Mary Ludwig Hayes McCauly was born on October 13, 1744, in a town near Trenton, New Jersey. She later moved to Pennsylvania. When she was only a young teenager, she married William Hayes, a barber. Hayes would join the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Mary’s story may or may not be partly folklore. Some historians believe her story is the composite of several “Molly’s” who helped on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War.
Mary McCauly is best known today for the role that she played in the 1778 Battle of Monmouth (N.J.) as a Continental Army camp follower and original “Molly Pitcher”. Like many women of the day she carried pitchers of waters for thirsty soldiers or for their smoldering cannons. She probably earned the nickname from soldiers on the battlefield shouting “Molly! Pitcher!” Molly was a common nickname for women named Mary.
Mary earned her legendary status during the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse. After her husband collapsed from the 100-degree heat, or from being wounded, Mary bravely took over as the gunner and continued to fire the cannon herself throughout the scorching day. According to legend, a British cannonball flew between her legs and tore her skirt, to which she responded, “well, that could have been worse.”
After the Revolutionary War came to a close, both William and Mary settled in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. After William Hayes’ death, Mary married Revolutionary War veteran John McCauly. In 1822, Mary Ludwig Hayes McCauly was awarded a Revolutionary War pension by the Pennsylvania State Legislature for her service at the Battle of Monmouth. “Molly Pitcher” died on January 22, 1832, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In 1876, a special marker was laid on her grave commemorating her service as “Molly Pitcher” in the Revolutionary War.