LOCAL HISTORIC PROFILE: Margaret Cochran Corbin, Revolutionary War heroine

Illustration by Sabina Mollot

By Sabina Mollot

Last December, Manhattan Congress members announced legislation aimed at renaming the Manhattan VA Medical Center after Margaret Cochran Corbin, who fought in the Revolutionary War and was the first woman to receive a veteran’s pension.

While the fate of the East 23rd Street hospital’s name is still up in the air, the legislation is expected to be reintroduced in Congress this year.

Corbin is remembered for her bravery during an attack by the British and Hessians  (German troops hired by the British) on Fort Washington in Upper Manhattan on November 16, 1776.

Her involvement in the military began when her husband John enlisted in the Continental Army’s First Company of Pennsylvania Artillery. Corbin, then 25, joined him. Working alongside the soldiers was what many wives and sweethearts did at the time and were tasked with things like cooking, washing and sewing. But when John was killed in the battle at Fort Washington at the cannon he’d taken over for the gunner who’d also been killed, his wife was standing at his side. Not stopping to grieve, Corbin quickly took John’s place, loading and firing the cannon as she had seen him do. Then suddenly, she too was struck by a grapeshot, a cluster of metal balls in a sack that had been fired from a cannon. Seeing her fall, other soldiers carried Corbin away to where the wounded were being tended. The Revolutionaries ended up losing this battle and the survivors were taken prisoner, including Corbin. However, they were released.

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