Distinguished Women of Past and Present

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Margaret Cochran Corbin

(1751-c.1800)

Margaret Cochran Corbin fought alongside her husband in the American Revolutionary War and was the first woman to receive pension from the United States government as a disabled soldier. She was born Nov. 12, 1751 near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., orphaned at the age of five and was raised by relatives. When she was twenty-one she married John Corbin. John joined the Continental Army when the American Revolution started four years later and Margaret accompanied her husband. Wives of the soldiers often cooked for the men, washed their laundry and nursed wounded soldiers. They also watched the men do their drills and, no doubt, learned those drills, too.

On November 16,1776, while they were stationed in Fort Washington, New York, the fort was attacked by British and Hessian troops. John was assisting a gunner until the gunner was killed. At this point John took charge of the cannon and Margaret assisted him. Sometime later, John was killed also. With no time to grieve, Margaret continued loading and firing the cannon by herself until she was wounded by grapeshot which tore her shoulder, mangled her chest and lacerated her jaw. Other soldiers moved her to the rear where she received first aid. The fort was captured by the British, but the wounded American soldiers were paroled. They were ferried across the river to Fort Lee. Margaret was then transported further in a jolting wagon all the way to Philadelphia. She never recovered fully from her wounds and was left without use of her left arm for the rest of her life.

In 1779, the Continental Congress granted her a pension ("half the pay and allowances of a soldier in service") due to her distinguished bravery. She continued to be included on regimental muster lists until the end of the war in 1783. Margaret Cochran Corbin died near West Point, New York prior to her fiftieth birthday.

In 1926, the Daughters of the American Revolution had her remains moved from an obscure grave and re-interred with other soldiers behind the Old Cadet Chapel at West Point where they also erected a monument to her. Near the place of the battle, in Fort Tryon Park in New York City, a bronze plaque commemorates Margaret Corbin "the first American woman to take a soldier's part in the War for Liberty".

Contributed by Danuta Bois, 1997.

Bibliography:
1. American Women's History by Doris Weatherford, Prentice Hall General Reference, 1994
2. Heroines of the American Revolution by Jill Canon, Bellerophon Books, 1995
3. Susan B. Anthony Slept Here. A Guide to American Women's Landmarks by Lynn Sherr and Jurate Kazickas, Random House, 1994

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