Women in Battle

Margaret (Cochran) Corbin was born in Western Pennsylvania in 1751. Her father was killed when attacked by Native Americans, and her mother was kidnapped and never heard from again. Margaret went to live with her uncle. Margaret married when she was 21 to John Corbin. Margaret was trained as a nurse.

When the Revolutionary War began, John enlisted and became a part of a cannon crew. Margaret joined her husband as he served. She provided water for soldiers as well as for cooling the cannons. She was also a cook and treated wounded soldiers.

When Fort Washington was attacked, John was manning the cannon. He was killed and there was no one to take his place in firing the cannon. Since Margaret had been there during her husband’s training, she resumed his duties with the cannon. There was no fall-off in the use of the cannon in battle.

Margaret was shot in her arm, chest, and jaw. The British won the battle, and Margaret was taken prisoner. She was released as a wounded soldier. She went to Philadelphia but was completely disabled.

She was able to receive a small amount of aid from Pennsylvania. A request was made to the Board of War established by Congress. She was awarded half of the monthly pay of soldiers in the Continental Army. She became the first woman to receive a military pension which continued after the conclusion of the war. She passed away at the age of 48.

When we think of Margaret Corbin’s role in battle, it evokes the long-standing issue of women in combat. If asked about the role of women in combat, few would realize that women have been involved in combat since the beginning of our nation. Many like Margaret were on the battlefield initially as nurses. Margaret is generally acknowledged as the first woman to engage in battle, and Congress affirmed this by awarding her a military pension only given to soldiers.

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“Let the generations know that women in uniform also guaranteed their freedom.” – Mary Edwards Walker (Surgeon and Prisoner of War)

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