Margaret Corbin’s story is often associated with the folklore of “Molly Pitcher.” We know from historical military records of Corbin’s heroic actions, along with other women who fought in the Revolutionary War, such as Deborah Sampson and Mary Ludwig Hays. However, in the years following the war, the persona of patriotic cannoneer “Molly Pitcher” was likely created from various tales of lore about several different women of the time period.
For centuries, many people have revered “Molly Pitcher” as the definitive Revolutionary War heroine, when in fact she is likely a composite character with a fictional moniker, much like “Rosie the Riveter” from WWII. Many historians consider “Molly Pitcher” to be most closely associated with Mary Ludwig Hays who was a camp follower who took up her husband’s cannon when he was injured during the Battle of Monmouth. With this story having many similarities to Margaret Corbin’s story–in addition to her nickname of “Captain Molly”–it is no surprise that she too was often called “Molly Pitcher.” Unfortunately, the moniker has led to much confusion causing the historical facts about these women’s contributions to become comingled and mythologized.
Historians cite that potentially tens of thousands of women were involved in active combat during the Revolutionary War. While we may not ever know all of their real names, we honor the many individual contributions these women made in the fight for our nation’s independence.
Further reading on "Molly Pitcher" folklore:
“Molly Pitcher and Captain Molly” Ray Raphael. Journal of the American Revolution (website). May 8, 2013.
“Will the Real Molly Pitcher Please Stand Up?” Emily J. Teipe. Prologue Magazine (National Archives). Summer 1999, Vol. 31, No. 2
“Will the real Molly please stand up: ’Captain Molly’ and ‘Molly Pitcher’,” Army Digest. March 1969.
“Molly Pitcher of Monmouth County, New Jersey and Captain Molly of Fort Washington, New York,” William Davison Perrine. 1937
“The Battle of Monmouth,” William Stryker. Edited by William Starr Myers. Princeton University Press. 1927