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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, December 26, 2016

About 10,000 at Washington's Crossing 2016 Reenactment



If you are a night owl and see this story at midnight or in the early morning hours, it will be right around the time that General George Washington had just completed his daring crossing of the Delaware on Christmas Day in 1776. Unlike the pleasant weather we had, the Delaware was beginning to ice over, and a nor'easter made things worse with rain, sleet and blowing snow. Most of the crossing would be done in darkness. He went on anyway. He had no choice. "Victory or Death!" was his password.

On Christmas Day 2016, a huge crowd of about 10,000, helped by mild weather, left their homes to watch or participate in a re-enactment of this historic event, a daring raid on a Hessian encampment at Trenton. This event took place at Washington Crossing park, which is located on both sides of the river,

Militarily, it meant nothing. Politically, it meant everything. Washington gave the American people the one thing it has always relished most - hope.

Things were looking bleak for the American Revolution. Just a few months earlier, the largest sea-borne invading force ever assembled by any nation had landed on Long Island with 32,000 veteran troops, including the Hessians. In short order, they destroyed the American army. Hessians answered surrender attempts with a bayonet. Washington was stuck with the British and Hessians in front of him and the East River at his back.

That night, a strange fog rolled in, making it impossible to see more than a few feet ahead. Colonel John Glover and his Marblehead Regiment were all sailors. They managed to use this Providential fog to ferry what was left of a 20,000 man army across the East River. From there, Washington and his army limped across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania.

Washington made sure that every boat between Easton and Philly was scuttled or put to his use. Those included the Durham boat, a sturdy flat-bottomed boat that could be as much as 65' long, used to transport pig iron and other resources to Philly from points north.

This is the boat that Glover used to ferry Washington, 2400 troops, 18 cannons and 50-75 horses back across the Delaware on Christmas day 1776. Reproductions of the Durham boat were used in yesterday's re-enactment.

Washington had to strike. If he waited, the river would freeze, and the Hessians would simply cross and destroy him.

After crossing the river, Washington's army marched ten miles to Trenton. Some of them really were barefoot and leaving bloody imprints in the snow. They were starving. They had no sleep. Yet they defeated the world's most feared mercenary force in an hour.

Contrary to popular belief, the Hessians were in no drunken stupor. They were on high alert, and had been for days. They were constantly being harried by much smaller raids and were likely exhausted. The nor'easter gave Washington a strategic surprise.

This was just the first of three battles that Washington would fight, and win, in a series of ten days. The troops whose enlistments were set to expire stayed on, despite having no pay, no food, and in many cases, no weapons. They stayed because he asked, and let them make the decision. They had a leader not known for flowery speeches, but who would sleep under a tree just like his men. A General who led from the front, even with Hessians heading at him with their bayonets in an effort to take the bridge at Assunpink Creek. A taciturn man who initially despised his troops, but would break down in tears and hug his men on the day he said good-bye.

No less a person than Frederick the Great would say, "The achievements of Washington and his little band of compatriots between the 25th of December and the 4th of January, a space of 10 days, were the most brilliant of any recorded in the annals of military achievements."

It was an integrated army, too. At least ten per cent of the soldiers who fought under Washington were black. Though Washington never spoke publicly on the subject, he set all of his slaves free in his will, and set aside monetary provisions for each family. It was a gesture that other so-called founding fathers failed to grasp or, more likely, chose to ignore.

Yesterday's reenactors included the very young and the very old. It included people of all colors. But just as the Continental Congress had fled Philadelphia as the British advanced, there was a shortage of politicians.
rs.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...


How do you know it was a nor'easter and not another kind of snowstorm? The term nor'easter didn't become known until more than a century after 1776.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Bernie.

Bernie O'Hare said...

9:38, Chernow, in his Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Washington, called it a nor'easter. So did historian David McCullough, another Pulitzer Prize winner. It does not matter what term was in vogue at the time. What matters is what the weather conditions were, and the weather conditions describe a nor'easter. I frankly have never studied how long that term has been in usage.

Agent 99 said...

Great post, it must have been fascinating to have been there for the reenactment!

Bernie O'Hare said...

It was a very nice event. Contrary to what someone suggested to me on Facebook, I was not there for the original.

george schaller said...

Bernie,
yes the reinactment was a nice event to memorialize the real event. George Washington as well as all the men that defended what today seems to be slipping away with designs of the modern world we have all become part of, with most forgetting the facts that made this great nation! Great article again and a true to life history lesson of the sufferings of many as allways, the children are the hard ones to forget as there young lives were distorted with many a horrorible tragic happenings!
That is a hole other untouched article as well as no fingerprints on this modern social ill left out of sight and out of mind.
The advertismentalists and there developmentalists will keep pushing rennasianse resurgence into the darkages as the greater part made up of the populus will just keep trying to stay alive?
REpublican redd
humanist by design

Anonymous said...

You got it George. Hillary would have swamped the boat. Her libtard followers would have overslept high on dope. Liberals can't appreciate Washington since their hero is Karl Marx.

True American heroes that today are being besmirched by our once great country going down the drain due to democrats and their socialism.

Anonymous said...

And I'm sure The Trumpster would have understood George, what with those 4 deferments. What was the last one? A hangnail?
I can see it now with General Trump..."Go get em' boys! You know how I hate taxes! I'll be back here sitting on my golden "throne", let me know how it goes."

Anonymous said...

This post was about Trump? Ha ha. Gonna be a LONG, LONG four years! So glad the Russians rigged the election, or whatever Democrats make up in order to distract from the fact that they screwed Bernie Sanders and alienated so many people all by themselves.

Bernie O'Hare said...

So far as I can tell, nothing George wrote had anything to do with Trump. Also, I can assure you that my story was in no way intended to make any presidential analogy. Hillary and The Donald, along with most persons who have held the office of President, pale in comparison to Washington. I can add that Washington detested the kind of personal attack in which Trump takes so much pleasure. He would be horrified at how Clinton used her public service to enrich herself, especially bc he nearly went cash broke in the interval between being General and President, when he was constantly called upon to put up half of the country in his home. Yet he refused to accept compensation, believing that would be inconsistent with public service. Contrary to popular belief, Washington was often cash poor. He had lots of land, but actually had to borrow money to make the trip from Mount Vernon to New York after being unanimously elected President. Very few can be compared to Washington. Lincoln, TR and FDR are the only ones who come close.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, you know he would have detested the democrat socialism they have imposed on this country. Give Mr. Trump a chance to prove his greatness. After all he saved us from Clinton. He had to cross his own version of the Delaware, fighting the media everyday to become President.

george schaller said...

Bernie,
Don't explain me, as cluelessness and being cognaZantly complicite to there closeminded ignorance exudeZ from there very poreZ! Most should just keep washin with there engineered coolcream hoping ugliness can be washed from the soul?
REpublican redd
humanist by design