By Jon Wren
After her husband enlisted in the Continental Army, Mary Ludwig Hays decided to join too. While he was assigned to artillery duty, she became what was known then as a “camp follower,” helping the army with meals, laundry, and the all-important task of bringing water to the men in the front lines of battle. During the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778, Mary’s husband was critically wounded in the fighting and unable to continue the vital task of loading the cannons to keep the pressure on the British. Upon hearing of his injuries, Mary dropped her water pitcher and ran straight to the front to take her husband’s place. She placed her life in danger to ensure the artillery barrage would continue.
News of Mary’s courageous act spread throughout the Army and made its way to George Washington who, impressed by her courage, gave her the nickname “Sergeant Molly.” Today, most historians believe Mary’s story gradually evolved into the more well-known legend of “Molly Pitcher.”
When we remember the founding virtues of America, we tend to think of freedom, liberty, justice, and even the pursuit of happiness. But the story of Mary Ludwig Hays illustrates another virtue without which none of the others could be possible—selfless sacrifice. By running into the heat of battle, she put her life on the line for others.
Selfless sacrifice is a virtue we can celebrate and remember not only as Americans, but more importantly as Christ followers. At the heart of Christ’s redemptive work was his ultimate sacrifice at the cross. His choice to endure the pain, experience the humiliation, and pay the ultimate price was the only way to provide us with new life and forgiveness. A Bible writer described his sacrifice this way: “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 13:14).
Today let’s reflect on the truth that in Jesus Christ we have a Savior who willingly chose to lay down his life for us. As we take the bread and the cup, let’s remember that his sacrifice makes us “perfect forever” in his sight, and we have the promise of eternal life because of his resurrection!
Jon Wren works with the Office of Civil Rights, addressing the impact of gentrification on school desegregation. He loves history, college football, and once got a ticket for driving too slowly.