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Margaret Corbin - Revolutionary War Soldier

Suzanne believes women throughout history have made a difference. Her goal is to discover and celebrate women's contributions to history.


Margaret Corbin fought beside her husband during the Revolutionary War. It was not unusual for women to accompany their soldier husbands in the fields. They were called "camp followers" and would tend to cooking and laundry chores as well as nurse the injured. The legend of Molly Pitcher rises from such real life women. Margaret Corbin was a remarkable woman who was well respected by others. She took her role in the Revolutionary War to a whole new level. She was devoted to both her husband and the American Cause and did not shy away from the action.


Background -

Margaret Cochran was born near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania on November 12, 1751. Her Scot-Irish parents were farmers at the time of the United States' birth. When Margaret was only five years old, her parents were attacked in a raid on their home. Her father, Robert Cochran was killed and her mother was kidnapped never to be heard from again. Luckily Margaret and her brother were visiting an uncle who subsequently adopted and raised them. Margaret was known as being tough and rough around the edges. History makes no mention of her for the next fifteen years.

The War -

At the age of 21, Margaret married a Virginia farmer by the name of John Corbin. They lived happily in Franklin County where they worked together on the farm. About three years later, John Corbin joined the army. He enlisted in the Pennsylvania Artillery - Continental Line and was off to fight in the Revolutionary War, Margaret refused to be left behind and became a camp follower. But unlike many of the wives who stayed at the camp when there was a battle, Margaret accompanied John on the battlefield to help him. She was what was called then a half-soldier.

John Corbin's job was that of a matross. A matross was an artillery soldier who assisted the gunners with loading, firing and sponging the big guns. The matross also served as a guard for the store wagon and marched along beside it. Margaret worked by her husband's side and knew his job as well as he did.

John's division was stationed at Fort Washington in New York on November 16, 1776. This fort on Manhattan Island was very important in the war effort. While John was stationed at a pair of cannons on a hill, the British army attacked. The Americans were outnumbered and were asked to surrender. The commander of the fort, Colonel Magaw, chose not to. The Hessian soldiers made several attempts to charge the hill but were driven back by cannon fire. In the mayhem, the gunner at John's cannon was killed. John took over with Margaret at his side now serving as the matross. Then John took fire and was killed.

Margaret -

Margaret didn't hesitate. She took over the cannon and kept firing. She didn't stop until she was hit by grapeshot and fell to the ground. The Americans eventually surrendered and the Hessians took over the fort.

Later that day, Margaret was discovered by a doctor who was wandering the hill looking for survivors. She was alive but badly injured. The grapeshot had nearly torn off her left arm and had entered her jaw and her chest. She was sent on a 100 mile trip in a wagon to Philadelphia where she was treated. She recovered but her body was never the same again.

Having lost the use of her left arm, Margaret struggled to get by for many years. She became surly and drank too much. In 1779 the Board of War looked in on her and became aware of the shabby conditions in which she lived. They were impressed by her bravery in the war and her perserverence in the aftermath despite her wounds and awarded her with half the monthly pay of a Continental soldier, She was the first woman to receive a military pension from the United States. She also received $30 a month from the state of Pennsylvania. This is what the Board of War said on her behalf -

"As she had the fortitude and virtue enough to supply the place of her husband after his fall in the service of his country, and in the execution of that task received the dangerous wound under which she now labors, the board can but consider her as entitled to the same grateful return which would be made to a soldier in circumstances equally unfortunate."

Margaret lived out the rest of her life in Highland, New York. She was known for being rude and eccentric yet was still respected in the community. Because of her disability she was never well-dressed and was mostly snubbed by the ladies of New York's polite society. She didn't care. Margaret preferred to hang out with her fellow veterans. She died in 1800 at the age of 48.

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Margaret Corbin was all but forgotten about for one hundred and fifty years. Thanks to the Daughters of the American Revolution, Margaret's legacy was restored. In 1926, the DAR disinterred her remains and reburied them in a cemetery behind Old Cadet Chapel at West Point. The monument they placed there shows a bronze relief of Margaret with ramrod ready at the cannon she tended on that fateful day in 1776. She is one of only two Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Old Cadet Chapel's cemetery. Margaret finally got the recognition she deserved for her bravery.

Mollies -

The camp followers who accompanied their husbands in the field during the Revolutionary War were often referred to as "Mollies". Margaret Corbin was called Captain Molly by the other women because of her strong personality and towering height. She was the first "Molly Pitcher", the moniker that was mostly associated with Mary Ludwig Hays who manned her husband's cannon in 1778. Mary was not wounded but as a representative of the "Molly Pitcher" image was more marketable than the handicapped Margaret. Many historians suggest that Molly Pitcher may be a composite image influenced by the actions of many real life women. Either way, Margaret Corbin received the battle scars deserving of a prominent place in history. 


suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on December 12, 2012:

Glad it was helpful.

lulu34 on December 12, 2012:

this video helped me learn a lot

diamond on April 24, 2012:

im doing a project and this a really good place to look

meow48 from usa on February 29, 2012:

really liked this well written hub. thankyou for bringing history alive.

