Tag Archives: George Washington

Molly Pitcher: Revolutionary Hero

Standard

The women of '76: "Molly Pitcher" th...

The women of ’76: “Molly Pitcher” the heroine of Monmouth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During the Revolutionary War, it was not just the men who went to war against the British soldiers, thousands of women also took an active role in the war. It was common for wives of the officers and soldiers to follow their husbands to military camps to cook, sew, do laundry, and take care of the wounded and sick soldiers. Though the women also had to deal with the extreme weather conditions and died from diseases, they received less pay and less food than the men. Then there were the women who stayed at home, taking care of the farm and children, not knowing if their husbands were still alive. Then there is Molly Pitcher, a nickname for the women who provided water to the soldiers and to cool the cannons down. Two Molly Pitchers, Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley and Margaret Cochran Corbin, participated in battle by manning the cannons.

Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley was born in 1754 near Trenton, New Jersey. She married a barber named William Hays in 1769. When the Revolutionary War broke out, he enlisted in Proctor’s 4th Pennsylvania Artillery and Mary followed him to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Mary became a Molly Pitcher, bringing water to the troops. During the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778, Mary was bringing her husband water to cool the cannon when her husband was wounded. Seeing her husband was wounded, Mary loaded the cannon herself. When she was almost hit by a cannon ball that sped between her legs and ripped her dress, she said “Well, that could have been worse.” The legend is that General George Washington heard of her actions and made her a non-commissioned officer in the army. From then on, she called herself Sergeant Molly. On February 21, 1822, Pennsylvania awarded her an annual pension of $40 for her service.

Margaret Cochran Corbin was born November 12, 1751. When her and her brother were visiting their uncle, Indians attacked their home, killing their father and kidnapping their mother. In 1772, she married John Corbin. When war broke out, she followed her husband to war. During the Battle of Fort Washington on November 16, 1776, Margaret followed her husband to battle. When she was bringing her husband water for the canon (she was also a Molly Pitcher), she saw her husband’s partner die. She helped her husband load the cannon, and when he was killed, she took over firing the cannon by herself. Though the British ended up winning, her cannon was the last one to stop firing. She was found in critical condition with 3 musket ball injuries: the jaw, chest, and left arm. She would be unable to use her left arm for the rest of her life. On June 26, 1776, the State of Pennsylvania gave her $30.00 to help with her expenses. On July 6, 1779, the Continental Congress awarded her with a lifelong pension (though it was half the amount a man would receive.) She became the first American women to receive a pension. To help with her disability, General Henry Knox and Quartermaster William Price helped get her someone to help her bathe and dress. She died on January 16, 1800. In 1926, her remains were discovered and she was buried at West Point with full military honors, becoming the only Revolutionary War veteran buried this way.

During the Revolutionary War, women either stayed at home to take care of the household or they followed their husbands to camp to take care of the soldiers. Then there were a few women who unexpectedly saw combat, but demonstrated bravery on the battlefield. When Molly Pitcher’s husband was unable to fire the cannon, she took over and continued firing, knowing full well that she was risking her life. The two women became heroes, but their pensions were still less than men even though they saw action. The male soldiers had enlisted themselves in the army and were trained for months for combat, and these women were only there to take care of their husbands and yet, they risked their lives to protect the soldiers. The Molly Pitchers show how women are able to rise up to the occasion when their country needs them. 

Sources:

Margaret Cochran Corbin

Molly Pitcher. biography

Molly Pitcher

 

Advertisements

Sybil Ludington: Female Paul Revere

Standard

 

Statue of Sybil Ludington on Gleneida Avenue i...

Statue of Sybil Ludington on Gleneida Avenue in Carmel, New York by Anna Hyatt Huntington (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Majority of American children grow up knowing about Paul Revere due to the poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. “One if by land, and two if by sea; And I on the opposite shore will be, Ready to ride and spread the alarm,” says the poem, describing how Revere (plus other riders) warned the American colonists that the British soldiers were getting ready to attack. But do children know who Sybil Ludington is? Like Revere, Ludington alerted the colonists about the British attacks. Unlike Revere, she traveled 40 miles, fought a highway man, rode through pouring rain, and she was only 16.

Sybil Ludington was born in April 1761 in Fredericksburg (now Ludingtonville section of the town of Kent, New York). Her father was Colonel Henry Ludington who commanded the 7th Regiment of the Dutchess County Militia during the Revolutionary War. On April 25, 1777, a 2,000 men British force commanded by General William Tyron landed at Fairfield, Connecticut. The soldiers moved to Danbury to search for Continental Army supplies and began setting storehouses and homes on fire. Messengers were sent from Danbury to find reinforcements.

At 9 p.m. that night, Sybil was helping her eleven siblings to bed when there was a loud knock  at the door. The messenger from Danbury relayed the message that the Danbury residents needed help. The messenger was exhausted and did not know the land, so Sybil volunteered to gather the men. Sybil took her hose, Star, and rode into the rainy night, shouting “The British are burning Danbury…muster at Ludington’s!”  Sybil had to avoid the British soldiers and British loyalists and when she encountered a highwayman, she used a giant stick to defend herself. Sybil traveled over 40 miles (twice the length of Paul Revere) before returning home, arriving around dawn the next day. When she returned home, 400 soldiers were gathered at her father’s war. Though the soldiers arrived too late to save Danbury, the soldiers helped drive the British back to the East Coast. Sybil was congratulated by her friends, neighbors, and even General George Washington.

The popularity of Sybil has grown over the last 100 years; there is now a poem about her, statues of her in Putnam County, and she appeared on a stamp in 1975. Known as the Female Paul Revere, Sybil’s journey was actually much harder than Revere’s due to the fact that it was longer, it was raining, and she was a teenage girl with just a riding stick for protection. And while Revere was captured, Sybil was able to avoid capture. Sybil shows how women are just as brave and patriotic as men are.

