“WASHINGTON CROSSING THE DELAWARE”
by Rick Jones, Husband of the Minister's Wife
I hope you had a good time celebrating Independence Day with the five “F”s: Food, Freedom, Fireworks, Flags, and Food. Yeah, I always go back for seconds.
During all the celebration, it's easy to forget what the Colonials went through to gain independence. I'd like to remind you of George Washington crossing the Delaware River.
There are some popular misconceptions about the event. It didn't happen on Christmas Eve [December 24]. The crossing actually took place on the night of December 25 – 26, 1776. Also, the famous 1851 painting includes a flag which was not in use until the autumn of 1777. Many people, thinking of the E. G. Leutze painting, joke that obviously General Washington led an army, because a naval officer would know better than to stand up in a rowboat! The real error here is the artist's. The actual boats used featured high sides, and in winter, everyone would be standing: to see, to row [or pole] the craft, and to avoid the cold water that often accumulated in the boats.
But the best-kept secret of this event [which I shall reveal to you now] is that George Washington did not use a boat to cross the Delaware!
Now, you may recall the legend of Washington throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac River. It was actually the Delaware River. He was trying to give a rousing speech to the demoralized troops, hungry and cold on Christmas Day. Many in the ranks were distracted by one soldier who kept flipping and catching a coin during the remarks. Washington got angry and snatched the dollar from the air. He said, “You want to see a coin toss? I'll show you a coin toss!” and pitched the silver dollar across the river.
No one has ever duplicated the feat. It may be because the river has widened over the years. Or perhaps the old adage is true: money went a lot farther in the old days.
Anyway, Washington tried to cheer up the troops with this announcement: “Men, since it's Christmas, I asked the Continental Congress to authorize a change of underwear for all of you!”
After the approving roar died down, he said, “Since this is a government sponsored program, the following instructions will apply. Tom, you change with Jeff; Bob, you change with Phillip; Sam . . .”
At this point, the brave men of the Continental Army advanced upon their leader, and threw George Washington across the Delaware River.