Editor’s Note: The following article was submitted by the Marais des Cygnes Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Two local DAR members, Betty Bendorf and Jody Lane, have ties to George Washington’s historic crossing of the Delaware River, which took place Christmas night in 1776.
What do an octogenarian retired farmer born in Chillicothe, Mo., and a Generation X software developer born in Des Moines, Iowa, have in common, other than their love of animals?
The answer lies in a 243-year-old event which continued to rattle the mightiest nation on Earth and eventually opened the door for mankind to enter a new realm of dignity.
On this Christmas night, we reflect over 12 score and 3 years to 1776, when General George Washington, in dire need of a victory as desertions were on the rise and enlistments were terminating at year’s end, took bold action by crossing an ice-filled Delaware River and engaging in a surprise attack on Hessian troops encamped at Trenton, N.J.
This was the first of several decisive battles occurring in what is now called “Ten Crucial Days,” from the end of December, 1776, and the first week of January, 1777, between the Continental and British armies. Frederick the Great called Washington’s leadership in these battles “the most brilliant in the world’s history.”
Two soldiers, Pvt. Titus Mershon and Col. Thomas Turbett, who marched over nine miles from their encampment in the dark and bitter cold, boarded boats on the west side of the Delaware River, dodged dangerously large ice chunks on their way to attack an Hessian encampment just to the east of the river, and then disembarked to produce overwhelming positive battle results, are the binding tie for these two ladies.
Titus was one of only six Americans wounded in this battle and was in good company, as future president James Monroe, who would become the first wounded combat veteran to serve as president, was also among the wounded.
Other prominent figures who took part on the American side were future President James Madison, future Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, future Vice President Aaron Burr and future Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.
Both Titus and Thomas continued to serve under General Washington in the Continental Army from its first to last battle.
Betty Bendorf is Titus Mershon’s sixth generation descendant, and Jody Lane is Thomas Turbett’s eighth generation descendant.
We don’t know if Titus and Thomas were friends or if they even knew each other, but we do know they were comrades in arms, sacrificing for the same cause.
Both Betty and Jody are proud of their heritage and have honored their ancestors by joining the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a women’s service organization.
If you are interested in researching your ancestry or DAR, contact the Marais des Cygnes DAR Chapter on their Facebook page or email ANN.LC.BENTON@gmail.com.