Artillery Legends 

"Artillery conquers and infantry occupies"

J.F.C. Fuller



The Legend of Saint Barbara

According to legend, Saint Barbara was the extremely beautiful daughter of a wealthy heathen named Dioscorus, who lived near Nicomedia in Asia Minor. Because of her singular beauty and fearful that she be demanded in marriage and taken away from him, he jealously shut her up in a tower to protect her from the outside world.

Shortly before embarking on a journey, he commissioned a sumptuous bathhouse to be built for her, approving the design before he departed. Barbara had heard of the teachings of Christ, and while her father was gone spent much time in contemplation. From the windows of her tower she looked out upon the surrounding countryside and marveled at the growing things; the trees, the animals and the people. She decided that all these must be part of a master plan, and that the idols of wood and stone worshipped by her parents must be condemned as false. Gradually she came to accept the Christian faith.

As her belief became firm, she directed that the builders redesign the bathhouse her father had planned, adding another window so that the three windows might symbolize the Holy Trinity.

When her father returned, he was enraged at the changes and infuriated when Barbara acknowledged that she was a Christian. He dragged her before the perfect of the province, who decreed that she be tortured and put to death by beheading. Dioscorus himself carried out the death sentence. On his way home he was struck by lightning and his body consumed.

Saint Barbara lived and died about the year 300 A.D. She was venerated as early as the seventh century. The legend of the lightning bolt which struck down her persecutor caused her to be regarded as the patron saint in time of danger from thunderstorms, fires and sudden death.

When gunpowder made its appearance in the Western world, Saint Barbara was invoked for aid against accidents resulting from explosions--since some of the earlier artillery pieces often blew up instead of firing their projectile, Saint Barbara became the patroness of the artillerymen.

Saint Barbara is usually represented standing by a tower with three windows, carrying the palm of a martyr in her hand. Often, too, she holds a chalice and a sacramental wafer and sometimes cannon are displayed near her. In the present calendars, the feast of Saint Barbara falls on December 4th and is traditionally recognized by a formal military dinner, often involving presentation of the Order of Saint Barbara.

The Order of Saint Barbara is an honorary military society of the United States Field Artillery. Both U.S. Marine and Army field artillery along with their military and civilian supporters are eligible for membership. The order is managed by the U.S. Field Artillery Association and two levels of recognition exist. The most distinguished level is the Ancient Order of Saint Barbara and those who are selected for this honor have achieved long-term, exceptional service to the field artillery surpassing even their brethren in the Honorable Order of Saint Barbara. The order links field artillerymen of the past and present in a brotherhood of professionalism, selfless service and sacrifice symbolized by Saint Barbara.

Ancient Order of Saint Barbara

The Ancient Order is the more distinguished of the two levels of the Military Society of Saint Barbara. It recognizes the select few who stand above their brethren of the Honorable Order. The specific criteria for accession into the Ancient Order is to have performed conspicuous, long-term service for or on behalf of the United States Army Field Artillery or Marine Corps Field Artillery. The Ancient Order is reserved for an elite few whose careers have embodied the spirit, dignity and sense of sacrifice and commitment epitomized by Saint Barbara. Membership in the Honorable Order is not a prerequisite for membership in the Ancient Order.

The approving authority for all awards of the Ancient Order of Saint Barbara is the Commanding General, United States Army Field Artillery Center and Fort Sill. The Commanding General may approve, disapprove or downgrade the nomination to the Honorable Order as he deems appropriate.

Honorable Order of Saint Barbara

The award authority for the Honorable Order of Saint Barbara is decentralized to the Field Artillery commanders who are full colonels or above. Division artillery commanders, Field Artillery brigade commanders, Marine artillery regiment commanders or corps artillery commanders have approval authority. Such commanders may approve the award for those in or associated with their commands. When there is no such Field Artillery commander available, the Commanding General of the United States Army Field Artillery Center and Fort Sill is the approving authority for the Honorable Order of Saint Barbara. The Honorable Order of Saint Barbara recognizes those individuals who have demonstrated the highest standards of integrity and moral character; displayed an outstanding degree of professional competence; served the United States Army or Marine Corps Field Artillery with selflessness; and contributed to the promotion of the Field Artillery in ways that stand out in the eyes of the recipient's seniors, subordinates and peers, alike.

