Thursday, June 23, 2016

Heroine of the Revolution

On June 28, 1778, the Battle of Monmouth was fought in weather that was hot, over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Mary Ludwig Hays attended to the Revolutionary soldiers by carrying pitchers of water to them. Just before the battle started, she had found a spring to serve as her water supply. Mary Hays spent much of the early day carrying water to soldiers and artillerymen, often under heavy fire from British troops. 

“Molly” was a common name for women named Mary during the time; thus: “Molly! Pitcher!” Two places on the battlefield are currently marked as the "Molly Pitcher Spring”.

Sometime during the battle Mary’s husband, William Hays an artilleryman, collapsed from heat exhaustion. Mary Hays took his place at the cannon. For the rest of the day, in the heat of battle, Mary continued to "swab and load" the cannon using her husband's ramrod.

Joseph Plumb Martin recalls this incident in his memoirs, writing that at the Battle of Monmouth, "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 for a cartridge and having one of her feet as far before the other as she could step, a cannon shot from the enemy 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."

After the battle, General Washington asked about the woman whom he had seen loading a cannon on the battlefield. In commemoration of her courage, he issued Mary Hays a warrant as a non commissioned officer. Afterwards, she was known as "Sergeant Molly," a nickname that she used for the rest of her life.