Sources:

Sybil Ludington

Sybil Ludington (1761-1839)

Confirmation Readings

Betsy Ross: A Symbol of the Revolutionary Woman

Standard

 

Betsy Ross presenting the first American flag ...

Betsy Ross presenting the first American flag to George Washington, by Edward Percy Moran. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beginning in Kindergarten, American children are taught about how General George Washington asked Betsy Ross to design the first American flag. It was the summer of 1776 and the thirteen colonies had just declared independence from Great Britain so the country needed a flag. Because of this story, Betsy is the most famous woman during the Revolutionary War. Though the legend was started by her grandson fifty years after Betsy died and historians question its authenticity, Betsy represents all the American women who lived during the Revolutionary War.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Griscom was born on January 1, 1752 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Betsy was born to Quaker parents, but was shunned after falling in love with John Ross, a fellow upholster apprentice. After eloping, the couple started their own upholstery shop until John joined the militia. While John was stationed on Philadelphia’s waterfront, gunpowder exploded and killed him. Betsy was now all alone, forced to work days and nights repairing uniforms, making tents, and making blankets for the Continental Army.

The legend says that in the summer of 1776, General George Washington visited Betsy to ask her to design a flag for the new nation. The Continental Congress had come up with a basic design, but Betsy finalized the design by replacing the six-shape stars with five-shape stars because the cloth could be folded and cut out with a single snip. Though there is no proof she created the first flag, there is proof that she was among one of the first women to do so since a receipt shows that the Pennsylvania State Navy Board paid her 15 pounds to sew flags for ships.

In June 1777, Betsy married Joseph Ashburn. In 1780, he was apprehended by the British in 1782 while working as a privateer in the West Indies and died in a British Prison. While her husband was missing, Betsy had to deal with the death of her firstborn daughter right after her second daughter was born. John Claypoole, an old friend, delivered the message of her husband’s death to Ross. The two ended up marrying and having five daughters. Over the next few decades, Betsy  made flags and banners for the nation until her poor eye sight prevented her from sewing. Betsy died on January 20, 1836 at the age of 84.

Though there is no proof that Betsy created the first American Flag (there is also no proof that she didn’t create the first flag) Betsy is still an important part of American history. Betsy demonstrates how hard women had to work to support their family while taking care of the house and raising children. Betsy, like other women during war, lost loved ones due to war but she remained strong and continued to work to support herself and her family. Betsy shows how women have always played a role in American History and will always be there to support the United States during times of war.

Sources:

Betty Ross

Betsy Ross. biography

Significance of Washington crossing the Delaware River

Standard

Emanuel Leutze's depiction of Washington's att...

Emanuel Leutze’s depiction of Washington’s attack on the Hessians at Trenton on December 25, 1776, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While majority of Americans spend Christmas Day opening presents around a Christmas tree, there was a time when a group of men spent Christmas Day preparing for battle. Hundreds of years ago, the colonists were too busy fighting for independence from Great Britain to celebrate Christmas. It was on Christmas night when George Washington led his men across the Delaware River, a moment that would forever be immortalize since it was one of the turning points of the war. By the end of November 1776, morale amongst the army was low due to the colonists losing several battles that resulted in losing New York to the British. As the end of the year approached so did many enlistments. Washington was worried that the colonists would forget about the cause and return home, further depleting the number of colonists in the army.

On December 19, Thomas Paine published the pamphlet “Common Sense” stating “These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” Washington ordered that this be read out loud to his army in order to remind them that even though times were currently hard, they were fighting for freedom. The next day, General Horatio Gates and General John Sullivan arrived to camp while more militia arrived from New Jersey and Pennsylvania; Washington now had enough men to plan one more attack before the year was over.

Capture of the Hessians at Trenton, by John Tr...

Capture of the Hessians at Trenton, by John Trumbull (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Washington was planning to attack the Hessians in nearby Trenton, New Jersey. The Hessians were Prussian soldiers hired by the British Army to fight in the American Revolutionary War. The term “Hessians” comes from the fact that majority of the Prussian solders were from Hesse-Kassel. About 30,000 Prussians served during the American Revolutionary War. The surprise attack was kept secret from the American army and on Christmas morning, Washington ordered that every man, including the musicians, carry a loaded musket and march toward the river. As the men approached the river a storm began – first it rained, which then turned to sleet, and then it finally began to snow. Washington hoped to begin crossing the river at sunset but due to the weather, they did not begin to cross until 90 minutes after the sunset. Washington put Chief of Artillery Henry Knox in charge of the crossing which involved horses, carriages, canons, supplies, and 2,400 soldiers crossing the icy river in boats. Famous men that crossed the river included future President James Monroe, future Justice of the United States John Marshall, and future Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton. The soldiers had to dodge giant floating icebergs and avoid falling into the freezing water. After the crossing was finished at 3 am on December 26, the army was split into two groups; one group was led by Washington and General Nathanael Greene and the other was led by General Sullivan. While the Hessians were waking up, and recovering from their Christmas celebration, the American army attacked. The battle only lasted 90 minutes and while 4 Americans were killed, 22 Hessians were also killed and 1,000 were taken prisoners. In the next few weeks, Washington and his army won two more battles: the Second Battle of Trenton and Princeton.

The Crossing of the Delaware did not mean much to the colonists at the moment since little damage was done to the British Army in the next few battles resulted from the crossing, but if Washington had failed to cross, then Trenton would have remained under Hessians’ control. The Second Battle of Trenton and the Princeton Battle never would have happened, resulting in morale remaining low among the soldiers and an increasing number of army men returning home. As British General Cornwallis said at the end of the war, Washington won his highest laurels along the banks of the Delaware.