Author Topic: Women's History Month 2021 - Mary Hays McCauley  (Read 125 times)

Offline Mrs. Smith

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Women's History Month 2021 - Mary Hays McCauley
« on: March 03, 2021, 10:37:04 PM »
Welcome to Project Appleseed's Women's History Month series on Revolutionary War Heroines.  All month long we'll bring you tales of ordinary women who, as it turns out, were not actually very ordinary at all.  Join us, won’t you?

There is much debate among historians regarding the true identity of the legendary Revolutionary War heroine known as Molly Pitcher. There are several women whose extraordinary bravery and fortitude stand out in the annals of American History, any one of whom could have been the basis for the legend.

One such woman is Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley.  Mary Ludwig was born to humble German immigrants, and married William Hays in her early 20s.  In 1777, William enlisted in the 4th Pennsylvania Artillery Company of the Continental Army. Mary, along with many of the other wives, followed her husband and his Company. These women were invaluable, as they helped cook, mend clothing, nurse the sick and wounded, all without drawing on the fledgling nation’s limited monetary resources.  They were also known to carry water to the soldiers on the battlefield during lulls in the fighting, and to the artillery for use in swabbing the barrels of the cannon.
On June 28, 1778, the 4th Pennsylvania was engaged at the Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey.  Legend has it that it was over 100° that day, and William Hays was assigned the task of loading cannon after every shot.  The barrels of those cannon grew hotter with each shot fired. Combined with the heat of the day, Hays was overcome with heat exhaustion and pulled behind the artillery line to recover.  With no one else available to load the cannon in his place, that piece was essentially useless. Mary took up his duties at the cannon, loading and firing it herself. We know of this incident because a private in the army later wrote about it in his diary. According to the diary entry, a cannonball shot Mary right between the legs, tearing up her petticoats—but she kept going!

Private Joseph Martin explained: “While in the act of reaching a cartridge . . . , a cannon shot from the enemy passed directly between her legs without doing any other damage than carrying away all the lower part of her petticoat. Looking at it with apparent unconcern, she observed that it was lucky it did not pass a little higher, for in that case it might have carried away something else, and continued her occupation.”

The diary entry also states that following the battle she was granted the rank of Sergeant.  A Revolutionary War poem recalls:

Molly Pitcher, she took up her gun
and rammed the charges home, Sir
And thus on Monmouth’s bloody field,
A Sergeant did become, Sir

William Hays died in 1786 from his battle wounds. Upon his passing, he left a large amount of land to Mary. Six years later Mary Hays married John McCauley. He was also a veteran of the American Revolutionary War, but it is said that he spent her inheritance then disappeared sometime after 1807. Hays lived the rest of her life in Carlisle, Pennsylvania working as a general servant and a domestic. In 1822, the Pennsylvania State Legislature awarded Hays a pension of $40 per year for her service and heroism in the war. She died on January 22, 1832 and was buried in the Carlisle Old Graveyard in Carlisle, PA. At her burial site, she is under the name “Molly McCauley,” with a cannon and a statue of “Molly Pitcher” above her tombstone.

Works Cited:
Tara Ross at www.taraross.com/post/tdih-molly-pitcher
the Cumberland County Historical Society at www.gardnerlibrary.org
Kerri Lee Alexander, National Women’s History Month Fellow www.womenshistory.org
"An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life." - Robert A. Heinlein

"A generation which ignores history has no past, and no future." - Lazarus Long

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"What we do now echoes in eternity." Marcus Aurelius

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Offline Captain

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Re: Women's History Month 2021 - Mary Hays McCauley
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2021, 11:18:52 AM »
Thanks for sharing that story. Almost as good as hearing you tell it in person at an event!  :)
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Offline JustKim

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Re: Women's History Month 2021 - Mary Hays McCauley
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2021, 06:34:20 PM »
What a great story!  There were so many courageous brave women and men.  I LOVE to hear their stories!
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Offline Mrs. Smith

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Re: Women's History Month 2021 - Mary Hays McCauley
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2021, 11:51:20 PM »
Thanks Rob and Kim!  There's something about Mary's story that speaks to me. It makes me happy to share it with others  :)
"An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life." - Robert A. Heinlein

"A generation which ignores history has no past, and no future." - Lazarus Long

"I will accept the rules that you feel are necessary for YOUR freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do." - Robert A. Heinlein

"What we do now echoes in eternity." Marcus Aurelius

"I can kill you with my brain." - River Tam

Rifleman 5/29/16
Distinguished Rifleman 06/19/19 LADYSEED
KD Rifleman 10/20/19  KD Requal 10/04/20