Washington Crossing the Delaware

By: Will C, Mikey M, Trevor C and Tristan J

George Washington Crossing the Delaware

By: Emanuel Gottieb Leutze, 1851
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Artist Biography - By: Trevor Cole

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze was a German American painter who lived during the mid 1800s. He was born in Germany but moved to the United States when he was a child and he was fortunate to have a good education from a young age, even though he was not initially interested in art. Leutze did not start actively pursuing art until he was 18, when he started to take his first art lessons. After a few years of studying and practicing his art, one of his works gained popularity which led him to attend Kunstakademie Düseldorf, a German Arts Academy. After his time at the Arts Academy, he visited Italy to view the works of Michelangelo and other Renaissance artists. Leutze was a strong advocate of the Europe’s Revolutions of 1848, and the events of 1848 inspired many of his works. He believed that he could invoke support for these revolutions by depicting patriotic themes from the past American Revolution in his art. Finally, after living in Europe until 1859, he moved back to the United States and started an art studio in New York City. He died of heatstroke in Washington D.C. in 1868. Leutze is most famous for his painting George Washington Crossing the Delaware, and lived through the Civil War.

Art Critique - By: Will Callaway

The purpose of this artwork is to glorify George Washington and his men while crossing the Delaware in 1851. In addition, the tone the artist depicts in his painting is determination and compassion because of the authoritative position the captain and his men take. The artist shows the hard work being put forth as they are directing all their energy to pushing forward in their small vessel. Moreover, the hue used by the artist helps the reader understand the emphasis placed on the men in the vessel. Particularly the captain of the boat, George Washington, by creating a dark, almost circular, circumference around the men in the closest vessel. This makes the light placed on the men much more intense and noticeable. The artist also seems to be foreshadowing a battle or war taking action in the near future by showing both sides of the painting being engulfed by dark clouds. This foreshadowing becomes even more relevant when you look closer to see the fleet of boats headed towards the land in an aggressive fashion. This painting is part of the romanticism era. Finally, the artist, Emanuel, places a numerous amount of ice blocks in the water surrounding them. The repetition makes the reader feel a sense of danger within the image.

Story Truth - By: Mikey McNamara

The air was cold and crisp as Washington single handedly loaded every boat with artillery, horses, and soldiers too afraid to carry themselves. His bravery radiating from within him seemed to give him extra warmth in addition to his heavy blue coat, maybe it would even help melt the huge blocks of floating ice on the river that we would soon have to conquer in order to get across. Washington was the only one that day who had it together. He was the only one who seemed to have the hope of actually making it across and proceeding with a successful mission. As they embarked, Washington had to quietly but sternly bark orders at the freezing soldiers who kept forgetting to paddle. Some soldiers contracted hypothermia, and even some fingers and toes were lost to frostbite. Washington paid no attention to the suffering soldiers, he seemed to believe that they had to pay the price for their own freedom. Some soldiers even built up the courage to exit their boats onto ice blocks to help push the boats along. although the journey seemed to last a lifetime, The thought of freedom existed in all our minds, most of all in Washington’s, who didn’t take his eyes off the coast of New Jersey until we arrived there.


Happening Truth: - By: Mikey McNamara

On the morning of December 25th, 1776 Washington ordered his men to prepare 3 day’s food and treat their muskets with fresh flint. He was preparing for that night, the crossing of the half- frozen Delaware river into New Jersey, to launch the first surprise attack of the revolutionary war on British troops. Even though the painting depicts Washington as a very broad and confident figure, he was actually quite worried and paranoid, because of the fact that it was the most logistically challenging mission Washington had ever attempted, due to weather that was increasingly getting worse as him and his men traveled across the river.

Also, they only left when it was dark enough to conceal their movements on the river, and the soldiers were told to be as quiet as possible, being informed that they were going on a “secret mission”. Henry Knox, Washington’s chief of artillery informed Washington of the “infinite difficulty” of crossing due to floating ice on the Delaware, and the fact that most of the soldiers did not know how to swim. The ice floating on the river proved so tedious to deal with, that the large artillery boats fell behind and did not make it to the coast until 4 am December 26th, many hours after the soldiers had arrived.

War Story - By: Tristan Jackson

This is true.

Christmas Day,1776, Washington and his men spent the brisk day traversing the vast sea. See, in a letter written the following day, Washington wrote his wife recounting the events that happened atop the water off the coast. The number small ships were in the hundreds, men in the thousands. He told of the time when the horses were simply unconsolable. For nearly an hour, the steeds were in a state of panic, much to our chagrin, his men hadn’t realized in time what the cause was. The long fabled Kraken was among us. The wooden hulls ached and moaned as the waves heightened, at one point, men were falling off of the Durham boats. Emanuel Leutze forgot mention most of these events in his 1851 painting. The 45 foot long tentacles made the water near impossible to traverse without hurling up your rations. You can only see a few boats arriving at the coast, that is no lie. The rest of the ships were claimed by nature’s biggest savage, the Kraken. Among the few ships to survive, General Washington’s was the first to arrive. The new world would have been the British had the Kraken gotten to him and his fellow officers. Undoubtedly, Washington admits to his wife how afraid he really was for his life and the wellbeing of the survivors. But you couldn't tell because of his stoically brave face that was burned into his persona.

This is not true.

As much as George loved to tell a story, he unfortunately was crossing the Delaware, safely, without any threat of any Kraken…he saved that for another noble officer, Captain Sparrow.

Instead, Washington, was headed to New Jersey for a surprise attack on the British troops. Infact, all 5,400 troops that crossed the icy and treacherous river survived to tell the tale.