Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Margaret Cochran Corbin... An American Hero...

Here in the United States, November is a time for giving thanks for all that we have. Our nation has also chosen this month to express our love and gratitude for those who serve and have served in the armed forces, for and in behalf of our beloved country, our democracy, and our freedoms.

So with that in mind, I decided to fill my personal blogs this November and each November thereafter, with a few of this nation’s heroic soldiers, who have fought in wars long past and all the way to the present. And, I thought it would be appropriate to begin this series with the Revolutionary War.

One cannot think of America’s Revolutionary War without bringing to mind, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, Thomas Paine, and all the signers of the Declaration of Independence. History knows them well enough and most of us are very well acquainted with the risks they took and the valiant deeds they performed to make this nation free.

However, not as well known to most perhaps, is Margaret Cochran Corbin. In Chambersburg, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, November 12, 1751, Robert and Sarah Cochran, welcomed a daughter into their home. They named her Margaret. Left orphaned at the age of five by an Indian raid, which killed her father and took her mother captive, Margaret would spend the next sixteen years with the uncle who raised her to adulthood. Then, in the year 1772, at the age of twenty-one, Margaret married John Corbin.

Shortly thereafter, John joined the Continental Army, and Margaret accompanied her husband onto the battlefields. During this time the wives of the servicemen commonly assisted the soldiers by cooking their meals, tending to laundry, and when needed, nursing the wounded. Margaret didn't shirk her duties. While going about these mundane tasks, she studied the drills, and by sheer observation, learned how to use the various weapons of war.  

As it happened, Margaret and John found themselves stationed at Fort Washington, New York, on November 16, 1776. On this day, the British and the Hessian troops attacked the stronghold. As his assigned duty, John Corbin assisted a gunner in defending the fort. Minutes later, death claimed the gunner. John immediately stepped up and took the gunner’s place, while Margaret took his. It didn't take long for John to meet his death as well. Yet, she refused to allow grief to overtake her. Instead, Margaret manned the guns herself, for she knew if she didn't  they would have to retreat. Lives of the colonists and future colonists were at stake. They had to come first. She could grieve later.

During the melee, Margaret took enemy fire. The grapeshot shattered her chest, shoulder, and jaw. Despite the odds, Margaret survived the battle. In the end, the British captured the fort, but allowed parole to the wounded American soldiers, who were subsequently ferried to Fort Lee. From Fort Lee, Margaret suffered a horrendous journey by wagon to Philadelphia. She would never fully recover from the wounds that left her entire left side paralyzed.

The Continental Congress awarded Margaret a pension for her heroism in July of 1779. In addition, they provided foodstuffs, a suit of clothes, and included her on the regimental muster list until the war ended in 1783. At the age of 51, in the year 1800, Margaret died in West Point, New York.

The Daughters of the American Revolution exhumed Margaret's remains from her obscure grave in 1920 and moved her to the Old Cadet Chapel in West Point. There, commemorating her bravery, is a monument, which reads: “The first American woman to take a soldier's part in the war for liberty."

A fitting epitaph to an American hero...

1 comment:

  1. I love this blog!!! Margaret is awesome! What an American hero! Thanks for sharing. :)