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Stories of New Jersey
Molly Pitcher
(Period, 1778.)

By Frank R. Stockton

Originally published in 1896
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

AT the battle of Monmouth, where Lord Stirling so distinguished himself for the management of the artillery, another person of an entirely different station in life, of different nationality, and even different sex, played a very notable part in the working of the American cannon on that eventful day.

This was a young Irishwoman, wife of an artillery-man. She was of a different disposition from ordinary women, who are glad enough to hide themselves in places of safety, if there is any fighting going on in their neighborhood. Molly was born with the soul of a soldier, and, although she did not belong to the army, she much preferred going to war to staying at home and attending to domestic affairs. She was in the habit of following her husband on his various marches, and on the day of the Monmouth battle she was with him on the field.

The day was very hot. The rays of the sun came down with such force that many of the soldiers were taken sick and some died ; and the constant discharges of musketry and artillery did not make the air any cooler. Molly devoted herself to keeping her husband as comfortable as possible, and she made frequent trips to a spring not far away to bring him water; and on this account he was one- of the freshest and coolest artillerymen on the ground. In fact, there was no man belonging to the battery who was able to manage one of these great guns better than Pitcher.

Returning from one of her trips to the spring, Molly had almost reached the place where her husband was stationed, when a bullet from the enemy struck the poor man and stretched him dead, so that Molly had no sooner caught sight of her husband than she saw him fall. She ran to the gun, but scarcely had reached it before she heard one of the officers order the cannon to be wheeled back out of the way, saying that there was no one there who could serve it as it had been served.

Now Molly's eyes flashed fire. One might have thought that she would have been prostrated with grief at the loss of her husband, but, as we have said, she had within her the soul of a soldier. She had seen her husband, who was the same to her as a comrade, fall, and she was filled with an intense desire to avenge his death. She cried out to the officer not to send the gun away, but to let her serve it; and, scarcely waiting to hear what he would say, she sprang to the cannon, and began to load it and fire it. She had so often attended her husband, and even helped him in his work, that she knew all about this sort of thing, and her gun was managed well and rapidly.

It might be supposed that it would be a very strange thing to she a woman on the battlefield firing a cannon; but even if the enemy had watched Molly with a spyglass, they would not have noticed anything to excite their surprise. She wore an ordinary skirt, like other women of the time; but over this was an artilleryman's coat, and on her head was a cocked hat with some jaunty feathers stuck in it, so that she looked almost as much like a man as the rest of the soldiers of the battery.

During the rest of the battle, Molly bravely served her gun; and if she did as much execution in the ranks of the Redcoats as she wanted to do, the loss in the regiments in front of her must have been very great. Of course, all the men in the battery knew Molly Pitcher, and they watched her with the greatest interest and admiration. She would not allow any one to take her place, but kept on loading and firing until the work of the day was done. Then the officers and men crowded about her with congratulations and praise.


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