Were the Hessians drunk when Washington attacked Trenton?

We’ve all heard the tale: the Hessian soldiers quartered in Trenton enjoyed a few well-earned Christmas drinks. So when Washington’s troops arrived in the wee hours of the morning, some Hessians were reeling from the effects of celebrating. But this is a well-circulated myth rather than documented fact. “Contrary to what’s often implied and taught, there’s no evidence that the Hessians were drunk from celebrating Christmas when the Battle of Trenton began on the morning of December 26, 1776,” says Bunkie Maddock, a historical interpreter at Washington Crossing Historic Park. Colonel Johann Rall, the commanding officer of the Trenton barracks Read More

Winter Weather: A Challenge Since 1776

It’s been said that the weather conditions on Christmas night 1776 were terrible for George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River. But is this just a tale like the well-worn “I-walked-through-a-foot-of-snow-uphill-both-ways” stories today’s adults like to tell children? Hardly. The brutal conditions that night are well documented through various diary entries and letters. By all accounts, it was freezing, windy, snowing, and dangerous – a classic winter “nor’easter” that today would send us scrambling to the grocery store for bread, milk and eggs. A Changing Forecast Since Washington didn’t have the benefit of Doppler radar in 1776, he couldn’t be Read More

New Structures Add Another Dimension to Hibbs House Garden

The erection of a tool shed and a large trellis in the Hibbs House kitchen garden began over the first weekend in November. Construction has been underway for months, however. Designed and crafted by Dana Osterman, the park’s blacksmith, both are historically-accurate timber-framed structures that employ traditional joinery to form the connections. Rather than butting the beams together and bolting or nailing them, the trellis and tool shed’s beams slot together. It’s a laborious undertaking that requires impeccable precision. But tongue and fork joints (where the mortise is open at the end of one of the two connecting beams) and Read More

A Reenactment So Nice, We Do It Twice!

Every Christmas morning for 66 years, hundreds of reenactors have gathered at Washington Crossing Historic Park to recreate George Washington’s daring crossing of the Delaware River in 1776. At some point, a “dress rehearsal” was added to the December calendar, usually on a Sunday about two weeks before Christmas. This extra reenactment – which the park now calls the First Crossing – has become increasingly popular since it offers the same experience spectators get on Christmas Day but with smaller crowds and a full day of activities in the Historic Village. But when and why this extra reenactment began is Read More

How Many Times Did Washington Cross the Delaware?

The Continental Army’s Christmas crossing in 1776 gets much of the attention by historians, and rightfully so. But it wasn’t the only time General George Washington crossed the Delaware that month. “As the story unfolds, weeks before December 1776, Washington was being pushed from northern New Jersey toward Trenton by the British and Hessians,” says Thomas Maddock II, a historical interpreter at the park. “Washington wanted to keep them from crossing the river and going on to capture Philadelphia.” However, Washington and his troops were outnumbered, starving and exhausted. “So he couldn’t stop them militarily,” Maddock says. “Instead, he sent Read More

Blacksmith Shop Gets a New Roof

The park’s blacksmith shop is one of the most popular stops on school field trips. Within its dark and smoke-tinged interior, children can watch as blacksmiths hammer out period-accurate items such as nails and hooks. They come away with a better understanding of how these items were made in colonial times and the manual labor involved in producing them. To protect the interior of the shop and the tools contained within it, the shingles on the building’s roof were recently replaced. Work was done by park maintenance employees and $3,000 in shingles was donated by Jessie and Donna Winslade, friends Read More

Why Was Trenton Occupied by Hessians…Not the British?

Most people know that George Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River on the night of December 25, 1776. The crossing was part of Washington’s daring plan to re-ignite the Patriot cause and give new life to the American Revolution. It was also a prelude to an equally important event: the Battle of Trenton. Trenton was held by a brigade of Hessians, who were among the approximately 30,000 German soldiers who fought during the American Revolution on the side of the British. The reason that Hessian troops—not British troops—were in Trenton appears to come down to a modest effort Read More

A Gaze Unbroken for 103 Years

Much like the real George Washington did 243 years ago, the lifesize stone statue of him that sits atop the 35-foot obelisk in front of the park’s Visitor Center looks eastward across the Delaware River. His gaze hasn’t been broken in 103 years. The story of the monument began in 1912 when the Pennsylvania chapter of the Patriotic Order Sons of America visited the site of today’s park to look for land on which to build a memorial to honor Washington. The chosen site was a small plot that was purchased in 1913 for $300. A design contest was held Read More

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