It is said that behind every great man, there is a woman shaking her head. Though the sarcasm may be false, many great men in history were aided by their female companions. Never was this a more poignant topic than during the Revolutionary War. In the coming weeks, a series of “Women of the Revolution” blogs will bring the heroic stories of the sometimes little known game changers of our past.
Margaret Cochran Corbin is the first up to bat. Her early years prepared her for harsh times as she was orphaned at five years old and raised by relatives. In 1772, as the American campaign for freedom started brewing, she married John Corbin. Once the Revolution took hold, John joined the Continental Army and Margaret followed. Although it was a typical practice for many women to become camp followers, she went above and beyond the call of womanly duty.
When stationed at Fort Washington, NY in the winter of 1776, the troops were attacked by British and Hessian troops. John Corbin was struck down while doing his artillery duties and Margaret stepped in to continue her husbands’ work loading and firing the cannon by herself. She was badly injured in this show of heroics and her fellow soldiers moved her to the rear of the field. The fort was overrun and taken by the British. Thankfully, the wounded Americans were paroled and ferried across the river to Fort Lee then to Philadelphia.
Margaret Corbin loads the cannon to victory!
Margaret never fully recovered and had to do without out the use of her left arm, but for her troubles, the Continental Congress granted her a pension in 1779. She was the first woman to ever receive a pension for her active duty in the war effort. She passed away near West Point, NY just shy of her 50th birthday. She now resides with other soldiers behind the Old Cadet Chapel at West Point near a monument to honor her bravery. The bronze plaque reads, "the first American woman to take a soldier's part in the War for Liberty"
A state and revolutionary hero!
Margaret Corbin's plaque.