George Washington, John Glover, Henry Knox, James Monroe – are all well-known participants in the 1776 Christmas night crossing of the Delaware River. But who were the other 2,396 people who comprised Washington’s army at the time?
Washington Crossing Historic Park curator Kimberly McCarty will introduce guests to a handful of these lesser-known figures during her December 4 lecture, titled “Who Was Here?” The 7 p.m. lecture is free and will be offered in-person and on Zoom. Registration for both in-person and virtual attendance is required on the DCNR website (click here to register).
McCarty’s lecture will explore the lives and contributions of some of the individuals who took part in the crossing and the subsequent victories during the Ten Crucial Days.
“The soldiers who crossed with George Washington that night were mostly regular people who today would be your neighbors, your co-workers, or your family members – they were true citizen soldiers,” McCarty says. “Identifying many of these people is a challenge because this was still early in the war and recordkeeping wasn’t completely reliable.”
One of the individuals McCarty will highlight at this year’s lecture is John Greenwood.
“Greenwood was from Massachusetts and was only about 15 years old when he was here. He was a fifer, and he was amongst the first crews to cross the river,” she says. “He wrote a memoir later in life in which he describes how bad the storm was.”
“He describes pulling apart wooden fences to burn while they waited for the rest of the army to cross the river. It was bitterly cold and windy. He would be constantly turning around by the fire and whatever side was toward the fire was warm and the other side was freezing.”
“Later in the war, Greenwood would become a privateer and later he was George Washington’s dentist during his presidency!”
McCarty will also discuss James Moore, the only soldier buried in the park’s soldiers’ gravesite who is known to us today.
“Moore was from New York and was second in command in Alexander Hamilton’s artillery unit. He didn’t cross because he died from sickness on the Thompson-Neely property on Christmas Day. His original headstone is on display in the park’s visitor center.”
Ennion Williams is another crossing participant who McCarty will highlight.
“Williams was from Philadelphia and came from a Quaker family, so he was expelled from meeting for participating in the war,” she says. “He wrote several letters from what he referred to as Thompson’s Mill, in which he describes the sad conditions of the army and their need for supplies.”
While many of those who crossed the Delaware River in 1776 will likely always remain anonymous, McCarty hopes her lecture will convey just how “normal” these heroes of the Revolutionary War were.
“It’s important that people relate to these individuals, even though they lived nearly 250 years ago,” explains McCarty. “It creates a critical connection between past and present that humanizes the sacrifices made during this important event in the Revolution.”