Since various “Molly Pitcher” tales grew in the telling, some historians regard Molly Pitcher as folklore rather than history, while others suggest it may be a compositeimage inspired by the actions of a number of real women who carried water to men on the battlefield during the war. However, historical records and eye witness accounts identify two women by name whose battlefield bravery marks them as genuine Molly Pitchers. They were Mary Ludwig Hays and Margaret Cochran Corbin.
Mary Ludwig, born in 1754, was the daughter of a New Jersey dairy farmer. At the age of 13, she went to work as a domestic servant and that same year married a barber by the name of William Hays. When the Revolutionary War began, William enlisted in the Pennsylvania Artillery and became a gunner. Like hundreds of other wives of enlisted men, Mary followed her husband into battle and contributed actively by rendering such valuable services as laundering and nursing.
In early December 1777 as winter began to set in, General George Washington pulled his troops from White March – the site of the Continental Army’s last battle – to a more secure winter encampment at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, approximately 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Likes thousands of others, Mary and William struggled through the bitter winter at Valley Forge where starvation, disease, malnutrition, and exposure killed nearly 2,500 American soldiers by the end of February 1778. At the end of winter and the beginning of summer, Washington moved his forces to New Jersey on June 18, 1778 to begin a new offensive against the British.
Ten days later, at the New Jersey Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778, Mary Hays continuously moved around the battlefield bringing water to soldiers and artillerymen, often under heavy fire from British troops. Hours before the battle started, she found a spring to serve as her water supply. Two places on the battlefield are currently marked as the “Molly Pitcher Spring.”
The weather was hot, over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Sometime during the battle, William Hays collapsed, either wounded or suffering from heat exhaustion. As her husband was carried off the battlefield, Mary Hays took his place at the cannon. For the rest of the day, in the heat of battle, Mary continued to “swab and load” the cannon using her husband’s ramrod. At one point, a British musket ball or cannonball flew between her legs and tore off the bottom of her skirt. Mary supposedly said something to the effect of, “Well, that could have been worse,” and went back to loading the cannon.
Joseph Plumb Martin recalls this incident in his memoirs, writing that at the Battle of Monmouth, “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 continued her occupation.”
The battle was seen as a major victory for the Continental Army.
After the battle, General Washington supposedly asked about the woman whom he had seen loading a cannon on the battlefield. In commemoration of her courage, he issued Mary Hays a warrant as a non-commissioned officer. Afterwards, she was known as “Sergeant Molly,” a nickname that she used for the rest of her life.
At the close of the war, William and Mary Hays returned to Pennsylvania. They settled in Carlisle where Mary went back to work as a domestic as well as a house cleaner, or “charwoman,” in the State House in Carlisle.
After the death of William, Mary remarried another Revolutionary War veteran by the name of John McCauley. She was awarded a pension in 1822 by the Pennsylvania State Legislature.
Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, the heroine of the Battle of Monmouth Court House, died in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on January 22, 1832 at the age of 78. A marker noting her exemplary service was placed on her grave on the anniversary of the War in 1876.
The story of Margaret Cochran Corbin bears similarities to the story of Mary Ludwig Hays.
Margaret Cochran was born in West Pennsylvania on November 12, 1751. Her parents were Robert Cochran, a Scots-Irish immigrant, and his wife, Sarah. In 1756, when Margaret was five years old, her parents were attacked by Native Americans. Her father was killed, and her mother was kidnapped, never to be seen again. Because Margaret and her brother, John, were not at home, they escaped the deadly raid. Margaret went to live with her uncle for the rest of her childhood. In 1772, at the age of 21, Margaret married a Virginia farmer named John Corbin.
When the American Revolutionary War began John enlisted in the First Company of Pennsylvania Artillery loading and firing cannons. As was common at the time for wives of soldiers, Margaret accompanied John during his enlistment. She joined many other women in cooking, washing, and caring for the wounded soldiers and during battles, bringing water to cool the over-heated cannons.
