Apr 052012

A recurring theme in informal Mottice family histories is that the father of Peter Mottice — whoever he was — was killed at the Delaware crossing before the Battle of Trenton during the Revolutionary War.  This story is — so far — unverified.  It would be helpful, of course, if we actually knew who Peter's father was, whether James Thomas Mottice or someone else.

Ordinarily you might think that being a war casulty could increase the likelihood of him being identified, but this doesn't appear to be the case during the early Revolution.  Trenton was one of the earlier battles and most of the troops were on three month enlistments.  Since it was difficult for the Continental Congress to raise funds to pay them, many left the service after three months and record-keeping seemed to be a low priority.

One of the best sources of information about the Battle of Trenton and the War generally is the David Library at Washington's Crossing, PA.  As the name of the town suggests, the library is located near the place where Washington's army crossed the Delaware River during the night of Dec. 25, 1776.  I spent a day at the David Library examining its material, but found nothing definitive about Peter's father.

If Peter's father did indeed die during at this time, he was one of only a very few casulties.  Including the battle itself, not more than a handful of Americans were lost.  Most, it seems, died from exposure or illness resulting from exposure as the crossing occurred during a violent snowstorm and frigid temperatures.

Since family lore indicates that Peter's father was one who died of exposure during the crossing, I focused my attention to uncovering the identity of the crossing casulaties.  Those names seem not to been recorded, however.  The best source I was able to find was a book by the noted historian David Hackett Fisher entitled "Washington's Crossing."  And end-note gives the most detail I have seen about the post-crossing casualties:

Appendix O, pg. 406–

5. American Losses

George Washington wrote to Col. John Cadwalader on 12-27-76: ". . .not more than a private or two killed, one or two wounded, and Capn. Washington."  To John Hancock on the same day, Washington reported, "Our loss is very trifling indeed, only two officers and one or two privates wounded."  Tench Tilghman wrote, "Only Capn Washington and his Lieutenant slightly wounded and two privates killed and two wounded."  Leven Powell added "Ensign (James) Bixton wounded, in the 4th VA Regiment."  A New Jersey resident, Richard Scudder, reported that "two or three" American soldiers died in his house [north of Trenton] of illness or exposure.  Greenwood reported that two soldiers froze to death on the road to Trenton.  Sources include GW 7:450, 454 [John Greenwood Fifer in Patterson's MA Regt.  The Revolutionay Services of John Greenwood of Boston, ed. by Isaac J. Greenwood (NY, 1922).  Tench Tilghman, Memoir of Liet. Tench Tilghman (Albany, 1876) rpt NY 1971 pg. 460; Leven Powell, "Correspondence of Levon Powell", John P. Branch Historical Papers (1901); Dwyer, "The Day is Ours," 271; Smith, Princeton, 27.  In summary, the evidence indicates that 2 privates were kiilled in action, at least 4 or 5 died of exposure or illness, and 3 officers and 2 privates were wounded.