Mary Ludwig was born on October 13, 1754 near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her parents had come to the colonies from Germany. At the age of 15, she became a servant to Dr. William Irvine, who later became a Brigadier General in the Continental Army and led men in the Battle of Monmouth.
Later she married John Casper Hays, a barber. John Hays enlisted in the Continental Army in 1775 and Molly often traveled with him to the battlefields. She was one of the women at Valley Forge the winter of 1778. She got the nickname "Molly Pitcher" because she would bring pitchers of cool water from nearby streams or wells to the thirsty soldiers.
Her reputation really became known after the Battle of Monmouth on June 27, 1778. As cold as it had been in Valley Forge, that was as hot as it was on this June day. She brought pitcher after pitcher of cool spring water to the exhausted and thirsty men. She took care of wounded men and carried a wounded Continental soldier to safety.
When she saw her husband fall from heat stroke, she took his place and helped fire the cannon. If she hadn't have taken over for her husband, that unit would have had to retreat which may have given the British an advantage. But her determination to fight for her country during this battle became legendary and may have even saved the Continental Army from having lost this battle.
After the Battle of Monmouth, Molly Pitcher and her husband returned to Carlise, Pennsylvania, not too far from Philadelphia. John Hays died in 1789. She later married George McCauley, but it doesn't seem that they were real happy.
When General George Washington heard about her heroic acts, he made her a noncommissioned officer and she became known as "Sergeant Molly." In 1822, the Pennsylvania legislature passed an act that gave her $40 a year for the rest of her life because of what she did during the Revolutionary War.
Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley died in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on January 22, 1821. At her graveside there is a flagstaff, a cannon and a monument honoring her as a hero.