Crossing the Delaware

By: Edie Zhou, Tiger Zhang, Gahwon Lee, and Henry Wang

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Artist Biography

By Henry Wang

Emanuel Leutze is a German American History artist was born and who worked most of his life in America. His early life included decent education, but not specifically in art. He was born in Germany, and moved to Philadelphia and lived there during most of his childlife. During his teenager ages, as he visited his father at the sickbed, he realized his artistic talents through his drawings to pass the long hours. Through his portraits and drawings, he supported himself after his father died. Around age 20, as his art gained prestige, he visited Europe to study art in the Düsseldorf school of art. During this time, he also supported the visiting Americans, in emotional and financial aid. Later, in support of the European revolutions of 1848, he painted this picture from the American revolution to inspire the European liberators to do likewise, to advocate for liberty. Later, he moved back to the US in New York City and opened up a studio there. He continued to draw portraits of various people there. Later, he died in Washington DC as a result of a heatstroke.

Art Critique

By Tiger Zhang

George Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze is quite the iconic image today. It is a symbol of American ideals and freedom. Leutze creates quite an interesting composition with Washington right in the center with the setting sun behind him, illuminating Washington and creating an almost holy feel to the General of the Continental Army. The soldiers in Washington’s boat all are rowing heroically through the frozen Delaware river symbolizing the great struggle they face against the might of the British Army. Every single soldier is facing forward, determined to defeat their enemies that would deny them their freedom. All the soldiers are of various backgrounds, Scottish, African, Indian, farmers, even a possible woman dressed as a man. Leutze seems to be saying that this diverse group of people cannot ever have truly come together if not for the Revolution. The iconic Betsy Ross flag flies behind Washington, carrying with the boat the hopes and dreams of the American Army. Washington himself with one foot stepped forward is shown very well as a visionary leader, his telescope in hand and sword prominently displayed. Leutze uses muted colors, giving a sense of the darkness approaching and the great struggle ahead. Leutze balances his composition be leaving the left side of the painting bare of people. The opposing bank is not visible, but it is implied that Washington is almost there. Behind Washington and to the right there is a great line of boats and people, the rest of the Continental Army getting ready to cross the river behind their great leader.

Story Truth

By Gahwon Lee

The winter wind blowed in favor of the American Patriots, and the flag flutters along with the breeze. Even the cold clouds parted to reveal the sympathetic sunlight illuminating General George Washington’s boat and thawing the ever-frozen river. We Washington’s men boldly rowed using our flimsy pedals with a determined look on our face. With Washington as our leader, nothing seemed impossible.

“Onwards, my men!” Washington roared fearlessly against the gusty gale, “The Regulars will taste our might today!”

The thick mist cleared out to reveal a fleet of hundred boats carrying millions of cheering Patriots. Horses reared up, showing their pride of the continental army, which was stretching endlessly along the now-thawing Delaware River. With our combined effort and the aid of the wind, the boats sailed fluidly through the icy water. I gripped onto my hat to prevent it from flying away. Today was going to be a good day.

Happening Truth

By Edie Zhou

In the middle of the night of December 25, 1776, George Washington assembled his troops to once again cross the Delaware river for the third time in the Revolutionary War. Despite having already crossed the river twice already, the unknown thickness of the ice in the Delaware River made the crossing precarious at this time of the year. However, Washington’s planned attack on the British at Trenton took priority and the possible benefit gained from the attack outweighed the risks he would be taking. In coordination with two other columns of troops, Washington planned to strike the British at Trenton and cut off their escape. Thus, Washington planned to transport troops, horses, and artillery and artillery across the Delaware River at McKonkey's Ferry, Dunk’s Ferry, and Trenton Ferry to attack the British under the cover of darkness. Washington himself was to lead the column of troops at McKonkey’s Ferry and Generals Ewing and Cadwalader were to lead the crossings at Trenton Ferry and Dunk’s Ferry respectively. However, as the Continental Army waited for darkness, they suffered from increasingly adverse weather conditions. What had been drizzle or rain had turned into sleet and snow by the time of the crossing. Even with this setback, the planned crossing was already in motion. Durham boats, ferries, and whatever watercraft on hand were utilized to transport the men and equipment across the river at the three crossings. Despite starting the crossing around 7:30, the ice in the Delaware River severely hampered the transport of artillery across the river. As a result, the first troops, including Washington, who were the first to cross the river were ordered to set up a sentry in New Jersey and not to allow any hostile forces to pass through. The ice in the Delaware River proved to be so troublesome that the all 18 cannons were finally successfully transported with great effort at 3 AM on the next day. The army itself was not ready to march upon Trenton until 4 AM what with their disorganization. Even though the crossing of the Delaware River was very tedious and a few men were lost into the river, Washington’s crossing of the river was relatively successful as the crossing at Trenton Ferry was stopped by ice and the crossing at Dunk’s Ferry could not successfully transport their artillery across the river.

War Story

By Edie Zhou and Gahwon Lee

War. War never changes. It is the grim truth that we Patriots are horribly outnumbered and lacking in resources against the British threat. But still, we have to continue on. Many people I knew now lie dead on the bare ground. But still, we have to continue on. The biting wind chafes my face as my men and I board the long Durham boats and the barges to cross the Delaware River. Myself being an artillery man, I boarded a barge with my cannon to ensure that it would make the crossing safely. Even if General Washington was our leader, the real leader was the Chief of Artillery, Knox. The portly man was going around shouting off commands into the air. Even amongst the hundreds of men stood around with downtrodden faces, this man was invigorating, standing up to an insurmountable task in the face and spitting right into it. As the rafts full of men took off one by one, it was time for the artillery barges to cross. The time we took to cross seemed like an eternity. As we slowly traversed the river on our overloaded barge full of men, equipment, and the one cannon, one could not help but stare at the icebergs sitting in the water and the cold, deathly grasp of the water itself. Violins played gruesome tunes on our ears. Barbershop quartets shrieked against the cold gale. Everybody had prepared themselves for the idea of dying to a bullet or bayonet, but the idea of slowly dying and freezing in the Delaware River was much too horrible of a prospect to comprehend. This, combined with the biting cold and freezing sleet had terrified the loader of our cannon. The loader clutched his ramrod tightly, his knucklebones white with tension and shivered ever so slightly. The light in his eyes glistened with a faint sheen of terror as he whispered, “I don’t want to go, not like this.” Perhaps it was because he had boarded the barge last and was standing on the edge of the barge with the water kissing the tips of his boots at every small wave, but he stayed in that condition for the duration of the voyage across the Delaware River. I would never be able to forget such a harrowing experience in my life what with the bone chilling cold and the deathly water that lay below.