Molly Pitcher


Molly Pitcher was the nickname given to a patriotic woman who assisted her husband during the American Revolutionary War. The real-life woman to whom the tale is generally attributed was Mary Ludwig Hayes, born to a German family on a New Jersey dairy farm around 1753. She was a diligent worker, and when she was fifteen years old, she accepted an invitation to serve as a maid in the home of Dr. William Irvine of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In Carlisle, Mary met and married William Hays.

In 1777, William enlisted in the Continental Army, and during that same winter Mary joined him at Valley Forge along with several other soldier’s wives. The next spring, the army began training under Baron Von Steuben, and Mary helped by bringing pitchers of water to the men, both to quench their thirst and to cool down the hot cannon barrels. At the Battle of Monmouth in June of that year, Mary was fulfilling her regular duties when her husband suddenly collapsed on the battlefield and had to be carried away. Without a moment’s hesitation, Mary took his place at the cannon, and for the remainder of the day she swabbed and loaded the cannon as well as any of her fellow soldiers. When the battle was won, George Washington awarded her a warrant as a non-commissioned officer, earning her the title of “Sergeant Molly.”

After the conclusion of the war, Mary and William returned home to Carlisle, where Mary gave birth to a son shortly before the death of her husband. She remarried in 1793 to John McCauley, but the marriage was not a happy one, and around 1807, McCauley disappeared. Mary continued to live in Carlisle, where she worked as a domestic servant for hire, and in 1822 she was awarded an annual pension of $40 for her earlier heroism. She passed away ten years later, and after her death she was buried in the Old Graveyard in Carlisle, where also stands a statue of “Molly Pitcher” adorned with cannons.

Key events during the life of Molly Pitcher:

Moved to Carlisle to work as a maid.
Married William Hays.
William enlisted in the Continental Army.
  Joined her husband at his winter camp in Pennsylvania.
Brought pitchers of water to the soldiers during their training.
  During the Battle of Monmouth, stepped in for her husband on the cannon.
Death of her husband.
Married John McCauley.
McCauley disappeared.
Awarded an annual pension for her bravery.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Captain Molly Pitcher  in  America First—100 Stories from Our History  by  Lawton B. Evans
The Quaker Woman  in  Story of the Thirteen Colonies  by  H. A. Guerber
Battle of Monmouth  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall

Short Biography
George Washington Leader of the Continental Army of the U.S. during the Revolutionary War, and first President.
Benedict Arnold Hero of the Revolutionary War, but tragically turned traitor. He escaped to the British before discovery.
Philip Schuyler Military leader during the American Revolutionary period. Later a statesman from New York.
Horatio Gates Leading Patriot General during the Revolutionary war. Credited with winning the Battle of Saratoga.
Robert Morris American Patriot who helped financed the Revolutionary war. Served as superindendent of finance and controller of the Navy.