Washington Crosses the Delaware
Washington Crosses the Delaware
"[The] army passed through Bethleham and Moravian town and so on to the Delaware which we crossed 9 miles north of Trenton and encamped on the Pennsylvania side and there remained to the 24th December. [O]ur whole army was then set on motion and toward evening began to re-cross the Delaware but by obstructions of ice in the river did not all get across till quite late in the evening, and all the time a constant fall of snow with some rain, and finally our march began with the torches of our field pieces stuck in the, exhalters. [They] sparkled and blazed in the storm all night and about day light a halt was made at which time his Excellency and aids came near to the front on the side of the path where soldiers stood.
I heard his Excellency as he was coming on speaking to and encouraging the soldiers. The words he spoke as he passed by where I stood and in my hearing were these:
'Soldiers, keep by your officers. For God's sake, keep by your officers!' Spoke in a deep and solemn voice.
While passing a slanting, slippery bank his Excellency's horse's hind feet both slipped from under him, and he seized his horse's mane and the horse recovered.
Our horses were then unharnessed and the artillery men prepared. We marched on and it was not long before we heard the out sentries of the enemy both on the road we were in and the eastern road, and their out guards retreated firing, and our army, then with a quick step pushing on upon both roads, at the same time entered the town. Their artillery taken, they resigned with little opposition, about nine hundred, all Hessians, with 4 brass field pieces; the remainder crossing the bridge at the lower end of the town escaped....
Marched the next day with our prisoners back to an encampment. I here make a few remarks as to the personal appearance of the Hessians. They are of a moderate stature, rather broad shoulders, their limbs not of equal proportion, light complexion with a bluish tinge, hair cued as tight to head as possible, sticking straight back like the handle of an iron skillet. Their uniform blue with black facings, brass drums which made a tinkling sound, their flag or standard of the richest black silk and the devices upon it and the lettering in gold leaf....
When crossing the Delaware with the prisoners in flat bottom boats the ice continually stuck to the boats, driving them down stream; the boatmen endeavoring to clear off the ice pounded the boat, and stamping with their feet, beckoned to the prisoners to do the same, and they all set to jumping at once with their cues flying up and down, soon shook off the ice from the boats, and the next day recrossed the Delaware again and returned back to Trenton, and there on the first of January 1777 our years service expired, and then by the pressing solicitation of his Excellency a part of those whose time was out consented on a ten dollar bounty to stay six weeks longer, and although desirous as others to return home, I engaged to stay that time and made every exertion in my power to make as many of the soldiers stay with me as I could, and quite a number did engage with me who otherwise would have went home. "
- Powell, William S. "A Connecticut Soldier Under Washington: Elisha Bostwick's Memoirs of the First Years of the Revolution." William and Mary Quarterly. 3rd series 6 (January, 1949) 1:94-107.
- Washington Crosses the Delaware, 1776, EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2004).