“Accordingly a part of the army, consisting of about 2,500 or 3,000, passed the river on Christmas night, with almost infinite difficulty, with eighteen field-pieces. The floating ice in the river made the labor almost in-credible. However, perseverance accomplished what at first seemed impossible.” -Henry Knox, officer in the Continental Army, in a letter to his wife.
It is late December, 1776. The Continental Army, military force to the thirteen colonies rebelling against British rule, has suffered a string of defeats. Having withdrawn the army from New York to relative safety in Pennsylvania, General George Washington devises a plan to attack Hessian mercenaries, German soldiers who had been hired by the British army, in Trenton, New Jersey. Motivated to attack quickly, in part because many of his soldiers’ enlistments were due to expire within a month, the leaders of the Continental Army decide to cross the Delaware River on Christmas Night. Battling rain, sleet, snow, wind, and ice, nearly 2,400 soldiers row across the river, the crossing not finishing until three o’clock in the morning. Given only an hour of rest, the soldiers march to Trenton and win a surprising victory, killing 22 Hessian soldiers and capturing upward of 1,000 more. The victory helps to improve morale in Washington’s Continental Army, bringing in new recruits to an army that had previously known mostly defeat (via Wikipedia).
Having grown up in New Jersey and also having spent several years in Massachusetts, I sometimes take for granted the easy access to historical sites that were pivotal to the founding of the United States of America. Places that are named in history books that every child reads in school always seemed nearby. Washington Crossing State Park in Pennsylvania and Washington Crossing State Park in New Jersey, located 45 minutes north of Philadelphia, are two parks that commemorate this Revolutionary War battle. With a beautiful day in early June unfolding before me, I set off to explore these sites and learn more about this important moment in US history.
Having taken in my share of history for the day, I then detoured to a very cool, and lesser known, site nearby. Bowman’s Hill Tower is a 125-foot tall stone tower which commemorates Washington crossing the Delaware River. Completed in 1931, the tower is built with 2,400 tons of stone, sand, and cement. On a clear day, visitors can see as far as fourteen miles. While an elevator is the usual mode of transport to the top, on the day I visited, the elevator was out of order. Instead, I hiked up the 132 steps to the top.
If you decide to visit Washington Crossing State Parks in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, bring comfortable shoes, sunscreen, a camera… but don’t worry about bringing too much cash! The parks are free, and the only money I spent was the $7 ticket to climb Bowman’s Hill Tower. Bowman’s Hill Tower is open from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, seven days a week. Washington Crossing State Park in Pennsylvania is open every day from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. Washington Crossing State Park in New Jersey is open every day from 8:00 am – 7:00 pm. Make sure you plan to spend the better part of a day visiting all the sites in the area. Thank you for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!