Friday, December 23, 2016

How Washington and Troops prepared for the Christmas Crossing of the Delaware

It is not often you can go back in time and really experience history. Not all profound moments make it into the history books.

In 2011, I met and wrote about meeting General George Washington on the street in New Hope, PA, not far from Washington Crossing. He recommended we attend the reenactment of the Crossing of the Delaware.  I finally made it this year, five years later and it happened to be the one I was suppose to witness.

What I saw:

These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered......Thomas Paine Dec. 1776.

General George Washington had these words of Thomas Paine read to his troops before the Crossing of the Delaware on December 25, 1776, to inspire his troops.

Signatures that forged our freedom.

Women, typically did not travel with the troops, with the exception of Martha Washington, although she was not present for the Crossing of the Delaware in 1776. Local women were depended on to help feed and cloth the soldiers. Women also served as lookouts and spies, cooking up their contribution to the new country.

A little drum roll stirs the hearts and inspires all of us to follow along freedom's trail.  Every one taps along to the overture and the hope of a more promising future. Music raises our spirits as well as the Spirit of  '76.

  I am sure the attempt was there, but it must have been literally impossible to crank out enough warm socks, gloves and scarfs for the over 2,400 troops involved in the crossing and the taking of Trenton.

Uniforms were a whole different story, I came to find out when I tried to identify who the big brass were. Major-Generals were to wear purple ribbon across their breasts; Brigadier-Generals were to wear pink ribbons; Aides were to wear green ribbons.  Washington, as Commander-in-Chief, wore a light blue ribbon. Information obtained from
There is only one Commander-in-Chief, see if you can find him in this picture. He appeared to look different than the George Washington, I had encountered five years ago, however this one has the same stern face and serious intent.

Most of the other uniforms were a combination from the different brigades from the different colonies. I learned to identify troops from PA, NJ and DE that day, only because we asked. The gentleman standing to the left of the flag in the black ski cap was taking his first journey across the river as an reenactor. He was with the New Jersey troops and we had spoken to him earlier asking about the uniforms.

I was surprised and confused to see the flags lowered and touching the ground. It is part of the U.S. flag code now that no part of the flag should touch the ground when lowered. These flags were lowered for the passing of the Commander-in-Chief.

Look for the red hats scattered throughout the crowd, these patriots will play a key role on Christmas.  They are the rowers that took the troops across the Delaware. Two rowers per oar, with a total of four oars, two per side, The majority of these original oarsmen came from Marblehead, MA and the rest consisted of local boaters.

The Advanced Guard were the first to cross.

Washington's Lifeguard patrolled the banks of the river just before the General inspected the troops.

Ned Hector led the artillery section on the December 11, 2016 dress rehearsal that I witnessed. 

 Lieutenant General Karen Dyson was the keynote speaker at the dress rehearsal ceremony and she later donned a warmer cape to embark on her ceremonious journey across the Delaware. The youngest reenactor I saw that day, held her beret with honor.

As I mentioned, I was personally invited five years ago by a different George Washington.  If you watch the film in the visitor's center you will see George Washington portrayed by Robert Gerenser, the same GW I met five years ago. He passed away in May 2016.  The tossing and floating of the wreath was in tribute to him. He was a beloved fixture in the New Hope area. Not many people are chosen to fill George Washington's shoes.  I was honored to be invited so many years ago by one of the select few. I am glad I was there for this tribute. Something made this be the year I made it.

There were two code words to the Christmas Day operations and I could easily tell you what they are but the only way I would cross General George Washington would be with him in a boat on the Delaware River.

America's independence was won by officer's, gentleman, farmers, shopkeepers, servants, woman, militia, Minutemen, African Americans, Irish, English, French, German and the list goes on. It is US, we make up the United States and we can thank these men and women that came before us for our freedom. This could be a very different country had they not fought for us.

You don't have to wait for a special invitation to attend a reenactment of Washington's Crossing of the Delaware, another will take place on Christmas Day between Noon and 3 p.m. (actual crossing 1 p.m.) dress for the weather. Looking ahead it looks like favorable weather for a definitely favorable family event.

Next week check out Patriot's Week for events happening in Trenton.

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