 Margaret Cochran Corbin (1751-c.1800)
by Danuta Bois

Margaret Cochran Corbin fought alongside her husband in the American Revolutionary War and was the first woman to receive pension from the United States government as a disabled soldier. She was born Nov. 12, 1751 near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, orphaned at the age of five and was raised by relatives. When she was twenty-one she married John Corbin. John joined the Continental Army when the American Revolution started four years later and Margaret accompanied her husband. Wives of the soldiers often cooked for the men, washed their laundry and nursed wounded soldiers. They also watched the men do their drills and, no doubt, learned those drills, too.

On November 16,1776, while they were stationed in Fort Washington, New York, the fort was attacked by British and Hessian troops. John was assisting a gunner until the gunner was killed. At this point John took charge of the cannon and Margaret assisted him. Sometime later, John was killed also. With no time to grieve, Margaret continued loading and firing the cannon by herself until she was wounded by grapeshot which tore her shoulder, mangled her chest and lacerated her jaw. Other soldiers moved her to the rear where she received first aid. The fort was captured by the British, but the wounded American soldiers were paroled. They were ferried across the river to Fort Lee. Margaret was then transported further in a jolting wagon all the way to Philadelphia. She never recovered fully from her wounds and was left without use of her left arm for the rest of her life.

In 1779, the Continental Congress granted her a pension ("half the pay and allowances of a soldier in service") due to her distinguished bravery. She continued to be included on regimental muster lists until the end of the war in 1783. Margaret Corbin died near West Point, New York prior to her fiftieth birthday.

In 1926, the Daughters of the American Revolution had her remains moved from an obscure grave and re-interred with other soldiers behind the Old Cadet Chapel at West Point where they also erected a monument to her. Near the place of the battle, in Fort Tryon Park in New York City, a bronze plaque commemorates Margaret Corbin "the first American woman to take a soldier's part in the War for Liberty".

The Story of Molly Pitcher

An Artillery wife, Mary Hays McCauly (better known as Molly Pitcher) shared the rigors of Valley Forge with her husband, William Hays. Her actions during the battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778 became legendary. That day at Monmouth was as hot as Valley Forge was cold. Someone had to cool the hot guns and bathe parched throats with water.

Across that bullet-swept ground, a striped skirt fluttered. Mary Hays McCauly was earning her nickname "Molly Pitcher" by bringing pitcher after pitcher of cool spring water to the exhausted and thirsty men. She also tended to the wounded and once, heaving a crippled Continental soldier up on her strong young back, carried him out of reach of hard-charging Britishers. On her next trip with water, she found her artilleryman husband back with the guns again, replacing a casualty. While she watched, Hays fell wounded. The piece, its crew too depleted to serve it, was about to be withdrawn. Without hesitation, Molly stepped forward and took the rammer staff from her fallen husband’s hands. For the second time on an American battlefield, a woman manned a gun. (The first was Margaret Corbin during the defense of Fort Washington in 1776.) Resolutely, she stayed at her post in the face of heavy enemy fire, ably acting as a matross (gunner).

For her heroic role, General Washington himself issued her a warrant as a noncommissioned officer. Thereafter, she was widely hailed as "Sergeant Molly." A flagstaff and cannon stand at her gravesite at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. A sculpture on the battle monument commemorates her courageous deed.

Artillery Order of Molly Pitcher

The award authority for the Artillery Order of Molly Pitcher is decentralized to the Field Artillery commanders, colonel or above. Such commanders may approve the award for individuals in their communities. When there is no such Field Artillery commander available, the Commanding General of the United States Army Field Artillery Center and Fort Sill is the approving authority for bestowing membership in the Artillery Order of Molly Pitcher. The Artillery Order of Molly Pitcher recognizes individuals who have voluntarily contributed in a significant way to the improvement of the Field Artillery Community.

Genesis of the Field Artillery

In the beginning, there was chaos, and the chaos was the infantry, the queen of battle. However, the queen was alone. And fear was with the infantry, so she cried out unto the Lord saying, "Lord save me for I am afraid!"

