New York war hero: Margaret Corbin

It’s Memorial Day weekend—an appropriate time to remember Margaret Corbin, considered by some to be the first female American soldier and someone whose name shows up all over Northern Manhattan.

MargaretcorbinCorbin was the wife of a Virginia farmer who had enlisted in the Pennsylvania state artillery to fight for the colonists during the Revolutionary War. Rather than stay at home alone, she joined his company as a “camp follower,” as other wives were called, cooking and nursing wounded soldiers.

On November 16, 1776, their company was stationed at Fort Washington—where Fort Tryon Park is today—to help stave off a sneak attack launched by British and Hessian forces. After her husband was killed instantly while operating a canon, Margaret stepped into his place and began firing. Fortryonplaque

Though the four-hour battle ended with the enemy capturing Fort Washington, and she was severely wounded, Margaret supposedly proved to be one of the best gunners on the colonists’ side. 

She never fully recovered from her injuries and was eventually given $30 plus a lifetime disability pension.

Today, a plaque in Fort Tryon Park honors her bravery. And Northern Manhattan near The Cloisters is home to Margaret Corbin Drive and Margaret Corbin Circle.

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3 Responses to “New York war hero: Margaret Corbin”

  1. Roman Dementiuk Says:

    The heroism and bravery of Margaret Corbin is exemplary but not to diminish her memory, honoring her on this day is inappropriate.

    Margaret, after all, did survive her war but Memorial day is a day of remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in battle. Margaret does not fit that description.

    It would have been be more appropriate to remember Margarets husband instead but if you’re inclined to remember a New York war hero this Memorial day, then Father Vincent Capodanno fits the bill.

    Detail of Father Capodanno Monument at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island.

    Here’s an excerpt from


    At 4:30 am, September 4, 1967, during Operation Swift in the Thang Binh District of the Que-Son Valley, elements of the 1st Battalion 5th Marines encountered a large North Vietnamese unit of approximately 2500 men near the village of Dong Son. The outnumbered and disorganized Company D was in need of reinforcements. By 9:14 am, twenty-six Marines were confirmed dead and another company of Marines was committed to the battle. At 9:25 am, the commander of 1st Battalion 5th Marine requested further reinforcements.

    Father Capodanno went among the wounded and dying, giving last rites and taking care of his Marines. Wounded once in the face and having his hand almost severed, he went to help a wounded corpsman only yards from an enemy machinegun and was killed. His body was recovered and interred in his family’s plot in Saint Peters Cemetery, West New Brighton, Staten Island, New York.[1]

    On December 27, 1968, then Secretary of the Navy Paul Ignatius notified the Capodanno family that Lieutenant Capodanno would posthumously be awarded the Medal of Honor in recognition of his selfless sacrifice. The official ceremony was held January 7, 1969.

    Roman Dementiuk, RM2(ss)
    US Navy – ’79 to ’85
    Born and raised in NYC

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thank you for clarifying Memorial Day and telling Father Capodanno’s story. I knew his name sounded familiar–Father Capodonno Blvd in Staten Island.

  3. The Roving Runner: A Trip to the Cloisters - Well Blog - Says:

    […] the street in a playground, young children frolicked in a sprinkler. To my right was the Margaret Corbin traffic circle (named for a woman who was wounded and captured in a Revolutionary War battle here), which […]

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