Margaret Corbin and her husband, John Corbin, fought in the American Revolutionary War, along with 600 American soldiers against Hessian troops under British command. Their group only possessed two cannons, and Margaret and John operated one of of them!
Margaret’s job was to swab out the cannon between firings and help John load its cannon ball.
Unfortunately, John was killed by enemy fire but Margaret, being the true soldier she was, immediately took over his place at the cannon until she, too, was severely wounded. (She survived, but lost complete use of one arm.)
The good news? Margaret was the first woman ever to be awarded a military pension!
The bad news? It wasn’t nearly what a man would receive. She was given disability pay for the rest of her life (but it was only half of what a man would receive), a little bit of clothing once a year, and a monthly liquor ration.
Margaret started to fight back when she realized her liquor rations could not be collected. (Could you blame her? If my arm was almost blasted off I’d want some whiskey, too!)
The reason should couldn’t collect? Issuing alcohol to women was illegal during this time. Only after a lengthy battle did Margaret receive the 257 gills of whiskey that were owed to her.
Margaret (or “Captain Molly” as she preferred to be addressed as) carried on the rest of her life fishing off the docks (to supplement her small pension) and was said to have trouble getting along with women in the town she lived in. The women complained about her being unclean and unfriendly (she couldn’t bath herself because of her injuries and I’m assuming her pension didn’t cover someone to aid in bathing her often, and she also wore the same Army coat daily, since they only issued her clothing once a year).
Margaret socialized primarily with soldiers, smoking, drinking and swapping war stories.
The Philadelphia Society of Women was planning a monument to honor Corbin. However, when they met her and saw she was living in poverty and was not prim and proper as they would have liked, they canceled the creation of it. (It is really no wonder Captain Molly was not friendly to those old biddies…)
In 1926 (150 years after her death!) Captain Molly’s remains were rediscovered and identified. She was reburied with honors by the D.A.R. at West Point cemetery!
So let us toast to Captain Molly (with whiskey, of course)! For not letting social pressure change her, and being a fighter through and through!