Washington's Crossings of the Delaware

It is perhaps appropriate that two places - Washington Crossing, NJ, and Washington Crossing, PA, - commemorate Washington's crossing of the Delaware River, as he crossed the Delaware twice in military maneuvers.

During the summer and autumn of 1776, the Continental Army under George Washington suffered a string of defeats in New York and northern New Jersey, necessitating the army's retreat across the Delaware River to Pennsylvania. Faced with expiring enlistments and plagued by inadequate supplies, on Christmas Day, 1776, Washington led 2,000 troops in a bold crossing of the Delaware River. Early the next morning, the Continental Army attacked the surprised Hessian garrison. Nearly 1,000 Hessians were captured, along with their cannon and supplies

Washington then returned to Pennsylvania. A week later he again crossed the Delaware River and struck Trenton. The next day, January 3rd, 1777, Washington gambled and attacked British regulars at Princeton - sending them in retreat to Perth Amboy, NJ (on Raritan Bay below New York City) to wait out the winter. Washington's resourceful use of the Delaware River - both as a moat to protect his troops and as a springboard to attack the enemy - buoyed the Continental Army and garnered the young nation new respect from France.

By war's end, the riverside towns of the lower Delaware had experienced occupations by both armies, and the war had left an indelible mark on regional culture - and American folklore.

Last updated: June 9, 2015

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