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Lawton B. Evans

Captain Molly Pitcher

T HE British had left Philadelphia, and were in full retreat across Jersey on their way to New York. Washington was right behind them, the front ranks of the American Army fighting the rear ranks of the British. It was a long, running fight. At last they came to Monmouth, and there a battle was begun. General Charles Lee, in charge of the American forces, acted so badly that the issue of the fight was long in doubt.

When Washington saw the disorder of the troops, he was angry, and rebuked General Lee so harshly that the officer turned as white as a sheet. He was afterwards tried by court-martial and dismissed.

Then Washington took charge himself. Orders flew thick and fast. Aids scurried in every direction, putting cannon in position, and getting ready for the renewed attack which was sure to come. Soon the guns roared, the heat of battle became terrible, and smoke covered the entire field; the dust and dirt were blinding. The men were suffering for lack of water. It was then that Molly Pitcher, the wife of one of the gunners, called out, "Go on with the firing. I will fetch water from the spring."

The men waved their hands to her; she ran down the hill, drew water in a canteen, and carried it back and forth to the soldiers. She passed from cannon to cannon, while the men drank and kept on with their deadly work.

How many times she did this no one knew, but, as she was coming once with her supply of water, a shot from the enemy struck her husband in the breast, and he fell beside his smoking cannon. Molly ran to him, and knelt down by him; one look was enough to convince her that he was dead.

As she sat there in speechless grief, with the dead man's head in her lap, an officer rode up, and said to some soldiers, "Take this cannon to the rear; there is now no one to serve it."

When Molly heard this, she sprang to her feet, and cried out, "Stop! That cannon shall not leave this field for lack of some one to serve it. Since they have killed my poor husband, I will take his place, and avenge his death."

With that, she seized the rammer from the hands of her dead husband, sprang to the muzzle of the piece, rammed home the powder, and stepped back, saying, "Ready!" Then the cannon blazed again, carrying death and dismay to the ranks of the enemy.

Molly Pitcher stood at her post as long as the battle lasted. Black with smoke, covered with dirt and dust, blinded by the heat, she did the work of a man. She never flinched for a moment, nor did she stop until the order came to cease firing.

Then she sat down on the ground by the side of her poor dead husband, took his head again in her lap, and gave way to her tears and grief.

Washington had seen her with her cannon during the battle. He admired her courage and patriotism, and sent for her to come to headquarters. He told her what a splendid deed of heroism she had done, and conferred on her an officer's commission. After that, she wore an epaulet, and everybody called her "Captain Molly."