I began the day at the site where George Washington crossed the Delaware River Christmas night 1776 just before the Battle of Trenton in New Jersey.
Here is the monument
and the Delaware River. The Delaware River is the longest fresh water river in the eastern U.S. It is 400 miles long and 800 feet wide at the widest part. On average, the water in the river moves at 11,000 cubic feet per second. I’ll come back to this number in a bit. The first two pictures of the river are all looking east into New Jersey right on the opposite shore.
This one is looking down stream from the same location. New Jersey is on the left side of the picture.
These pictures are peaceful and calm. Very relaxing. But also deceiving. This river flooded three times in the past two years and the water reached the bottom of the bridge and where I was standing would have been underwater.
Back up on the picture of the monument, you read that the troops crossed the river on Christmas night 1776. Now you have to use your imagination to envision what it was like for the soldiers. There were 2,400 people with all their horses, supplies, cannon, guns, and everything else they needed trying to cross the river. You’d think crossing a river that looked like the ones in the pictures would be easy, but that night, they were crossing in a raging snowstorm; ice flowed thick and deadly in the river; the British and Hessians (German mercenaries) were on the other side. It took 11 hours to get all the men, supplies, cannon, guns, etc across the river via boat and ferry. 11 hours! It is estimated that the river that night was moving at 43,000 cubic feet per second. Have Grandpa compare the numbers for you. That’s a lot of water with a lot of power behind it.
This is the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware. I watched a video of the crossing and this was the backdrop on the stage.
There you see Washington standing, facing the onslaught of the snowstorm, leading his men onward through adversity… Our tour guide explained that he doesn’t believe Washington crossed the Delaware as depicted in the painting. His word were, “This painting was meant to be inspirational, not historical.” The guide said that Washington was a horseman. He was very fond of his horse, so he would have been on the ferry with the cannon and horses when he crossed, and not in the boat.
These are pictures of Durham boats.
The next pictures show the buildings that are on the site of the crossing. The first is the information about it.
McConkey Ferry Inn (tavern) – the small, rounded building low to the ground with the pointed top (on the left) was the ice house. Inside the tavern, I discovered a Puzzle Mug”. Look at the design for a moment. How would you drink beer from this mug? There are holes near the lip and some sort of protuberances on the lip which leads you to believe you could drink from them. Hmmm. But how without spilling your beer?
Answer: The handle is hollow. You plug two of the spouts with your fingers and drink out of the third like a straw.
Now here’s a bit of trivia for you. Look at this picture. It is the bartender’s area of the tavern. Without refrigeration, beer couldn’t be kept cold in the bar area itself, so it was kept underground in a cooler location. When the bartender ran out of beer, he/she might have to leave the bar unattended and wouldn’t be able to trust the patrons not to steal or drink the other alcohol. So, the bartender would lock up the area by pulling down the two panels you see in the pictures. The one on the right was the “bar” and the one on the left was the “grill”, thus evolved the “Bar and Grill” that many restaurants or bars nowadays have in their names.
It’s time to leave the Delaware Crossing and drive on to Monmouth Battlefield. It was around 95 degees with 85% humidity under a clear, sunny sky as I walked…and walked…and walked…the battlefield with a tour guide who moved us along with military commands. “Troops. Fall in!” “Front and Center!” “Forward. March!”
Monmouth Battlefield State Park on the left and a view of the overall field on the right (looking north). Notice the footbridge in the lower left. I went with the group that walked what the guide said was two-thirds of a mile, but it seemed longer in the heat. I’ll come back to the heat later.
The building below is the parsonage that was used as a meeting house and a field hospital during the battle. Surgeons were allowed to move back and forth between British and American lines under a white flag, often blindfolded so they couldn’t reveal the exact locations of each side, as they tended to the wounded. Whittney, I mentioned there was a book you and I would read together. This location is in the book and the tree was standing at the time of the battle. It’s a White Oak. This meeting house was at the center of a convergence of three roads that formed a triangular round-about so it was an important location. It’s called White Oak Hill. The British fired upon this location.
This plaque is on the church.
We moved on to the battlefield itself. Again, Whittney, we’ll read more about this in the book.
This information plaque was one of many on the battlefield. I know you can’t read it very well, but the second paragraph begins: The French welcomed the war between their British enemies and the Americans.” As you already know, France funded much of the Revolution for the Americans and the French were delighted to be fighting the British. One of our guides summed it up this way: “The French were worried that peace might break out.” So they did whatever they could to keep the war going.
The reason I mentioned the heat and humidity was our guide said on the actual day of the battle the temperature was comparable to what I experienced and the sight of this bridge just yards away from the visitor’s center was a welcomed relief. The soldiers suffered, and some died, from the temperature/humidity, lack of water, and exhaustion.
My day ended at Hard Rock Cafe for supper and my favorite, the Subway. I’m a little out of focus in this picture, but I wanted to show you what it looks like at the “End of the Line”. I’d always wondered what it looked like to reach that point. Now I know. 🙂
I might use this information about crossing the Delaware and the details of the Monmouth battle with my middle school students. They have the basic information about Washington and the crossing, but I could go into more detail now that I know more myself. I’m also contemplating having the students read Yankee Doodle Boy. We’d read it together in class, use the pictures I’ve taken as illustrations in the story, and possibly watch the movie The Crossing as a culminating activity. The students would have enough information at that point to be more critical in their viewing and we could talk about Hollywood vs. history.
Next stop, The Philadelphia Museum of Art. Whittney, ask your mom and dad who ran up the steps of this building in a series of movies they like to watch. I know it’s not very historical, but it is interesting tourist trivia.
Until next time…