Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Christmas Crossing

Having piqued our own interest in the 230th anniversary of the publication of Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis, Number I, and it’s relation -- as an expression of ideals -- to General George Washington’s army crossing Delaware River on Christmas night in 1776 and victorious attack on the Hessian cantonment at Trenton, we took the time this year to go to the site where McConkey's Crossing was, for the annual reenactment. It is now, of course, referred to as Washington's Crossing on both sides of the river.

The event involves a mustering of the troops, an inspection by the General and rowing one of the Durham boats across the river to the New Jersey side, weather permitting, of course! The analogy to the original crossing only goes so far! There is a movie offered at the center, and it is a great event for kids and adults. My guess would have been that a few thousand folks turned out, particularly if you counted the crowds on both sides of the river. That's pretty impressive for a mid-day educational trip on Christmas day. The rain held off until the end of the crossing.

We took several photos. The one above, as you can see, shows the docked boats in the shadows at the river crossing. It was actually taken a day earlier on Christmas Eve at sundown. By sundown on Christmas day, it was raining. The photo shows the width of the river, and in the background you can see the current bridge. Look closely and you can see one of the pillars is a different color. I believe this is from repairs to damage occasioned by impact from floating debris during a recent flood.

The second photo was during the “inspection” of the troops and officers by "His Excellency," and as you can quite readily tell, Colonel Knox is standing just behind him.

For several years now, Washington has been portrayed in these reenactments by Robert Gerenser, a local businessman and resident of nearby New Hope, Pennsylvania. It would almost be enough to convince you that you were there, were it not for the press photographers inching out from behind the sycamore tree to get the shot. That, and the fact that it was all conducted a little after mid-day.

The third photo, below, is of two of the boats as they are stored in a shed right there at the sight. It gives you a good idea of their size.

Thinking and reading about that event, the remarkable thing to me is that none of the rather significant obstacles that cropped up during the run-up to the crossing – and there were many – stopped Washington from moving forward with the plan.

Congress by law actually required that a “council of war” be held by leaders before any significant move was undertaken. Washington even called one right after the victory at Trenton, inquiring as to whether they should immediately continue on the offense. Maybe to some extent he thereby felt constrained to move ahead with the plans for the attack, in the absence of some extraordinary or unanticipated impediment.

Or, maybe he was a leader who simply rose to the occasion in the knowledge that any war undertaking has inherent risks, changing circumstances, and even petty personal intrigues, but that staying true to the cause was the thing. If it is worth fighting and dying for, it is worth taking every possible step to win.

Or maybe it was a combination of these and possibly other factors as well. We'll never know for certain what was in his mind in those moments, but we'll always be grateful for his perseverance and that of his courageous men, under extremely difficult conditions.

In a separate post, we'll examine some of those impediments that obviously must have crossed his mind that night as he waited for the crossing of the river to be completed.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


At 2:40 PM, December 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's despiriting to consider that the burden place by parlement on our colonial ancestors was as nothing compared to the gross impositions we meekly accept from our own elected government. We seem to have evolved from subjects, to citizens, to peons. Next - slavery.

At 1:54 PM, January 11, 2007, Blogger J. Joseph Rivera said...

Just read in the NY Post that Dick Codey is putting forward a bill to repeal a 150 year old state law that prevents 'idiots' from voting.

Sounds to me like he's shutting the barn door when the horse is already halfway to Poughkeepsie.

At 1:03 PM, January 19, 2007, Blogger Trochilus said...

Actually, both idiots and the insane. There is an idiomatic expression in Polish which literally translates as,

"He is from Pipiduvec."

Pipiduvec (sp.?) is a mythical town where supposedly all the idiots were born and live. So, if you say about someone that "he (or she) is from Pipiduvec," it means that the person is an idiot.

Unfortunately, it is a mythical town here as well, so they couldn't be confined to one legislative and/or congressional district.

There may be a need for reform in this area, but certainly not the open-ended way Codey has proposed it. He would open up the door to all such persons, virtually without limitation, including the "criminally" insane.

It is hard not to conclude that the good Senator apparently wants to ensure that, for example, your vote and my vote and the votes of thousands of others will be rendered completely meaningless by the adoption of his measure, as those controlling the institutions will thereby control the flow of the absentee ballots.

More later . . .


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