When General Washington moved the bulk of his army north, he left a small garrison of 2,800 American soldiers behind to defend Fort Washington in northern Manhattan Island, New York. John’s cannon battery was among them.
On November 12, 1776, nine thousand Hessian troops under British command attacked Fort Washington. John was in charge of firing one of two small cannons sitting at the top of a ridge, today known as Fort Tryon Park. During the assault by the Hessians, John was killed, leaving his cannon unmanned. Margaret had been with her husband on the battlefield the entire time, and, after witnessing his death, she immediately took his place at the cannon, continuing to fire until her arm was almost severed and her breast was lacerated by grapeshot.
The British ultimately won the Battle of Fort Washington, resulting in the surrender of Margaret and her comrades and the taking of the last American position in New York City. As the equivalent of a wounded soldier, Margaret was released by the British on parole.
After the battle, Margaret went to Philadelphia, completely disabled from her wound, and would never fully heal. The Executive Council of Pennsylvania granted her $30 to cover her present needs, and passed her case on to Congress’s Board of War.
On July 6, 1779, the Board, sympathetic to Margaret’s injuries and impressed with her service and bravery, granted her half the monthly pay of a soldier in the Continental Army and a new set of clothes or its equivalent in cash. With this act, Congress made Margaret the first woman in the United States to receive a military pension from Congress.
Known throughtout her community as a bad-tempered, hard-drinking eccentric by the nickname of “Captain Molly,” Margaret died on January 16, 1800 in Westchester County, New York. She was 48 years old.
In 1909, a memorial was dedicated to Margaret Corbin and her compatriots in Fort Tryon Park, Manhattan, New York City, near the location of the Battle of Fort Washington.
In 1926, The New York State Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) verified Margaret’s records and recognized her heroism and service to the United States through the papers of General Henry Knox.Margaret’s overgrown grave was located, and her body was exhumed. A West Point surgeon confirmed the skeleton was that of Margaret Corbin by comparison with a post-mortem which showed the left side of the face, chest and upper arm and left shoulder were badly damaged.
On April 14, 1926 her remains were re-interred with full military honors at the cemetery of the United States Military Academy at West Point behind the Old Cadet Chapel in the West Point Cemetery, making her one of only two Revolutionary War soldiers to be buried there.
The Margaret Corbin Monument was erected by the DAR at the gravesite.
View the Military Service History of Actor:
US Army Air Force (Served 1944-1946)
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Short Bio: In 1944, Heston enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces. He served for two years as a radio operator and aerial gunner aboard a B-25 Mitchell stationed in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands with the Eleventh Air Force. He reached the rank of Staff Sergeant. Heston married Northwestern University student Lydia Marie Clarke in the same year he joined the military.
CWO4 Robert R Wilson
U.S. Coast Guard (Ret)
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PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE COAST GUARD?
I originally was trying to enlist in the Air Force. However, I knew that my draft was getting rather close and saw the sign for US Coast Guard Recruiting in the hall. I sat down and talked with the OIC of the office and was enlisted two weeks later.
The recruiter told me that I would not have to take a bus to Alameda for boot camp. He had sailed near the Cutter Eagle and never had a chance to go aboard. He said the ship was coming into San Francisco on my enlistment day and he was going to drive me down. When we arrived the ship was just coming into the bay. We watched as she moored and he knew a couple of Chiefs on board. We got invited to the Chiefs Mess for lunch. Damn, I thought, this outfit was great. Steak and baked potatoes and all the fixin’s and to boot, being served by the Cadets. And finally being called Sir. Had a great tour of the ship.
That afternoon, the Master Chief drove me to Alameda to get checked in. He told the JOOD to make sure and take care of me. I was being escorted to the forming barracks by a 2nd Class Petty Officer (can’t remember his rating), and as we were walking, just chatting along. Then all of a sudden, the PO grabbed me by my collar and told me very bluntly, “From now on the word SIR will be the first and last word, do I make myself understood.” I replied, “SIR YES SIR!!”
