Margaret Corbin’s grave in West Point, New York, features a striking monument to her heroism during the American Revolution. When Corbin’s husband, John, was mortally wounded while manning a cannon at the Battle of Fort Washington, she promptly took over and helped fire into enemy lines. Her monument shows a woman behind a cannon with a powder horn, her hair lifted by the wind.
Yet Corbin’s grave, just below the monument, sits empty. In 2016, construction work at the U.S. Military Academy accidentally disturbed her grave, leading to an emergency excavation. When forensic archaeologists studied the remains, they discovered that a man’s remains were buried in Corbin’s grave. He was reburied in a different part of the West Point Cemetery.
When Corbin died in 1800, she was buried in nearby Highland Falls. But in 1926, the Daughters of the American Revolution led a campaign to locate her original grave, exhume her, and reinter her in the prestigious West Point Cemetery, which is also home to such military leaders as General Armstrong Custer and H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. Locals led the D.A.R. to a cedar stump that was said to mark the grave, and an Army surgeon examined remains that appeared to show battle wounds.
The remains were buried with full military honors, the monument was erected, and every May, the Daughters of the American Revolution gather at West Point to celebrate Corbin’s life. Only 90 years later did the organization learn that Margaret Corbin’s grave did not contain Margaret Corbin’s remains. Members of the D.A.R. are still trying to locate her original gravesite.
Although the monument in West Point stands above an empty grave, it helps to share an important and lesser-known story about a woman who fought for American independence from Britain. It is next to a neoclassical chapel in a quiet and scenic section of the cemetery, which has a dramatic view of the Hudson River. It is the only monument to a woman veteran on the military base.