At the base of the Monmouth Battle Monument erected in 1884 in front of the courthouse in Freehold, the familiar image of Old Tennent Church is visible in the upper left of this bas relief. Molly Pitcher may not have been quite this close to our church as she worked her cannon, but the church was certainly in the midst of the battle. Rev. Symmes tells Molly's story:
One of the thrilling stories about the Battle is that of Molly Pitcher called the “heroine of Monmouth.” Her maiden name was Mary Ludwig, of German descent, born 1754 in New Jersey on a farm situated between Princeton and Trenton, and married John Hays, of Carlisle Pa., who joined the Continental army, and Mary came back home to live with her father. As the army came across New Jersey she visited her husband and was with him on the Sunday of the Battle. During the Battle she aided her husband and the gunners in Gen. Knox’s artillery by carrying water in the cannon’s bucket for her husband’s cannon and for the thirsty men, who in pleasantry called her ‘‘Molly Pitcher.’’ Her husband, overcome with fatigue and heat dropped down by the cannon, when his wife jumped forward and helped to ‘‘work the gun.’’ A bas-relief on the monument gives this scene showing her as ‘‘an ideal woman of great muscular power. Her (exhausted) husband is at her feet, and Gen. Knox is seen in the background directing his artillery line. A wounded soldier uses his right hand instead of left in thumbing the vent. This, it is readily seen, improves the composition of the picture: The Old Tennent Church, still standing as a memorial of the battle, is seen on the extreme left of the relief.’’ Molly soon nursed her husband to his usual strength after the battle. Gens. Washington, Greene, and Lafayette complimented her. Congress bestowed on her an annuity of $40. After the death of her first husband she married a man by the name of McCauley. She died Jan. 1833, and was buried at Carlisle, Pa. Years afterwards on July 4, 1876 the citizens of Cumberland Co., Pa. placed a handsome Italian marble stone over her grave. She was not a coarse camp-follower, as has sometimes been said, but a robust, industrious, kind-hearted woman, faithful as a wife and mother. Mrs. Isabella (Crater) MeGeorge has written a fine sketch of this subject in the American Monthly Magazine of Nov. 1900.
Rev. Frank R. Symmes, History of the Old Tennent Church (second edition), Cranbury, NJ: George W. Burroughs, Printer, 1904, pp 102-103
Note: Rev. Symmes told the version of Molly Pitcher’s story popular at the turn of the twentieth century. As with anyone famous who lived so long ago, there are interesting questions concerning Molly that are explored by Gary D. Saretzky in the Monmouth County Archives.