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?
After I had been to Vietnam in 1968, I decided to stay for a career. Since I had done a lot of mechanical work prior to my graduation from HS, I had made up my mind that I was going to be an Engineman (EN).
While assigned to HQ I was promoted to MKC, Sep 1974. Then due to my assignment in Washington DC and had some good references, I decided to attempt to go into the Warrant Officer group. I was lucky and made CWO2(ENG) within 12 years.
I tried to get assigned to a ship and had orders to a 378 in Hawaii. The District Commander did not like a boot Warrant without any sea duty (or as little as I had) to be assigned to a cutter in his district. I finally ended up at Group Shinnecock, NY as GRUEO. Got reassigned to HQ in Jun 1981 and finally ended up as a GRUEO in Mayport FL.
I retired in Sep 1989.
IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN COMBAT, PEACEKEEPING OR HUMANITARIAN OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.
As stated previously I was stationed on board the USCGC Point Grace (WPB82323) Mar 18, 1968. I remained aboard for my entire tour and the Division Commander approved an early rotation stateside Feb 18, 1969.
We were in combat an average of at least once a month and participated in the largest Naval action on a direct target when the CGC Bibb (WHEC31), CGC Point Cypress (WPB82327), 8 Navy PCF’s, 4 Navy LCVP’s, the USS Washoe County (LSMR1165) and all the SEALs in Vietnam attacked Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army entrenchments along both side of the Song Bo De in IV Corps Area. This river had a reputation for not allowing friendly vessels to infiltrate without causing serious casualties. The river banks were covered with steel reinforced bunkers built by the Japanese during WWII. The SEALs duty was to infiltrate and destroy the bunkers and remove as many of the enemy as possible. What they couldn’t blow-up, they booby-trapped. The area was decimated to a point that no further damages were encountered subsequent to this action.
OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
I put my two duties, at Vietnam and LORSTA Lampedusa as my fondest.
I “grew up” in Vietnam and while at Lampedusa under the tutelage of a great MKCM. I attribute his teachings that enabled me to pass service wide exams for promotion to MKC and CWO.
We had some great times at Lampedusa and the station quickly had a positive reputation for the least outages and one time was used as a homing beacon for one of the Apollo missions to the moon. The island had approximately 4500 indigenous people and the island had been occupied for over 2000 years. It is about 150 miles South of Sicily and 60 miles from the North African coast. They were starting to regenerate their forest.
During WWII, the Italians had huge gun emplacements on the North cliffs and were used to shell Allied convoys enroute to Malta. When the allies overran the Italians on the island, they did not leave any fuel for generators or for cooking. The locals burned all the vegetation for charcoal to cook with.
We had several locations on the island that had great beaches and outcroppings that we used for recreation and the town was just beginning its movement to tourism. We had two recreational one person sailboats for use and we would sail around the island or to out of the way beaches and snorkeling. The weather was great most of the time. In March the temperature would climb to over 100-degrees F in the shade. During the winter the lowest temperature we had was about 35-degrees F. However, we would experience sand storms from the desert with more than 60 MPH winds.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?
First duty that impacted me the most was during my first station. I had two good mentors that helped me learn about diesel engines. I had never worked on one before and they nurtured me along and caused me to understand that my knowledge of situations peaked and I really began to question the what, who and why of the Coast Guard.
My time in Vietnam caused my interest in other people of the world in how they lived and thought. We had a Vietnam Navy liaison that spoke English fluently and was able to explain the living habits of the locals and how they lived on the boats. He invited a few of us to come to his house and “have dinner”. I found this very interesting and peaked my interest even further. My duty there was one of the reasons I applied for my duty to Italy.
During my stay in Italy, I was able to tour Rome, Isle of Capri, Pompeii and all of Sicily. Again, this caused me want to learn more about history of the world. I had been an “amateur” historian since I was in grade school and had a huge yearning to learn.
