Margaret <I>Cochran</I> Corbin

Margaret Cochran Corbin

Chambersburg, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, USA
Death 16 Jan 1800 (aged 48)
Highland Falls, Orange County, New York, USA
Cenotaph West Point, Orange County, New York, USA
Plot Section 11, Row A, Grave 01
Memorial ID 231 · View Source
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Revolutionary War Veteran. She is remembered, for her patriotic service in the American Revolutionary War, as the first woman to receive a military pension. In 1756 while visiting an uncle, a five-year-old Margaret and her older brother became orphans when an Indian raiding party attacked her parent's homestead killing her father and apparently capturing her mother. Both children remained with their uncle for the rest of their childhood. In 1772 she married a Virginia farmer John Corbin. When her husband enlisted in the Continental Army three years later, Margaret joined the many other wives who were accompanying their husbands in the battalion of camp followers. Camp followers were paid a daily half ration if they made themselves useful to the army by cooking meals, washing clothes, or nursing the wounded. Margaret's forceful personality won her the nickname of Captain Molly from the other wives in the camp. Gruff and unfeminine, Corbin made few close friends among the women, instead feeling more at home smoking and conversing with other soldiers. On November 16, 1776 the British and German Hessians mounted an attack on Fort Washington in northern Manhattan, New York. Her husband was on a canon crew that was slowly being decimated by enemy fire. When her husband was killed, Corbin continued loading and firing the cannon until she was wounded by grapeshot which tore through her shoulder, chest, and jaw. When the fort was captured by the British, she was captured, treated for her wounds and later paroled with the rest of the American wounded. She never fully recovered from her wounds, as she was left with chronic pain and no use of her left arm for the rest of her life. On June 26, 1776 Pennsylvania granted her $30.00 in relief due to her condition. Margaret received a lifetime disability pension of half-pay on July 6, 1779 from the Continental Congress making her the first woman to obtain such a commitment from the young United States government. In 1782, Corbin married a wounded soldier, but he died a year later. Between 1782 and 1790 records indicate that Margaret needed special care, and had been placed in the care of a Mrs. Randall who lived in Buttermilk Falls, which is present-day Highland Falls. In 1926, her remains were moved from an obscure grave along the Hudson River to the West Point Cemetery, where she was buried with full military honors. The same year, The New York State Chapter of the National Society of Daughter of the American Revolution verified her proof of service and recognized her heroism and service to the United States through the papers of General Henry Knox. Her marker shows the NSDAR Insignia. According to an article in the “American Spirit” magazine dated May/April 2018, Corbin's grave was recently disturbed by construction at the “West Point Cemetery, and extensive archaeological and forensic study by the US Army revealed that her remains re-interred in 1926 are in fact not those of Corbin, but rather and unidentified man from the Colonial era. A West Point Hospital Surgeon and Dental Surgeon originally examined the remains in 1926, and verified they fit a description of Corbin by being the skeleton of a female and including evidence of the wound on the shoulder.” This recent discovery at West Point Cemetery does not minimize her patriotic service but introduces the mystery of where is Margaret Corbin's actual resting place. A plaque at Fort Tryon Park in Manhattan, tells her heroic story “as the first woman to take a soldier’s part in the War for Liberty."

Bio by: Linda Davis

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 231
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Margaret Cochran Corbin (12 Nov 1751–16 Jan 1800), Find a Grave Memorial no. 231, citing United States Military Academy Post Cemetery, West Point, Orange County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .