|McKonkey's Ferry Inn, courtsey of Visit Bucks County|
As Washington dined, 2,400 of his men assembled outside along the riverbank. They were a rag tag army, dressed like scarecrows and huddled in blankets against the cold and spitting snow.
|Re-enactment at McKonkey's Ferry Inn, Visit Bucks County|
Their password for the evening told the story: “Victory or death.” This night, Washington was to gamble his army on a desperate stroke – an all or nothing surprise attack on the enemy across the river in Trenton.
|Reenactment at the exact crossing site, Visit Bucks County|
The painting’s depiction of a stern, determined Washington, standing at the prow of a boat, leading an invasion of landing craft into an ice-choked river, is an American icon. Reproductions can be purchased in the gift shop on everything from kitchen magnets to mouse pads.
|Wayne Henderek, Washington Crossing State Park|
The only building here at the time was McKonkey’s Ferry Inn, but today there is a picturesque village of structures lining a tree-rimmed road. At the Boat House, there are four reproductions of the Durham boats that were used in the crossing. Built to carry iron ore, the pitch black craft were 40 to 60 feet long and looked like long, thick canoes.
|Wayne henderek, Washington Crossing State Park|
|Wayne Henderek, Washington Crossing|
As Thomas Paine had written, the “summer solider and sunshine patriot” had long ago deserted. But the men who were left were special. Among the men crossing the Delaware were James Monroe, who would become the fourth U.S. president; Alexander Hamilton, who become the first Secretary of the Treasury; and John Marshall, who would become a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
One of Washington’s aides recorded the scene in his diary. “Dec. 26, 3 a.m. I am writing in the ferry house…I (have) never seen Washington so determined as he is now. He stands on the bank of the river, wrapped in his cloak, superintending the landing of his troops….The storm is changing to sleet, and cuts like a knife. The last cannon is being landed, and we are ready to mount our horses.”
|The historic trail they marched on.|
|The Battle of Trenton|
Best Book: The bestseller 1776 by David McCullough tells the dramatic story of Washington’s retreat from New York and the attack on Trenton, Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer is the best book on the event itself.
BREAKING NEWS: Historical artist Mort Kunsler has just released a new, much more historically accurate painting depicting Washington crossing the Delaware. For a look at the painting and the story behind how it was created, visit: http://blog.mortkunstler.com/2011/12/abc-world-news-now-washington-crossing.html