The Matilda effect is in full swing, even in death. The body of the first women veteran to receive a pension for military service is missing!
The bones of a man were discovered where the remains of Margaret “Captain Molly” Corbin were supposed to be buried. Margaret’s grave was accidentally disturbed last year by construction workers, who were building a retaining wall by her monument in the West Point Cemetery. Last week, after a forensic anthropologist conducted tests on the remains, it was discovered that instead of Corbin, an unknown middle-aged man was buried under a monument in her honor.
Margaret’s place in American history started during the Revolutionary War in the battle of Fort Washington in New York. Corbin, like many women at the time, went to war with her husband. She earned money cooking and doing laundry for soldiers and also helped take care of the sick and wounded.
On Nov. 16, 1776, 4,000 British and Hessian troops attacked Fort Washington. Margaret’s husband, John, was a matross – he was in charge of loading the cannon. His partner was killed during the battle, so Margaret started loading the cannon so her husband could keep firing. John was killed when a bullet hit him squarely in the heart. Margaret, not missing a beat, started firing the cannon on her own.
Contemporary reports of the time all marvel at how good of a shot Margaret was. The enemy thought the same thing and focusing everything they had on Margaret. Her cannon was the last one silenced and it took nearly severing her left arm and wounding her jaw and left breast to stop her, too. Because of this event, she is recognized as the first women soldier in the American Army.
In 1779, as recognition of her brave service, the Continental Congress awarded her a lifelong pension. It was only half of what her male combatants received, but Congress also gave her a suit of clothes to replace what she was wearing during the battle. She did request a rum ration and the government approved that request. She often said that while she resented the half pension, she was happy about the rum.
Margaret died in 1800 and was buried just above the Hudson River. 126 years later, the Daughters of the American Revolution received permission to dig up the remains of Margaret Corbin and have her re-interred in West Point Cemetery with full military honors. A post-mortem was done at the time by a West Point surgeon and it showed that the left side of the face, left shoulder, chest and upper arm were badly battered.
The location of Corbin’s remains is still unknown. Ground-penetrating radar at the grave site failed to come up with anything and the remains of the unknown man were reburied at the cemetery. A re-dedication ceremony for the Corbin monument at the cemetery is scheduled for this next May.