MKCM Tribeck on Lampedusa taught me how to teach others. I used his methodology while in the Coast Guard and during my subsequent jobs as a civilian. I have passed this on to my staffs as I moved on to other assignments and still use it today.
WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER? IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR OTHER SIGNIFICANT AWARDS, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.
THE COMMANDANT OF THE UNITED STATES COAST GUARD
WASHINGTON 20593, 26 June 1989
To: CWO4 Rober R. Wilson, Jr., 5227, USCG
Subj: LETTER OF COMMENDATION
1. I note with pride and am pleased to commend you for your performance of duty from July 1985 to June 1989 while assigned as Engineer Officer, Coast Guard Group Mayport, Florida. Demonstrating exceptional professional competence, you developed a comprehensive Group Hazardous Waste Contingency Plan that brought Group Mayport into compliance with state and federal regulations. The plan was adopted by Coast Guard Headquarters as the training model for shore units nationwide. You also oversaw the six-month yard availability for USCGC POINT ROBERTS, one of the most extensive and costly for an 82 foot patrol boat in recent years. You were responsible for the complete restoration of the Amelia Island Lighthouse, returning it to absolute pristine appearance and structural soundness. To facilitate assignment of a 11O-foot patrol boat to Station Port Canaveral, you were tasked with completely replacing the station’s pier and boat docks. Since contracting out the project was cost prohibitive, you utilized Group resources, completing the work on schedule and at enormous savings to the Coast Guard. You initiated major repairs to USCGC HAMMER’s crane, averting a potentially serious safety hazard. You expertly managed the Group-wide small boat haul-out program. During mobilization exercise Ocean Safari, you successfully established a security force that was impenetrable by opposition forces. As Morale Officer, you organized Coast Guard Day activities that promoted the Coast Guard family concept throughout Northeast Florida.
2. You are commended for your outstanding performance of duty. By your meritorious service you have upheld the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.
3. You are hereby authorized to wear the Commandant’s Letter of Commendation Ribbon Bar (gold star in lieu of a second).
Rear Admiral,U. S.Coast Guard
Commander, Seventh Coast Guard District
By direction of the Commandant
WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
MKCM Tribeck, Lampedusa; CWO4(PERS) Richard B Milne, Mentor and best friend to this day.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
While in Vietnam, we competed with the PCF Squadron about skiing. We first learned how to ski behind the 13 foot Boston Whaler using a 35 HP kicker. The Navy guys showed how to do it behind the 50-foot PCF. After some time, we learned a way to get behind the Point Grace and showed them how it was done.
The local islanders had a huge laugh with us.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
After I retired I worked for a couple of local environmental cleanup companies. This required me to learn more about hydrology and chemicals. After a couple of years, I was able to join Marine Spill Response Corporation in Lake Charles, LA. I was assigned as the Logistics/Maintenance Supervisor. I spent 2 years working in Lake Charles and learned the “catastrophic” oil spill business. I stayed with the company and was moved to Miami as the Maintenance Supervisor. Mr. Wayne Rhoades was the Logistics/Maintenance Supervisor in Miami and the L&M Manager split up the responsibilities.
Wayne and I switched our duties after about 6 months and I ended up as the Logistics Supervisor. My duties included making sure equipment inventory was up to date on the computer system for all sites within our Region. This included, Miami, Jacksonville, Tampa, Savannah and St Croix, VI. We put all our equipment into shipping “packages” with the equipment, manuals, spare parts, safety equipment, etc. They were set up to be shipped via truck, ship or aircraft. I was later assigned as the Site Supervisor for Tampa with one other employee as an assistant Jan 1999. I remained with MSRC until 2006 (almost 15 years) and due to a medical situation, I was forced to fully retire. I am presently retired and have returned to my home in California.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
Military Officers Association., American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, Chief Warrant and Warrant Officers Association, Coast Guard CPO Association., Coast Guard Combat Veterans Association, and several other organizations.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
I learned a lot about leadership and how to deal with all sorts of personalities. This was very greatly used during my following career with the private company personnel.
BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE COAST GUARD?
“Stay with it and go all the Way”. Retire!
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
It has helped me to find some friends I served with and thank you for helping to put some organization to my record.
helicopters, is being deployed to Kuwait and Iraq as part of a normal rotation.
It will be replacing a sister unit.
Victor Calzada/The El Paso Times via AP
Gen. Robert E. Lee led his Army of North Virginia only two times into the North throughout the American Civil War. The winner of the first battle was inconclusive; the second determined the winner of the war.
The first battle fought on northern soil took place in September 1862, when Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army invaded Maryland. It was near Antietam creek in Sharpsburg, Maryland where his Army of Northern Virginia was confronted by Maj. Gen. George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting resulted in halting Lee’s invasion, but Lee was able to withdraw his army back to Virginia without obstruction from the cautious McClellan who offered no pursuit. Although the battle was tactically inconclusive, the Confederate troops had withdrawn first from the battlefield, making it, in military terms, a Union victory. Antietam was also the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with a combined total of nearly 23,000 dead, wounded, and missing.
Eleven months after the Battle of Antietam in the spring of 1863, Lee’s army faced off Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker’s Union forces at Chancellorsville in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. It was in this battle where Lee’s most trusted general, Lt. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was killed.
Like McClellan, Hooker was risk adverse and hesitated to push his men into battle. The results were a shattering victory for Lee. Beaming with confidence in his Confederate Army, Lee decided to on the offensive and invade the North for a second time. In addition to bringing the conflict from war-ravaged northern Virginia and diverting northern troops from Vicksburg, where the Confederates were under siege, Lee’s hoped if he won on Union territory then the North would have to surrender and possibly induce European countries to recognize the Confederacy. An additional motive for invading the North was to draw much of the occupying Union forces out of the South back to the North so southern farmers could harvest summer crops unimpeded.
Lee’s second invasion of the North began in June 1983 when he led his 75,000 man army through the Shenandoah Valley and crossed the Potomac River into Maryland and marched on into southern Pennsylvania.
Prodded by President Abraham Lincoln, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker moved his army in pursuit, but having lost confidence in his leadership compounded by his reluctance to confront Lee’s army after the defeat at Chancellorsville, Lincoln relieved him of his command. He then appointed Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade to succeed Hooker. Meade immediately ordered the pursuit of Lee’s Army.
Day 1: July 1, 1863. Upon learning that the Army of the Potomac was on its way, Lee planned to assemble his army in the flourishing crossroads town of Gettysburg, 35 miles southwest of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
One of the Confederate divisions in Maj. Gen. Ambrose Powell (A.P.) Hill’s command approached the town in search of supplies, only to discover two Union cavalry brigades had arrived the previous day. Gen. John Buford, commander of Meade’s advance cavalry, recognized the strategic importance of Gettysburg as a road center and was prepared to hold it until reinforcements arrived. But as the bulk of both armies headed toward Gettysburg, Confederate forces were able to drive the outnumbered Union defenders back through town to Cemetery Hill, located a half mile to the south. Quick defensive position were thrown together in case A.P. Hill’s men were in pursuit. However, they remained in Gettysburg awaiting further orders.
Seeking to press his advantage before more Union troops could arrive, Lee gave discretionary orders to Gen. Richard S. Ewell to attack Cemetery Hill. Ewell had taken command of the Army of Northern Virginia’s Second Corps after Lee’s most trusted general, Lt. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, was mortally wounded at Chancellorsville. By dusk, a Union corps under Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock had arrived and extended the defensive line along Cemetery Ridge to the hill known as Little Round Top. Overnight three more Union corps arrived to strengthen its defenses.
The first day of battle saw considerable fighting in the area. Union soldier’s use of newly issued Spencer repeating carbines outgunned the Confederate muskets. Heavy casualties were felt on each side, and the simultaneous conclusion by both commanders that Gettysburg was the place to not only fight a defining battle but that the outcome would probably determine the winner of the war.
