In the smothering heat of a Jersey summer, the Battle of Monmouth took place on June 28, 1778. The battle was long, and the odds did not look favorable to the Continentals. However, they managed a draw–a victory for the struggling Continental Army at that time. This battle has often been the origin of a legendary woman named Molly Pitcher.
Many stories have been told about Molly, and several are considered to be more folklore than fact. The “fictional” Molly Pitcher is believed to be the actual Mary Hays, wife of William Hays who was a soldier in the Battle of Monmouth. Mary stayed with her husband throughout the Revolutionary War and was part of the camp followers led by Martha Washington. Along with the other women, Mary took care of food and clothing duties when not in the midst of battle. She also carried water to the troops during the fighting and cared for the wounded.
William Hays was trained as an artillery man. During his station at the cannon, he collapsed from either heat exhaustion or wounds, and Mary rushed to take his place. She manned the cannon, loading and ramming. It’s rumored that while she was performing this duty, a musket ball was shot between her legs and ripped off the bottom of her skirt, and she replied, “Well, that could have been worse,” and went back to work.
William did survive the rest of the battle, and he and Mary had a son named John not long after. William passed away in 1786, leaving Mary a pension in addition to her own for her service during the war.
Find more information about Molly Pitcher on Fold3′s person page.