Abby 35 on February 20, 2012:

thanx 4 this research!!!

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on November 02, 2011:

LA - me too!

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on October 25, 2011:

Platinum - Thanks.

LABrashear - Me too!

LABrashear from My Perfect Place, USA on September 13, 2011:

I love history - especially when there's a rough and tough gal involved!

platinumOwl4 on August 26, 2011:

Hello suziecat7, a book on this very subject fell off the shelf in the library recently, almost knocked me out. My first thought was of you. Lo and behold you have published on the subject as I thought. Love it. Have a good one.

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on July 24, 2011:

Gordon - Women have been involved in war efforts for a very long time. Glad you could stop by.

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on July 19, 2011:

Alastar - Nice to see you here. Yes, the Scotch-Irish certainly have left their mark on America's history.

Gordon Hamilton from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on July 19, 2011:

Fascinating story, Suzanne, and very well presented. I long ago lost my sexist pig attitude to women and wars - I am well aware of what certain women are capable of and how they can advance their cause or defend their territory, often as well as any man. It sounds as though whe was quite a lady!

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on July 19, 2011:

Hi lilyfly - You're welcome - glad you enjoyed.

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on July 17, 2011:

Akirchner - It is also doubtful I'd be that brave. Thanks for stopping by and you can bake for me anytime :)

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on July 17, 2011:

The Scotch-Irish have produced so many amazing people in America's history and this is one I'd never heard of before. Well done Suzie.

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on July 15, 2011:

Dolores - yes, Margaret was a strong woman. Always nice to see you.

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on July 13, 2011:

LordUr-Ros - I hope she would. Thanks for reading.

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on July 12, 2011:

Thanks, Pras - I appreciate you stopping by.

lilyfly on July 12, 2011:

Wonderful, and to receive a stipend shows they understood her value, if underestimating it, all the same, but isn't that the way we treat all our soldiers? Wonderful start to the day... thank you for the hub... lily

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on July 11, 2011:

RTalloni - Thanks - I would be honored.

RTalloni on July 11, 2011:

How appropriate for July! Thank you for sharing this about Margaret Corbin and honoring her memory for us.

I would like to link this to my 4th of July hub if you have no objection.

Voted up.

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on July 11, 2011:

Bohemiotx - Thanks - I appreciate it.

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on July 11, 2011:

iZeko - Glad you enjoyed.

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on July 11, 2011:

What a cool gal - I'd like to think I'd be so brave except I doubt it! I'd probably ask if I could bake something for them if they'd quit fighting!! Remarkable woman and you did her proud.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on July 11, 2011:

HI, Susanne - wow, what a gal. It was great to read about the bravery of a woman. How she took over the cannon after her husband perished right in front of her...amazing.

LordUr-ros from Virginia on July 11, 2011:

Very nice! Clear to the point and rich with information. She would like this one.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on July 11, 2011:

I love the story of Margaret Corbin. She's a tough woman. Thanks for share with us. Vote it up!


Joffre Meyer from Tyler, TX on July 11, 2011:

Very good article. I'm sending this link to the local DAVA commander in East Texas.

iZeko on July 11, 2011:

Very well done! I learned something new reading this hub.

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on July 10, 2011:

Dahoglund - During the Civil War women were known to dress like men to serve. Here's a link -

Thanks for reading.

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on July 10, 2011:

Drbj - Thanks - she certainly deserved the recognition the DAR provided for her. Thanks so much for stopping by. It's always good to see you.

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on July 10, 2011:

Thanks again, WillStarr.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on July 10, 2011:

I had run across things in the past about another kind of woman in war. There were some apparently who passed themselves off as men so they could serve.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on July 10, 2011:

And Margaret Corbin finally received a wonderful tribute - this beautiful hub written by you, susie. Well done.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on July 10, 2011:

Actually, women have been tough all along when the chips are down. There are great stories of how women coped bravely throughout our history, including the pioneer days of the old west, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.

I like writing about the brave, hardy women who endured the trying times of the old west, side by side with their husbands.

This is a great Hub!

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on July 10, 2011:

Thanks, Storytellersus - glad you enjoyed. And yes women were tough in those days.

Barbara from Stepping past clutter on July 10, 2011:

This is amazing. I was not aware of women like Margaret and am happy to be informed. Life was tough for them, during the early American days- perhaps we can draw inspiration from them for these tough economic times. Thank you so much!

suziecat7 (author) from Asheville, NC on July 10, 2011:

Thanks, WillStarr. I plan on adding that photo of her grave but I've had to redo my computer and am still disorganized. I got inundated with malware and all kinds of other crap so after numerous attempts to eradicate the beasts decided a start-over was in order. Thank you so much for reading.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on July 10, 2011:

Your Hubs are always worth waiting for!

Here's a link to her gravestone:

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