What Washington crossing the Delaware really looked like

An explanation is here, full-size image is here. For the pointer I thank Chris F. Masse.


A member of the Thomas Kinkade school of art, I see.

Ouch. I wouldn't go that far. There isn't a cute cottage in sight.

Some interesting remarks on this over at the Real Climate blog:


"but the improvement in climatological veracity is to be praised."

Funny coming from Real Climate.

Climatological revisionism: already?

What do you mean?

Perhaps he should have remembered it wasn't a photograph: Can you 'correct' a work of art?

I think he's being pretty humble about it in the article at least.

Oh, yeah! That's exactly what it looked like!

Nothing new here, lot's of people have already "corrected" this painting...

Darth Vader crossing the Delaware:

Klingon's crossing the Delaware:

I thought it was actually like this? http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_pKmoEYq6ZQA/TBekZFiSPvI/AAAAAAAAAF4/wv-zSxcMaUQ/s1600/george-washington-fighting-a-bengal-tiger-on-a-si-19404-1268502507-108.jpg

I really love the texture work you can see on the full-size image. It looks gritty and bitter and cold. Much the way it would have been.

This is a Christmas theme.
At that time, neither the British nor the Americans much celebrated Christmas.
Indeed, the Puritans and Cromwell forbid it, and Boston children attended school on Christmas until 1923.
It was the Huns (Germans) who celebrated Christmas, got drunk, and faced a sober Washington.
It was the Germans who brought Christmas to Britain when a German married Queen Elizabeth in the 1800's.
Merry Christmas -- happy birthday God.

Marvelous painting!

JDM: Best-link-of-the-year, so far! Thanks.

Sorry, neither painting is very accurate and severely romanticize the crossing. I had an ancestor at Valley Forge with Washington's army and his pension records and substantiating reports from contemporary soldiers make it clear that by that time the soldiers were 1) still in the rags of their uniforms 2) for the most part shoeless/bootless 3) sick with various typhus-related diseases. In addition, it's totally unlikely that Washington did not travel with his staff officers around him, not these general soldiers. Another thing in the painting above that seems inaccurate is the wheels are still on the cannon carriage/ The barrels, carriages, and wheels would most likely have been "broken down" to their components for travel. The men and Washington, too, again would have likely been huddled down from the cold and the possibility of being seen or shot by standing upright. Artists necessarily take great liberties in presenting their romanticized depictions of military events which make them "patriotic" but not very accurate. Soldiers who have been on campaigns and/or historians who read verified accounts contemporary to the events know a bit more.

Dec 26, 1776 - Washington crosses Delaware
Dec 19, 1777 - Washington's army retires to winter quarters at Valley Forge

"Another thing in the painting above that seems inaccurate is the wheels are still on the cannon carriage/ The barrels, carriages, and wheels would most likely have been “broken down” to their components for travel."

Broken down to travel across the river to be used in a surprise attack? No, I doubt that. You wouldn't want to have to reassemble the artillery on the far side. Speed would trump any other concerns, so I think the artillery was likely not broken down.

All kidding aside, what WCB says seems to agree with what I read in "Washington's Crossing". It was a miserable night and horrible crossing - only Washington, of three columns that set out, was able to move his men and artillery across and attack at dawn.

WCB: I don't know that General Washington would have crouched in that boat, however sensible - he had a definite idea of how an officer and general should act and I doubt that crouching would have met those requirements.

This was in an era when officers dressed in their finest and stood in the open for enemy snipers to target.

"This was in an era when officers dressed in their finest and stood in the open for enemy snipers to target."

This was an era before enemy snipers had the range and accuracy to be a significant threat.

I think the new painting is a good change and more historically accurate. It still has some obvious failings, the biggest and most obvious one I see is the placement of the horses. Horses would not have been located at the bow, they would have been moved to the center. Probably, pretty close to the officers and or artillery. Though, I suppose if you did put them at the bow, they would have been as unruly as the one's pictured seem to be.

Since we're being pedantic, there's really nothing like having a lantern in your face when you're peering into the darkness.

I was thinking what a fine target that lantern must make.

I agree that Washington would have stood as prominently as humanly sustainable during the crossing. One of Washington's strongest attributes as a general was his ability to inspire his army despite the incredible hardships. Given his personal code of conduct and the desperation of the hour, he would have stood prominently on one of the first boats. He was asking his men to follow him on a difficult and dangerous mission, and he would have done everything he could to inspire them.

JWatts: We're probably getting a bit off topic, and I think Pat M's comment is more to the point, actually. A matter of presence and command.

However, accuracy of the American squirrel rifle and British specialized rifles was much greater than the issue muskets: both sides used snipers that targeted officers.

On the American side a sniper shot and killed Gen. Simon Fraser at 500 yards, later in the war. Another killed Gen. Ross at the Battle of Baltimore. Both deaths are credited with helping win the respective battle.

On the British side, Col. Ferguson of the famed Ferguson rifle once had Gen. Washington in his sights, but didn't take the shot.

At the Siege of Boston the snipers on the American side killed 30 British troops in a single day.

And, to be fair to you, it wasn't *particularly* snipers that officer's were defying - the rank and file were not allowed to duck, flinch or move out of rank - the officer's commanding them could hardly do less. Probably more officer's were killed by general fire than by snipers or aimed shot, but the principle was the same - you were expected to stand there and take whatever fate was dealt you, without showing apprehension or fear.

I like the painting, actually. I'm not sure about a torch letting embers and sparks fly into the face of others, I suspect there would be some complaints.

Hmmm, is that the fabled female soldier, front and center on the ferry?

Sigh. Stupid possessive apostrophe. It is late here...

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