Home History: Molly Pitcher Road

Few of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s residents are native to the area, which is true for almost any military town. As the saying goes, “Home is where the Marine Corps sends you,” so despite where you are from, MCB Camp Lejeune and Onslow County are currently home. We drive these streets in our new home every day. There is a rich history at MCB Camp Lejeune and every road tells a story.

Molly Pitcher Road is named for a Revolutionary War heroine whose real name was Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley. McCauley was born Mary Ludwig in 1754. Back then, Molly was a common nickname for girls named Mary. She was born from modest beginnings, but the place of her birth is heavily disputed; some claim she was born in New Jersey, while others claim she was born in Pennsylvania. In her early twenties, she married a barber named William Hays, who soon enlisted in the 4th Pennsylvania Artillery and served in the Continental Army.

Like many soldiers’ wives, Mary followed her husband during the war, performing tasks like washing clothes and sheets, and bringing the men water. This may have been where the name Pitcher came from, as it referred to the buckets of water the women would carry. When William was wounded at the Battle of Monmouth, Mary took his place on the artillery cannon and became the second woman to defend an American battlefield. She had watched her husband drill in Valley Forge and understood the basics of artillery.

Soldier and diarist Joseph Plumb Martin documented Hays McCauley’s valor during the battle. Afterwards, George Washington himself asked about the brave woman working with the artillery crew, and promoted her to a non-commissioned officer. Mary would not serve directly in battle again as it was not permitted at the time, but earned the nickname of Sergeant Molly, and used it for the rest of her life.

Hays McCauley’s first husband died in 1786. Though he left her a decent amount of money, her second husband John McCauley squandered it all and then left her impoverished. She died in 1832 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Above her grave stands a cannon and statue commemorating the valor of the woman whose valor helped birth a nation.