lie than face the burden of truth.

  12. Debo says:

    Thanks I really needed this for a project in Social Studies. I am “Molly Pitcher” and we are working on public speaking!!! Yuck!

  13. If anyone is interested in the research done by a GGG Grandson of Mary Ludwig “Molly Pitcher Hays (Me), you can read all of my research and view the supporting documents at;

  14. I am closing comments on Molly Pitcher. I find the emphasis that educators are placing upon the Molly Pitcher of Monmouth to be unfortunate, considering that the roles of the many historic and verifiable women who sacrificed for the American Revolutionary cause could be much more easily researched by their students. Instead, the roles of those women patriots are being overlooked and forgotten as students seek to find facts about a personage who has become confused with a legend.

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