Day 2: July 2, 1863. With the arrival of reinforcements, the Union Army had established strong positions from Culp’s Hill to Cemetery Ridge. The day was filled with futile and bloody assault and counterattacks in an attempt to gain control of such locations as Little Round Top, Cemetery Hill, Devil’s Den, the Wheatfield, and the Peach Orchard. There were once again heavy losses on both sides.
Concerned with a lack of momentum and only small victories, Lee read over maps and reports from his frontline generals. After personally scouting out Union positions and strength, he came up with a strategy that he felt would change the course of battle in his favor. He determined that a massive frontal attacks with the superior forces on Union entrenchments would win the battle.
When he went over the plans with his most defensively minded second-in-command, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, he learned Longstreet had concerns over the plan. Longstreet told Lee throwing the majority of his forces in one assault over a large open field into the guns of an enemy holding the high ground was too risky. With his mind made up, Lee discarded Longstreet’s argument and ordered him to lead an attack on the Union left, while Ewell’s corps would strike the right, near Culp’s Hill. Though his orders were to attack as early in the day as possible, Longstreet didn’t get his men into position until 4 pm, when they opened fire on the Union corps commanded by Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles.
Over the next several hours, bloody fighting raged along Sickles’ line, which stretched from the nest of boulders known as Devil’s Den into a peach orchard, as well as in a nearby wheat field and on the slopes of Little Round Top. Thanks to fierce fighting by one Minnesota regiment, the Union forces were able to hold Little Round Top, but lost the orchard field and Devil’s Den. Sickles himself was seriously wounded.
Ewell’s men had advanced on the Union forces at Culp’s Hill and East Cemetery Hill in coordination with Longstreet’s 4 pm attack, but Union forces had stalled their attack by dusk. Both armies suffered extremely heavy losses on July 2, with 9,000 or more casualties on each side. The combined casualty total from two days of fighting came to nearly 35,000, the largest two-day toll of the war.
Day 3: July 3, 1863. Early in the morning, Union forces of the Twelfth Army Corps pushed back a Confederate threat against Culp’s Hill after a seven-hour firefight and regained their strong position. Believing his men had been on the brink of victory the day before and despite Longstreet’s protests, Lee was determined to attack the middle of the Union defenses. Maj. Gen. George Edward Pickett was tasked with marching 15,000 Confederate troops some three-quarters of a mile across open fields to attack 10,000 dug-in Union infantrymen. This assault would go down in history as “Pickett’s Charge.”
At 3 pm, following an artillery bombardment by some 150 Confederate guns, Pickett moved his three divisions against the Union center on Cemetery Ridge. The Southern spearhead broke through and penetrated the ridge, but there it could do no more. Critically weakened by artillery during their approach, formations hopelessly tangled, lacking reinforcement, and under savage attack from three sides, the Southerners retreated, leaving 19 battle flags and hundreds of prisoners.
Union infantry opened fire on the advancing rebels from behind stone walls, while regiments from Vermont, New York and Ohio hit both of the enemy’s flanks. Caught from all sides, barely half of the Confederates survived, and Pickett’s division lost two-thirds of its men. As the survivors stumbled back to their opening position, Lee and Longstreet scrambled to shore up their defensive line after the failed assault.
In the end, Confederate efforts at Gettysburg revealed an army plagued with command problems and an extended, five-mile-long battle line. Lee’s incomparable infantry could not overcome those crippling handicaps.
With his hopes of a victorious invasion of the North dashed, Lee waited for a Union counterattack on July 4, but it never came. That night, taking advantage of a heavy rain, he started retreating toward Virginia. His defeat stemmed from overconfidence in his troops, Ewell’s inability to fill the boots of Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, and faulty reconnaissance.
Though the cautious Meade would be criticized for not pursuing the enemy after Gettysburg, the battle was a crushing defeat for the Confederacy. Union casualties in the battle numbered 23,000, while the Confederates had lost some 28,000 men – more than a third of Lee’s army. The North rejoiced while the South mourned, its hopes for foreign recognition of the Confederacy erased.
