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Molly Pitcher: The Brave Gunner Of The Battle Of Monmouth
by [?]

Of a sudden the peaceful Pennsylvania village was stirred to its quiet center by echoes of the battle of Lexington, and no other subject was thought of or talked about. All men with a drop of red blood in their veins were roused to action, and Hays was no slacker. One morning he spoke gently to his wife, with intent to hurt her as little as possible.

“I am going, Molly,” he said; “I’ve joined the Continental army.”

Then he waited to see the effect of his words. Although he knew that his wife was patriotic, he was utterly unprepared for the response that flamed in her eager eyes as she spoke.

“God bless you!” she exclaimed; “I am proud to be a soldier’s wife. Count on me to stand by you.”

And stand by she did, letting no tears mar the last hours with him, and waving as cheerful a farewell when he left her as though he were merely going for a day’s pleasuring. From the firing of the first gun in the cause of freedom her soul had been filled with patriotic zeal, and now she rejoiced in honoring her country by cheerfully giving the man she loved to its service, although she privately echoed her wish of long ago when she had exclaimed, “Oh, how I wish I could be a soldier!”

Like a brave and sensible young woman, Molly stayed on with the Irvings, where she scrubbed and scoured and baked and brewed and spun and washed as vigorously as before, smiling proudly with no sharp retort when her friends laughingly predicted that she “had lost her pretty barber, and would never set eyes on him again.” She was too glad to have him serving his country, and too sure of his devotion, to be annoyed by any such remarks, and kept quietly on with her work as though it were her sole interest in life.

Months went by, and hot July blazed its trail of parched ground and wilted humanity. One morning, as usual, Molly hung her wash on the lines, then she took a pail and went to gather blackberries on a near-by hillside. As she came back later with a full pail, she saw a horseman, as she afterward said, “riding like lightning up to General Irving’s house.” Perhaps he had brought news from her husband, was her instant thought, and she broke into a run, for she had received no tidings from him for a long time, and was eager to know where he was and how he fared. She had been right in her instinct, the messenger had brought a letter from John Hays, and it contained great news indeed, for he wrote:

“When this reaches you, take horse with bearer, who will go with you to your father’s home. I have been to the farm and seen your parents, who wish you to be with them now. And if you are there, I shall be able to see you sometimes, as we are encamped in the vicinity.”

Molly might have objected to such a peremptory command, but the last sentence broke down any resistance she might have shown. Hastily she told Mrs. Irving of the letter and its tidings, and although that lady was more than sorry to lose Molly at such short notice, she not only made no objections to her departure, but helped her with her hurried preparations and wished her all possible good fortune. In less time than it takes to tell it, Molly had “unpegged her own clothing from the lines,” then seeing they were still wet, she made the articles into a tight bundle which she tied to the pommel, the messenger sprang into the saddle, with Molly behind him, and off they started from the house which had been Molly’s home for so long, journeying to the farm of her childhood’s memories.

Although she missed the kind-hearted Irving family who had been so good to her, it was a pleasure to be with her parents again, and Molly put on her rough farm garments once more, and early and late was out among the cattle, or working in the fields. And she had a joyful surprise when her husband paid her a flying visit a few days later. After that, he came quite frequently, though always unexpectedly, and if proof was wanting that she was the kind of a wife that John Hays was proud to have his fellow-soldiers see, it lies in the fact that he allowed Molly to visit him in camp more than once. She saw him at Trenton, and at Princeton, before the Continental army routed the British there, on January 3, 1777.