1928 2¢ Battle of Monmouth
First Day of Issue: October 20, 1928
First City: Red Bank, NJ; Freehold, NJ
Quantity Issued: 9,779,896
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforation: 11 x 10.5
As the anniversary of the Battle of Monmouth approached, New Jersey residents requested that a stamp be issued honoring the fabled heroine Molly Pitcher. However, the Post Office Department claimed it had issued its quota of commemoratives and couldn’t issue the stamp they wanted. But New Jersey Congressman Harold G. Hoffman believed that his state deserved a stamp for its role in the Revolution and continued to write letters to the Post Office Department. Finally, with support from Connecticut Congressman John Q. Tilson, the Department agreed to issue an overprinted stamp, as they had done with the Discovery of Hawaii stamp. While New Jersey residents were happy to have their stamp, collectors and the general public were unimpressed with the stamp’s lack of creativity, not even showing who or what Molly Pitcher was.
Molly Pitcher and the Battle of Monmouth
According to legend, Mary “Molly” Ludwig was the wife of an infantry sergeant. During the battle, she carried pitchers of water to the wounded soldiers, causing her to be nicknamed “Molly Pitcher.” When her husband was wounded during the conflict, Molly took his place at the canon and fought during the balance of the battle.
In reality, Molly Pitcher was not a real person, and the Battle of Monmouth was not as legendary as the stamp’s promoters originally believed. The battle, which took place on June 28, 1778, began when American general Charles Lee received orders from General George Washington to attack British forces crossing New Jersey to get to New York. Reportedly, Lee disagreed with the plan and retreated. When General Washington discovered that Lee and his men had retreated and were being followed by the British, he was forced to take command. The ensuing battle was one of the war’s longest. As Washington prepared to resume the battle early the next morning, he discovered that the British had snuck away in the night, reaching New York a few days later.
Lee was court-martialed, leaving New Jersey residents searching for a new hero. Many believed that hero to be Mary Ludwig Hays, although no evidence exists that she in fact manned the cannon.
The Molly Pitcher story is more likely based on the true story of Margaret Corbin, who took her husband’s place at the canyon after he was killed at Fort Washington in Manhattan, New York, in November 1776.