Molly Pitcher

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Mary Hays (Ludwig)

Also Known As: "McCauley", "Molly Pitcher"
Birthdate: (88)
Birthplace: Trenton, Mercer County, New Jersey, United States
Death: circa 1832 (80-96)
Carlisle, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Hans Georg Ludwig and Maria Margaretha Ludwig
Wife of William Hays and John McCauley
Mother of Johanes Hays and John Hay
Sister of Johann Martin Ludwig

Occupation: Soldier, Servant
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Molly Pitcher

Molly Pitcher was a nickname given to a woman said to have fought in the American Battle of Monmouth, who is generally believed to have been Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley. Since various Molly Pitcher tales grew in the telling, many historians regard Molly Pitcher as folklore rather than history, or suggest that Molly Pitcher may be a composite image inspired by the actions of a number of real women. The name itself may have originated as a nickname given to women who carried water to men on the battlefield during the war. Army base, Fort Bragg holds an annual event called "Molly Pitcher Day" showcasing weapon systems for family members, Airborne Operations, and Field Artillery.

Mary Ludwig was born to a German family in Pennsylvania. There is some dispute over her actual birth date. A marker in the cemetery where she is buried lists her birth date as October 13, 1744.[4] Mary had a moderate sized family including Mary and her older brother Johann Martin, and their parents, Maria Margaretha and Hans Georg Ludwick, who was a butcher. It is likely that she never attended school or learned to read, as education was not considered necessary for young girls during this time.[5]

In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Mary met William Hays, a barber. They were married in 1769. It has often been mistakenly reported that Mary's first husband was named John. However, Continental Army records show that William Hays was an artilleryman at the Battle of Monmouth in 1778.[6] (Mary's next husband was named John McCauley). On July 12, 1774, in a meeting in the Presbyterian Church in Carlisle, Dr. William Irvine organized a town boycott of British goods as a protest of the British Tea Act. Willy Hays' name appears on a list of people who were charged with enforcing the boycott.

It is likely that Mary Hays earned her famous nickname, Molly Pitcher, during this time. During training, artillery and infantry soldiers would shout "Molly! Pitcher!" whenever they needed Mary to bring water.

NOTE: There is a service area on the New Jersey Turnpike named for Molly Pitcher:

Molly Pitcher Travel Plaza & Information Center, New Jersey Turnpike South, Mile Marker 71.9 South, Cranbury, New Jersey, 08512. Telephone: (609) 655-1610. The service area features Sunoco Gasoline, and fast food places including Dick Clark's AB Grill, Roy Rogers, Nathan's Hot Dogs, Starbuck's, Arthur Treachers, Cinnabon, and Freshens Smoothies and Frozen Treats. It is located between interchanges 8 and 8-A.

There are also two places on the battlefield of the Battle of Monmouth, June 1778, that are currently marked as the "Molly Pitcher Spring" which is where Mary Hays spent much of the early day carrying water to soldiers and artillerymen, often under heavy fire from British Troops. The weather was hot, over 100 degrees F. Sometime during the battle, William Hays collapsed, either wounded or suffering from heat exhaustion. It has often been reported that Hays was killed in the battle, but it is known that he survived.

According to Wikipedia, as her husband was carried off the battlefield, 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. At one point a British musket ball or cannonball flew between her legs and tore off the bottom of her skirt. Mary supposedly said something to the effect of, "Well, that could have been worse," and went back to loading the cannon.

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Molly Pitcher's Timeline

Trenton, Mercer County, New Jersey, United States
Age 42
Age 88
Carlisle, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, United States