There are several versions of the Molly Pitcher story, but one of the most prominent ones involves a woman from New Jersey, Mary Ludwig Hays. She was born on Oct. 13, 1744 in Trenton.

Her husband, William Hays, joined the Continental Army and was at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, for the winter of 1777 where Mary joined him as he trained as an artilleryman. It was on the training fields where she first served as a water carrier, ferrying water for the soldiers not only to drink, but to keep the equipment clean. However, it was in June of 1778 at the Battle of Monmouth in Freehold that the legend of Molly Pitcher was born.

It was a hot day and as the battle between the Continental Army and the British raged on, Mary would bring the soldiers water from a cool spring near the battlefield. The fighting men would call out “Molly Pitcher!” when they needed water, again, not just for drinking but of cleaning and cooling their artillery. During the pitched battle, her husband, who was manning a cannon, collapsed, either from a wound or heat exhaustion. With her husband incapacitated, the story has it that Mary took his place, operating the cannon for the remainder of the battle until the colonists prevailed.

According to one telling of the story, General George Washington, impressed with her heroism in battle, nicknamed her “Sergeant Molly.” There is a monument to her at the Monmouth Battlefield site and, among other commemorations, has a service area on the Turnpike named for her.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.

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