And the Lord heard her grunts and set some of the infantry on beasts of burden, and these he called the cavalry, and the cavalry became armor. And when the Lord saw what he had done, he laughed saying, "Well, you can't win them all!"

As time passed, the infantry and the armor again cried out unto the Lord saying, "Lord save us, for we are afraid." The Lord heard their cries and decided to end their weepings.

The Lord said unto them, "I shall send unto you a race of men noble in heart and spirit." And the Lord created the Field Artillery, and named them the King of Battle.

And the Lord said unto the infantry and armor, "When it is dark, the King shall light your way. And when you need smoke, there shall be smoke, and when you need it to rain down death and destruction upon the enemy, you shall have it."

And the Lord gave the King big guns and big bullets. And the infantry and armor were jealous, for they had not. And the Lord gave the artillery rockets and missiles and nukes. And when the infantry and armor saw this, they fell to their knees in awesome wonder, saying surely the Lord is on the side of the artillery, the King of Battle.

And the Lord said, "CHECK!"

And abideth infantry, armor and artillery, but the greatest of these is the artillery.

175mm gun on the horizon


I Am the Field Artillery

by John J. McMahon and Patricia S. Hollis

I am the United States Field Artillery. I fly the skies with my light forces, sail the sea with my Marines and pound the ground with my heavy forces. I see with satellites, touch with my terrible thunder and taste the sweet glory of victory. I am everywhere-mobile, agile and lethal. I Deal in Steel.

I was born of necessity in 1775 when the British fired upon our militia at Lexington and Concord. My six-pounder cannons were captured field pieces, drawn by oxen from battlefield to battlefield. I crossed the Delaware River with Washington on Durham boats and wintered at Valley Forge. At the moment of victory at Yorktown, it was I who fired the decisive rounds. I am Firepower for Freedom.

I was called to defeat the British again in 1812. I fired for the charge at Chippewa, out-dueling the Royal Artillery and carrying the day. I was there at the Battle of New Orleans with my lethal lanyards pulling devastation down on our enemy. Then in 1846, I stood fast against the superior forces of Santa Anna. The Mexicans came close enough to smell the smoke of my cannons and feel the deadly sting of my "grape" as my Flying Artillery bombarded the battlefield. I Rule with Thundering Steel.

And then in 1861, with my muzzle-loaded guns and my observers positioned by my side, I saw us torn apart by the War Between the States. I was there on both sides with the Blue and the Gray. My fires decided victory at Malvern Hill, Antietam, Shiloh, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. I am Mind-Numbing, Bone-Shattering Savagery.

I was part of the American Expeditionary Force that, under General Black Jack Pershing, helped defeat the Kaiser and the German Army in 1918. I had larger cannons, but my main arm was the French 75-mm gun drawn into battle position by horses. As World War II approached and the forces I fired for became more mobile, I moved by trucks and became armored Field Artillery. With my Priest 105-mm self-propelled howitzer and my observers forward with the tankers and infantrymen, I adjusted my ferocious fires for our forces. I massed fires by battery, battalion, Div Arty and even dealt my death by corps artillery. I am the Greatest Killer on the Battlefield.

I was there in the mountains of Korea and jungles of Vietnam. From Pusan and Inchon north to the Yalu, the pounding of my 155-mm towed guns helped bring about the Peace Accord at Panmunjom in 1953. In fire bases in Vietnam and with my airmobile firepower, it was I who brought howitzer hell to the enemy for our maneuver forces, using my multiple field pieces-105, 155, 175 and 203. I am Death on Call.

I was there for the Cold War as America stood her ground for international democracy. I gave her my Lance and then the mighty Pershing missile, which forced our opponents to the negotiating table. Though I never fired a missile in anger, my Pershing Peacemaker was strategic. I am Persuasive Power for Peace.

And I'll be there when you need me. I am ubiquitous on the battlefield. I can focus my firepower like a flashlight beam, raining death and destruction down upon our foe. My "rockets red glare" is now white-hot from six-packs of steel-rapid, far-reaching and awesome. The autonomous actions of my howitzers can shell out hell to bring our enemy to his knees. And when I'm done, he'll bow before me because -- I am and always will be The King of Battle. 

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