Molly Pitcher

During the Revolutionary War in the United States, men were often helped by women that volunteered to bring water to the battlefields.

These women took their lives into their hands as they maneuvered through the fields and faced the incoming fire. It is believed that the name Molly Pitcher was created from the actions of many women and that there wasn’t a real person named Molly Pitcher.


Where did they live?

Two of the most well-known of the women that helped during the Revolutionary War were Margaret Corbin and Mary Ludwig Hays. Molly was a nickname that some often gave to someone named Mary, and the last name of Pitcher could have related to the pitchers of water.

Facts about Molly Pitcher

  • One of the stories that have been passed down throughout the years involves Molly Pitcher helping her husband by taking over the cannon firing when he became injured.
  • Cannons were a primary method of defense during the war, and they required to be cooled down with freshwater due to overheating. Each time someone fired a cannon shot, the cannon needed to have a sponge soaked, and then the inside of the barrel was cleaned to the end of the ramrod.
  • Many of the wives of the soldiers became camp followers to be with their husbands during the Revolutionary War. One of these women was Mary Ludwig Hays. Mary followed her husband, William, and was at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, helping to take care of all of the soldiers with cooking, cleaning, and laundry.
  • When Mary’s husband was assigned as an artilleryman that was part of the team that was responsible for loading and firing the cannons, Mary helped by bringing the water for the cannons. When the team needed water, they would yell out, “Molly, we need another pitcher.”
  • Mary’s husband became wounded at the Battle of Monmouth. She had watched him, and others load the cannon so many times that she knew what to do. It is said that Mary became responsible for the cannon for the entire day.
  • There is a legend that says that Mary was personally thanked for her participation in the Battle of Monmouth by George Washington.
  • Another inspiration for the name Molly Pitcher was Margaret Corbin. She was married to John Corbin, who was also an artilleryman in the Continental Army. John had a nickname for Margaret, and it was “Molly.” Margaret also carried water for the cannons and was a volunteer that became a camp follower.
  • During the Battle of Fort Washington, New York, Margaret was carrying water and heading to the cannons when her husband was killed. Like Mary, she had watched how the cannons were loaded, fired, and cooled, and she took over the job of cannon firing.
  • The heavy battle fire began when the British got closer. It was at this time that Margaret was hit in the arm with a musket ball. In this battle, the British won, and they took Margaret as a prisoner. However, since she was injured, they set her free.
  • Margaret’s arm injury never healed properly, and it gave her problems for the rest of her life.
  • Margaret Corbin became the first woman in the U.S. to get a military pension for her participation in the battle.

What did you learn?

Is it known whether Molly Pitcher was a real person?


Who are the two women that inspired the name, Molly Pitcher?

Margaret Corbin and Mary Ludwig Hays

Why was the name given of Molly Pitcher?

Molly was a nickname for Mary and these were the women that brought pitchers of water to those on the battlefield

What injury did Margaret get on the battlefield?

Musket ball injury in her arm

What brave job did both women do for their husbands on the battlefield?

Took overloading and firing of the cannon