June 28: Molly Pitcher

Molly PitcherJune 28, 1778, The Battle of Monmouth Court House, New Jersey: Continental Army forces, led by General George Washington fight Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton’s British Army column to what essentially amounts to a draw. Clinton’s column would begin a retreat to New York under cover of night and over time the battle would be viewed as a turning point in the Revolutionary War, as the Americans were able to show that they could hold their ground against the British forces who vastly outnumbered them.

The story goes that one Mary Hays, the wife of an American soldier, was at the battle bringing fresh water from a nearby spring to soldiers and artillerymen. She gained the nickname Molly Pitcher, as soldiers would yell “Molly! Pitcher!” when they needed water (At the time, Molly was frequently used as a nickname for women named Mary). It is said that during the battle Hays’ husband collapsed and was taken away from manning his cannon. Without a pause, Mary Hays picked up her husband’s ramrod and personally swabbed and loaded the cannon until the battle’s end. According to legend, at one point a cannon ball  flew between her legs and tore off part of her skirt, at which point Hays, like a true action movie badass shrugged and said “Well, that could have been worse,” and went right back to work.

Allegedly, General Washington gave special commendation to Mary Hays for her heroics at the Battle of Monmouth and she gained the nickname “Sergeant Molly.” Hays husband survived the battle, but would die in 1786. She would later remarry, and in 1822 the state of Pennsylvania would give Mary Hays, now Mary McCauley, an annual pension of $40 for her services. She died ten years later at the age of 78 and is buried in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with a statue of “Molly Pitcher” standing near her grave site.

Conveniently, there is a wonderful drink called the Molly Pitcher. It’s a sweet but potent drink, kind of like a tougher Cosmo, and a perfect tribute to this American woman warrior. As the old advertising slogan says it’s “Strong Enough for a Man, Made for a Woman.”

Molly Pitcher

  • 1 1/2 ounces Applejack (Apple Brandy)
  • 1 ounce Triple Sec
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1 or 2 dashes of cranberry juice

Shake with ice, strain into cocktail glass and garnish with a lime wedge.

Tomorrow: A theatrical production brings down the house…by accidentally setting the place on fire.

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