Crossing the Delaware

“Washington’s task was to transform the improbable into the inevitable.” 

Joseph J. Ellis, His Excellency: George Washington

George Washington once said, “The turning points of lives are not the great moments. The real crises are often concealed in occurrences so trivial in appearance that they pass unobserved.” 

Christmas 1776, while others gathered around the hearth to celebrate an uneasy yuletide, George Washington led a column of Continental Army troops across the frigid Delaware River the night of December 25 – 26. It was a decisive act that carried danger, risk and the uncertainty of outcome. The situation was bleak.  To that point, The Continental Army had lost most of the battles. Spirits were down, and many had deserted, their initial passion for independence replaced with hopeless resignation.   5,000 men remained, yet half of these were ill and unfit for duty.  Wrapped in rags, many did not have the shoes to protect them against the cold winter.

Crossing the Delaware was the single event, the catalyst that transformed the momentum of the Revolution. Wet, cold, and three hours behind, the Continental Army surprised the Hessians, professional mercenaries sent by King George III to wipe out the seemingly innocuous American rebellion.    With the victory, strength and courage returned.  In the immortal words of George Washington, – “The harder the conflict, the greater the triumph!”  The moment was captured in an 1851 oil-on-canvas painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware, by German American Artist Emanuel Leutze.

The Delaware River, from its primary and secondary source in the heart of the Catskill Mountains, flows 674 kilometres into Delaware Bay where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. Its watershed drains an area of 36,568 square kilometres.  Millions of people depend upon the waters of the Delaware River for drinking water.  The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, a protected area of 70,000 acres that is situated in the middle section of the Delaware River in New Jersey, came into being out of environmental opposition to a controversial plan to build a dam.

Every voice makes a difference.

“Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.” 
George Washington

Published by Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

35 thoughts on “Crossing the Delaware

  1. Ha ha, beautiful, thanks, Rebecca. This painting is an unforgettable one. I will be going to NYC again in Sept, and will visit the Met again. Let me see if there are new inspirations for me …and I will share with you!


    1. I would like that!!! Have a wonderful time at the Met. Every year I purchase the Met Calendar so that I can enjoy their wonderful artwork right next to my computer!!! 🙂


  2. I

    Your picture of the Washington Monument has reminded me of my old post. Please take a look. My picture seems to have an opposite look from yours as it might appear to be sad. On the other hand, I think the picture of mine, can be a companion to the interpretation of the famous painting. Is George Washington alone? Not physically, but in spirit he is. Imagine you are in his position. He is taking a great risk. He is in a solitary mood. What will happen next?


    1. I have a feeling they did! From what I read, the founding fathers were well read in history and philosophy. I think they knew what they were getting into…

      “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Benjamin Franklin

      “John Adams – “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.” John Adams


      1. Such stirring quotes! I have been wondering as I read your posts, how many nations have had the luxury of coming in to being/existence without recourse to war. And even if the initial state of nationhood is peaceful, there is often war or conflict that erupts soon after. The making of nations is a strange business.


      2. Your comments have me thinking – I am certain there have been nations that have come into being without recourse of war, however I need to do a little more research on this subject. It is a great research project!!! You are quite right – nation building is a complex and difficult path.

        “We may please ourselves with the prospect of free and popular governments. But there is great danger that those governments will not make us happy. God grant they may. But I fear that in every assembly, members will obtain an influence by noise, not sense. By meanness, not greatness. By ignorance, not learning. By contracted hearts, not large souls.”
        ― John Adams


  3. Great post, dear Clanmother!

    Once again it proofs that It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.
    Have a great weekend!
    Yuletide = juletid in Norwegian. 🙂


    1. Thank you so much for juletid!! I learn something new every day. You are so right – heroes lead from the front, with courage and determination.

      “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” George Washington


  4. Look ye Quebecers of Canada upon the Americans having protected nature’s life supporting natural creation, that came into being out of environmental opposition to a controversial plan to build a dam. This instead of diverting rivers, and flooding lands as well as natural wild life habitats, to build dams in order to sell excess electrical power beyond our borders, for what… yes the almighty dollar. Thank you Rebecca for another grand example of these nature’s magnificent creations kept intact, in spite of greed’s pressure. JJ


  5. What stories this river could tell!! Thank you for this post and the quotes by George Washington. He and his men knew whereof they spoke–what courage and bravery. Emanuel Leutze captured the moment.


    1. It is indeed, remarkable. When I read John Ellis’ “His Excellency: George Washington” he discussed how the founding fathers of the U.S. chose George Washington to be their leader. Even Benjamin Franklin acknowledged there was something about him that set him apart. I always like the humour of John Adams in this quote:

      “And then Franklin smote the ground and up rose George Washington, fully dressed and astride a horse! Then the three of them, Franklin, Washington and the HORSE, proceeded to win the entire revolution single handley!”
      ― John Adams


  6. “Victory or Death”– I can’t imagine what these men went through to free a nation. Being that I’ve never gone to war or had to severely struggle with the elements, watching this brought home the hundreds of thousand who have gone before, over water and land, to live and do the unthinkable. This is a great post today that has brought a reflection back to so many who have perished for the greater good. I’m not a dualistic minded person, my country over your country, I look to earth and all humans as part of the human race and wish for international peace and harmony. That said, there was a patriotic stirring and appreciation as I watched this, which surprised me. THANK YOU!


    1. Well said, my dear friend. These were difficult time for a young nation for they were creating a new governance system, yet building upon those that came before. It was a time of global uncertainty for in only a few years time, the French Revolution would change the course of world history. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Powerful words.

      “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence

      “Liberty, according to my metaphysics is a self-determining power in an intellectual agent. It implies thought and choice and power.”John Adams


  7. The painting is absolutely stunning, Rebecca. Such bravery combined with bravado.
    “The turning points of lives are not the great moments. The real crises are often concealed in occurrences so trivial in appearance that they pass unobserved.” This quote is so true, and really made me think of how it has applied in my life.
    I seem to have lost contact with you whilst I’ve been away, but it’s nice to make contact again. 🙂


    1. How wonderful to receive your message! I just returned home tonight from Quebec City and have turned on my computer for the first time. I have been in and out of WIFI for the last 4 weeks on an amazing adventure! It is good to be back and I’m looking forward to reconnecting. I have so enjoyed your posts. You are so right – “turning points” slip by and, many times are not recognized or understood except in hindsight. Perhaps that is why I like growing older – there is more to look back at in hindsight.Hugs coming your way. 🙂


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