Demoralized by the defeat at Gettysburg, Lee offered his resignation to President Jefferson Davis, but was refused. Though the great Confederate general would go on to win other victories, the Battle of Gettysburg (combined with Ulysses S. Grant’s victory at Vicksburg, also on July 4, 1863) irrevocably turned the tide of the Civil War in the Union’s favor.
Losses were among the wars heaviest: of 88,000 Northern troops, casualties numbered about 23,000 (with more than 3,100 killed); of 75,000 Southerners, there were between 20,000 and 28,000 casualties (with more than 4,500 killed). Dedication of the National Cemetery at the site in November 1863 was the occasion of Pres. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
To view a short clip of Picket’s Charge from the move Gettysburg, go to:
To view a 1 Hour 25 Minute documentary on the Battle of Gettysburg go to:
Rene is a World War II veteran, a Marine, and one of the many Marines who took part in Iwo Jima, the invasion under the leadership of General “Howlin’ Mad” Smith on February 19th, 1945. Rene was part of the 5th Marine Division that was there on the first day, when U.S. Marines took 2,400 wounded and 600 dead. Historians agree that the invasion of Iwo Jima was the bloodiest battle of the Pacific. During the entire operation, Marines and sailors suffered 6,800 killed and more than 18,000 wounded. Japanese soldiers fared far worse. Of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers entrenched on the island, 20,000 were killed.
Rene was born in upstate New York in 1924. He and his family lived through the Great Depression. They were a close-knit and loving family. He was in tenth grade when a radio news flash announced the attack on Pearl Harbor. He recalls all the students being called to assembly to hear President Roosevelt’s remarks, including “a day that will live in infamy.” A conscription would soon be instituted to draft all high school graduates and men from 18 to 27 years of age.
For Rene it seemed that life had been forever changed and was now full of uncertainty. He graduated from high school in 1943, moved with his family to California, and volunteered for the U.S. Marine Corps. He took his boot camp training in San Diego. He became expert with the M-1 rifle and graduated Private First Class. From San Diego, he was shipped out to Camp Pendleton where the 5th Division (Spearhead Division) was formed.
The Story in Rene’s Words
After six months of intense training, our division was shipped out to Camp Tarawa on the Big Island of Hawaii. Another four months of vigorous training followed. Finally, in January of 1944, the division sailed out of Hilo to take on supplies. We had no idea of what our final destination would be. Some 800 vessels of all types made up the invasion armada, and after several days at sea, we were finally told that the target was a small volcanic ash island just 350 miles southwest of Japan, called Iwo Jima.
We were also told that the island was made up of earth-covered structures, with connecting tunnels that ran from one end of the island to the other. At the left end of the island stood Mount Suribachi, where defenses were coordinated. The division was briefed by intelligence and told that the operation could probably be accomplished in short order. It soon became evident that support, such as battle wagon guns was lacking, and that Admiral Spruance, Chief of our Task Force, had decided that the attacks on Tokyo took priority over Iwo Jima.
The main objective for taking Iwo was to destroy the Japanese radar station that alerted antiaircraft stations on the mainland, and to seize the airfields there. Japanese fighter planes, attacking from the Iwo Jima airstrips, were shooting down too many American B-29s returning from bombing runs over Japan. General Curtis Lemay wanted those airstrips for his B-29s and P-51 Mustangs.
U.S. forces dropped 5,800 tons of bombs in over 2,700 sorties. This bombing only seemed to strengthen the enemy’s fanatical will to defend Iwo Jima at all costs. Each Japanese soldier was instructed to kill at least six or seven Marines before dying.
At 3:30 a.m., we were awakened and given a breakfast of steak and eggs, and given a “good hunting” message from our commanding officer. The first wave of the attack hit the beach around 9:00 a.m. climbing down the cargo net was a tricky maneuver with full packs and weapons. One missed step would result in being tossed into the churning ocean. There were 40 men per landing craft.
