The DAR monument for Margaret Corbin at the Old Cadet Chapel on West Point.  © Jill Moore, 2010

Yesterday, I attended my first “official” Daughters of the American Revolution event at West Point’s Military Academy to honor the Revolutionary War heroine Margaret Cochran Corbin.  While the weather was positively wretched, misting all day long with nary a beam of sunlight at all to grace us, the ceremony held at the beautiful Old Cadet Chapel at West Point’s cemetery was especially moving and the brief presentation of her life by retired Brigadier-General Maritza Ryan detailing the hard life Margaret a.k.a “Molly” endured beginning at a young age and extending to her post-war years was particularly interesting. There was a gorgeous blue and yellow rose wreath to be laid at her monument and the honor guard provided a gun salute before taps was played.  So moving….

Of course, there was so many wonderful ladies of the DAR present from all corners of New York and even some out of state guests including representations from Vermont, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  I was honored to make the particular acquaintance of Gail Terry, the state regent for Massachusetts and all of her accompanying ladies.  They were so very nice and I absolutely loved her Massachusetts accent – I’m sure I sounded like a backwoods hillbilly with my Ohio twang in comparison!  As I had expected, nearly everyone came out in their finest, many in shades of red, white or blue.  Many had fancy hats or gorgeous head pieces! I’m sure I practically gawked with wide eyes at Gail Terry’s chest full of ribbons because I felt a bit naked not having my ancestor bar and ribbon yet!  Nearly everyone had theirs on display along with other bits of baubles and bling.  I had blue stud earrings.  LOL

We had a wonderful catered luncheon with guest speaker Dr. Robert McDonald of the West Point history department, who gave a rousing presentation about the “crisis of 1776” detailing how 1776 was a difficult year of trial and tribulation for the Continental troops and General Washington.  He gave us more details into Molly’s life in regards to her struggles post-war with having no use of her left arm and such.   Dr. McDonald talked about how our struggles today pale in comparison to theirs.  For his students, their struggles involve studying and taking finals, his struggle is grading them but for the Continental Army, dragging cannons from Fort Ticonderoga in the winter across icy rivers and over slippery mountain slopes on FOOT, tying ropes on trees to help lower them safely and slowly… oh, can you imagine?!

In the end, he summed up a sentiment that I’ve felt for so long…. basically, that there are so many stories out there from the Revolutionary War that don’t involve already familiar names like Franklin, Adams, Washington, Jefferson.  Those stories belong to the nameless soldiers and patriots who were teachers, farmers, merchants and in Molly’s case, a wife.

Molly’s story is told by many people in a multitude of ways.  Some often confuse her with another Molly, more famously known as “Molly Pitcher”.  Other naysayers believe her story is all hype and assert that her husband John Corbin can’t be found in the records or that his unit wasn’t anywhere near Fort Washington on that day… there’s just a bunch of mis-mashed information out there about Margaret Corbin.  But one thing is certain,  even if you happen to be one that doesn’t believe she was real or even if didn’t happen specifically as it’s recorded (and there are those who think just that!), it’s more important to remember the spirit behind Molly’s story and of all those other unsung, undocumented heroes who voluntarily gave and sacrificed so much of themselves for our freedom cause. That’s what’s most important and that’s what we need to pay tribute to; not only yesterday as for Molly Corbin specifically, but every day for all those whose stories aren’t told or documented.  We owe them all.  Every farmer, doctor, lawyer, dentist… they all played their part for our nation.  I, for one, am grateful.

Read more about how the DAR discovered Margaret Corbin.



DAR Margaret Corbin Day Ceremony
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