Washington Crossing the Delaware


I-95 Exit 7, New Jersey

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Question: Why Did Washington Cross the Delaware? Answer: To Get to the Other Side.

Here is the famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware. On Christmas night 1776, Washington had to take a gamble in what was the bleakest time of the war. He wrote, “I think the game is pretty near up”.

As his troops shivered with hunger and disease, the British and Hessian soldiers were snug in their winter quarters on the NJ side of the Delaware River. On this holiday eve, the enemy feasted on goose and tankards of rum, and the sentry guards were less alert, since they knew the poor condition of the Revolutionary troops, and besides, the river was full of ice. Washington’s many shoeless (“Some of them have tied old rags around their feet”) troops crossed the icy waters in the dead of night in a snowstorm, and left bloody footprints in the snow. Even their musket powder became soaked, so they were told to use their bayonets. About 2,400 men (including 2 future Presidents - James Madison and James Monroe - as well as future Supreme Court Justice John Marshall and famous rivals Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton) made it across. They caught the Brits and Hessians in a drunken slumber; the Hessians standing guard in the storm thought the first Continentals were their relief party. The Revolutionaries managed to get them to surrender in 40 minutes. No Americans were killed, though a couple had frozen to death. They captured over 900 prisoners, 1,000 muskets and 40 horses.

The incredible victory flashed through all of the colonies, changing the minds of many battle weary soldiers, and turned the tide of the war. The army that had been on the brink of falling apart now felt that all was not hopeless, and planned for the campaigns ahead.