Alison Davis Lyne's

Sequential Short Molly Pitcher

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A Story Behind the Myths; Written and Illustrated by Alison Davis Lyne




The story behind the legend of Molly Pitcher has been "uncovered" many times in the last 200+ years. It seems that even Molly's surname, Pitcher, is more a nickname for any woman who brought water to thirsty soldiers or helped out on the battle field, than an actual name.

Molly Pitcher was first identified as Margaret Cochran Corbin, who was in the Battle of Fort Washington on 11/16/76. She helped "man" a cannon after her husband was wounded, and she later suffered a shoulder wound herself. She was noted in the quarter master records of 1784-1790 as Capt. Molly, and awarded both pay and clothes for her service. Based on this and other stories, the DAR had Margaret Corbin reburied at West Point with military honors, in 1926.

There was also a second "contender" for the Molly Pitcher title. Molly Ludwig married to William Hays who also served in the artillery, and was wounded. Both husband and wife were in the battle of Monmouth, on a hot June day in 1778

There is only one first person account of a woman attending a cannon during the battle of Monmouth, which is described by Joseph Plumb Martin in his autobiography, "A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier" ;Signet Classic, 2001 (originally published as Private Yankee Doodle in 1830). This description doesn't actually name the female involved, but it's generally assumed it was the basis for at least part of the Molly Pitcher myth.

He writes:"One little incident happened, during the heart of the cannonade, which I was eye-witness to, and which I think would be unpardonable not to mention. A woman whose husband belonged to the Artillery, and who was then attached to a piece in the engagement, attended with her husband at the piece the whole time; while in the act of reaching a cartridge and having one of her feet as far before the other as she could step, a cannon shot from the enemy passed directly between her legs without doing any other damage than carrying away all the lower part of her petticoat, --looking at it with apparent unconcern, she observed, “that it was lucky it did not pass a little higher, for in that case it might have carried away something else, and ended her and her occupation."

Joseph Plumb Martin's account shows the "everywoman" of the Revolutionary war. Ray Raphael in his Founding Myths, emphasizes the hundreds of women who did "supply and support" for the men of the Revolutionary army. Their stories need to be told, in addition to honoring just the few women that current histories have highlighted.

I began this series with inspiration from a October 1975 article in National Geographic, by Lonnele Aikman, called "Patriots in Petticoats" which had some wonderful paintings by Louis S.Glanzman. In his article, Mr. Aikman listed a dozen or so female patriots on which he'd done research, and each were accompanied by a lovely illustration by Mr. Glanzman. Both the article and the paintings featured both the "famous" and more ordinary women. Their stories helped to show more of the daily life aspects of these women, not just a single (often violent) incident of their lives. I've found that the graphic novel or sequential art format can tell this kind of story better, than just the static single "frame" of traditional illustration.

I am just beginning to explore this kind of storytelling, and I hope to tell more "tales" of these revolutionary women.

I have just recently discovered that there are other illustrator(s) working on the "historical side" of the graphic novel - sequential art side of the business. Mac McCool has a neat blog going that has intriguing hints about his graphic work in progress "Boston 1775". I'm looking forward to seeing more!

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