As we neared the beach, we observed devastating gunfire coming from the island and blanketing the beach, blowing up landing craft on either side of us. It was the most frightening moment in my life. Our training paled in comparison to what was actually happening.
As we hit the beach, the ramp was dropped and we dashed through raindrop-like barrages and explosions, trying to get to some protected coverage. I ripped my pack off to move faster and dug in. When I went back to retrieve my pack the only thing that was left was a crater hole from where a mortar had hit. The landing beach was a mass of Marines being put ashore and having almost no place for cover. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.
This lasted all morning and intermittently throughout the day and night. Our landing on the Red Beach 2 location was about 500 yards from Iwo’s number one airfield and about 2,000 yards from the base of Mount Suribachi. During the devastating barrages from enemy weapons, we attempted to dig our foxholes. My buddy and I, along with the rest of our troops, were taking sniper fire from the airstrips in front of us. Hidden behind a wrecked Zero aircraft above our elevation, he had good cover. The sniper was eventually silenced after an hour or so, and after taking his quota of young Marine lives. The Japanese had the advantage of directing gunfire from Mount Suribachi. Our commanders considered withdrawing us from the battle because of the great losses we incurred through our first day.
2ndLt Elroy Hirsch
US Marine Corps
(Served 1943 – 1946)
Short Bio: He entered the University of Wisconsin in 1941 and a year later earned All-America football honors as a halfback. As a member of the V-12 Marine Corps unit assigned to the University of Michigan he became the only modern four-time letter winner in a single season at Michigan.
(Veterans – view more military profiles of famous people on www.togetherweserved.com)
Michael Ciaglo/The Associated Press
Like most Americans in the late 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt was not eager for the United States to get embroiled in a global military conflict. However, unlike fervent isolationists, he felt it was inevitable over time and began taking some steps in preparation for such an eventuality.
He pushed Congress into doubling the size of the Navy, creating a draft (approved by a close vote of 203 to 202), provided military hardware to friendly foreign nations, and ordered the Navy to attack German submarines that had been preying on ships off the East Coast. Congress also approved an acceleration of building war planes. Many airline pilots holding reserve commissions were recalled to active duty to fly them as they rolled off assembly lines.
Even with all the preparation, many Americans still refused to believe war was inevitable. Then on a quiet, peaceful Sunday morning on December 7, 1941, Japanese naval and air forces launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. More than 2,400 military men were killed, 150 planes destroyed and eight battleships were sunk or badly damaged.
The next day, Monday December 8, calling the sneak attack a “day of infamy,” Roosevelt announced the United States would join World War II. Three days later on December 11, 1941 Congress declared war on Nazi Germany. It was a time of fear and a time of desperate haste for America to mount a war machine that did not existed since World War I.
The draft was greatly increased and with every available man being inducted, war industry jobs went unfilled. American women stepped in to take their place, taking over a wide variety of positions previously closed to them. The aviation industry saw the greatest increase in female workers. More than 310,000 women worked in the U.S. aircraft industry in 1943, representing 65 percent of the industry’s total workforce (compared to just 1 percent in the pre-war years).
The munitions industry also heavily recruited women workers, as represented by the U.S. government’s “Rosie the Riveter” propaganda campaign. Though women were crucial to the war effort, their pay continued to lag far behind their male counterparts: Female workers rarely earned more than 50 percent of male wages.
As hundreds of military planes of all variety were coming off the assembly lines, there were not enough certified pilots to fly them. Reserve flying officers were recalled to active duty but there was still a shortage. To address this shortage, a group of government officials and military officers considered using certified civilian women pilots to ferry aircraft from the factories to overseas where they were needed thereby freeing male pilots to fly combat missions. Problem was, General Henry “Hap” Arnold, Chief of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), categorically denied the need to use women pilots in any capacity in or with the USAAF. He said he wasn’t sure “whether a slip of a girl could fight the controls of a B-17 bomber in heavy weather.”