|A romanticized painting: Molly Pitcher Stands Her Ground|
Searching for the Real Molly: However, controversy surrounds the name and the question has often been asked: "Who was the real Molly Pitcher?" Searching for the real Molly Pitcher has validity, but the name could also be a catchall nickname that really could be applied to many more untold heroines who served as camp followers.
Camp Followers: The term camp followers also has a positive and negative connotation. It is a term used to identify civilians, wives, sweethearts, mothers and the children of soldiers who followed the army during the Revolution and provided services that the army did not supply---selling goods and services---including carrying pitchers of water to soldiers, cooking, laundering, nursing, sexual services.
Cannoner Molly Pitcher may be a persona inspired by the actions of a number of real women. However, legend has it that the real Molly Pitcher is most likely a young soldier's wife named Mary Ludwig Hayes. During the American Revolutionary War, William Hayes (also known as John Hayes) enlisted as a gunner in the Continental Army. At that time it was not unusual for wives to be near their husbands in battle and assist as needed, even taking over the gun when the soldier collapsed. Pitcher followed William Hayes to New Jersey during the war's Philadelphia Campaign (1777-78) and Mary was one of a group of women, led by Martha Washington, known as camp followers, who would wash clothes and blankets, and care for sick and dying soldiers.
After the Battle: George Washington asked about a woman who was seen loading a cannon on the
Molly Pitcher has held a revered place in the patriotic lore of the American revolution and continues to be recognized in popular culture. For instance, there is the Honorable Order of Molly Pitcher bestowed by the U.S. Field Artillery Association (USFAA) to recognize women who have voluntarily contributed in a significant way to the improvement of the U.S. Field Artillery Communities. There is the Molly Pitcher Inn located in Red Bank, New Jersey, not far from the Battle of Manmouth. On 1-95 (New Jersey Turnpike) a service area is named Molly Pitcher Service Area in Cranbury Township, New Jersey. Postage stamps were issued and then, too, there are towns named after Molly Pitcher and even Mary Pitcher apartment buildings. Molly Pitcher became one of the most popular and enduring symbols of women who contributed to winning the War of Independence. An American Revolutionary heroine that inspires even today.