Delaware, Washington Crossing the

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DELAWARE, WASHINGTON CROSSING THE. Gen. George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River and defeat of the British in New Jersey checked the British advance toward Philadelphia and restored American morale. On Christmas Day 1776, Washington and 2,400 men with artillery crossed the Delaware from Pennsylvania to surprise British forces, chiefly Hessians (soldiers recruited from Germany), in their quarters north of Trenton, New Jersey. They killed the Hessian commander, Col. Johann Rall, and took 946 prisoners and their weapons. The sick and wounded, as well as supplies left by other Hessian troops retreating to Princeton, were captured by Gen. John Cadwalader. On 29 December, Washington, who retired to Pennsylvania after his exploits, recrossed the Delaware and advanced to Trenton, where he was attacked by the British under Gen. Charles Cornwallis, then marched to Princeton hoping to capture British supplies at New Brunswick. After his victory at the Battle of Princeton, Washington prevailed in skirmishes at Springfield, Hackensack, and Elizabethtown. He headquartered at Morristown, and, for the moment, the American cause was saved.

More than sixty years after the campaign that solidified Washington's reputation, a German-born American painter, Emanuel Leutze, produced his famous Washington Crossing the Delaware. However stirring the image, it has been called absurd by many critics. The pose of Washington in the prow of a rowboat is ridiculous; the flag is

an anachronism; and the river covered with ice is the Rhine, not the Delaware. Nonetheless, the painting has become a symbol of Washington's accomplishment and is perhaps the best known of Leutze's works and the most popular conception of the crossing.


Bill, Alfred H. The Campaign of Princeton, 1776–1777. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1948.

Dwyer, William M. The Day Is Ours!: November 1776–January 1777: An Inside View of the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. New York: Viking Press, 1983.

Kammen, Michael. Meadows of Memory: Images of Time and Tradition in American Art and Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992.

Wilbur C.Abbott/a. r.

See alsoGerman Mercenaries ; Princeton, Battle of ; Revolution, American: Military History ; Trenton, Battle of .

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