tv American Artifacts George Washingtons Crossing Reenactment CSPAN January 5, 2020 11:00pm-11:31pm EST
and is beaten there the next day. the confederate army is devastated. secures therse grout he had so much desired. now all he has to do is actually take vicksburg. >> you can watch this and other american history programs on our website where all of our videos are archived. that is c-span.org/history. [drumming] mccarty: my name is kim mccarty. i am the curator here at washington historic park in pennsylvania. today is a very special day. we are doing a reenactment of george washington's crossing of the delaware river on christmas night, 1776. what happened here is one of the
actually one of the most unexpected and daring military maneuvers of the american revolution. and the story is washington and the continental army, after having lost battles in new york and retreating across new jersey, came into bucks county in the beginning of december 1776. they encamped in several locations around this area, including the thompson neely house, which is also part of our park. and things were pretty desperate at this point for washington and the patriot cause. the continental army really needed a win. washington was afraid that the british were going to invade philadelphia and take over the capital. and he really knew that what he needed was a bold action. and after meeting with his war
counsel, they made the decision that on christmas night, they would cross the delaware and march to trenton to attack a hessian outpost at trenton. as they began to march from the thompson neely house down here, a snowstorm started and the weather was terrible, there was snow and hail and it was basically a pretty bad nor'easter, and all of these all, had to cross the delaware and began their march. there were other regiments who were supposed to cross at two other locations, at the trenton ferry and at the bristol ferry, and they were not able to get across for a variety of reasons. the weather was absolutely a major part of that. ♪ >> make way for the general.
>> general washington, i know it is a secret mission, but could you tell us about this operation? >> this is our final chance. this is our chance to make an impact on this war. the problems we have is our enlistments are expiring, soldiers want to go home. i have 10 days, just 10 short days, in order to make this attack. we feel that what the weather behind us, the element of surprise on our side, that we will be able to take the city of trenton, raise the morale of the troops, and prove to congress that we are a viable army that they should support. and hopefully, hopefully, enlistments will rise. >> have you done an operation like this before? >> we have not. the only operations we have done of a maritime order were have been the evacuation from new york, which was very well
done, and my hat is off to the marbleheaders of massachusetts, who manned the boat that removed us from new york, then we retreated down to the jerseys to the banks of the delaware. right now, we are trying to keep a river between us and the hessian mercenaries that are right now encamped in the town of trenton. we are trying to at least stay between them and the city of philadelphia. >> tell us about your forces. what type of men are they? >> hopefully you keep this among ourselves, but we do have 3000 troops, of which i have found 2400 are fit for duty. the remainder have fallen ill from malnutrition, from the weather, and we are caring for them further north of the river. but we have 2400 troops ready to go. they have three days' rations, cooked, 60 rounds of ammunition each, and we expect them to give a good fight.
>> my name is frank lyons, and i from down the street, and i am portraying colonel john glover from marblehead, massachusetts. colonel glover was the commander of the 14th regiment, which was continental regiment, which was known as the marblehead mariners. marblehead is a small town about 10 miles north of boston when the american revolution started. it was the 10th largest in the united states on the east coast. because of the intolerable acts, all the british enactments that led up to the american revolution, most of the men at marblehead were unemployed and very unhappy, and they were happy to join marblehead regiment, which originally , which originally signed up 550 men. they never expected to find themselves all the way down here in pennsylvania, though.
colonel glover and his marblehad regiment saved washington and his army three times, this being the third time. the first time, after the disastrous battle of long island, glover and his men rode 9000 men, horses, cannon, baggage across the lower east river from brooklyn into what is modern-day downtown brooklyn into lower manhattan and saved washington's army from being encircled by the british. and then again when cornwallis he sailed upto -- the east river, and was planning to march across, and trap washington in manhattan. glover once again with 700 men held off the british and hessian troops. about 22 casualties. the british took between 700 and 800 casualties. that gave washington time to escape from manhattan and to fight another day. we fast-forward to washington's
this section of pennsylvania around the 22nd of december. glover marches into this area and he camps up the hill near where washington's headquarters were. and washington calls him to his headquarters and tells him what he wants to do, cross 800 feet of a rocky, ice strewn river under the cover of darkness. and by the, way the barometer is and by the way, the barometer is falling and we could be looking at some weather, and glover goes to washington and says, your excellency, it is impossible. washington says to glover, colonel glover, i did not ask you to assess possibilities, i asked you if you could do it. colonel glover thinks for a second and says, general washington my marbleheaders can , do it. the legend is not written anywhere, but legend tells us that is when washington made the final decision to go ahead with
this bold stroke, which truly did save the american revolution. you can point to maybe a dozen events that truly changed the course of world history forever, and one of them took place right on this ground where we are standing here. ♪ >> it is one of the three iconic parts of the revolutionary war. if you ask anyone, even the smallest amount of history, they are going to talk about valley forge, which was an encampment, washington crossing the delaware, and the battle of yorktown. everyone knows the iconic painting, which was obviously painted in the 1850's based on the rhine river, but everyone knows that painting as as washington crossing the delaware, and i will tell, you you, this river does freeze solid, but it certainly does not get icebergs. it is thick sheets of ice that go straight across. >> so, the reenactment part of this, what will take place? >> we will start by seeing
washington and his officers review his troops. we will hear washington give a speech to the troops, and then everyone will board the boats, the boats that we have here, and cross the delaware. >> tell us about the boats. >> the boats are one of the types of boats that were used during the crossing to get men from pennsylvania to new jersey. what is special about the durham boats is that they are large and they were originally made to haul pick iron from the works up and down the delaware so they were ideal for putting a lot of guys in and getting them from point a to point b. but they were not the only boats that were used during the crossing. they are the only type of boats you will see used during the reenactment. washington, when he came to pennsylvania, ordered all the boats that were on the new jersey side of the delaware brought over to pennsylvania, in hopes of slowing down any
>> [indiscernible] >> glover, how do the conditions look? >> your excellency, my marbleheaders have just returned from traversing the river. they report to me that the river is swift, that the river is strewn with ice. but they are confident, sir, and they're determined to convey our army across the delaware.
>> we asked congress for many things that we are short of. food, tents, provisions, blankets. we have had citizens of philadelphia coming up to provide us with at least some blankets to keep you warm. it reminds me of the crisis by thomas payne. your sergeants have read to you. he wrote, "these are the times that try men's souls.
the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis shrink from the service of their country, but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." and my troops, you deserve that love and thanks. you are here with me now to continue our fight. i look forward to seeing you and in trenton. and remember, victory or death. colonel sergeant? >> yes, your excellency? >> prepare the troops to board. >> that i will. >> ready? row away. >> the durham boats, they were meant to float down the river. they were not meant to go across the river. but washington knew they were
could be valuable to transport troops. they don't maneuver well going across the river. it is a real art form. you have to row them up the river and against the currents to get them into position. they were really meant to float down the river and be pulled down the river and steered with this big sweeper that is in the aft end of the boat. see out here today. they are not real maneuverable when you're going across the river. and it takes a little bit of skill for these guys to be able to do it. >> my name is leon vaughan, and i'm portraying a member of colonel glover's marbleheaders.
14th regiment out of marblehead, massachusetts, cod fisherman that helped george washington get across water. >> how was the crossing today? >> the crossing today was very easy. some years it had snowed, some years it has rained, and it has been cold. but today, perfect weather conditions. >> tell me about your portrayal. why do you do this? >> i do this because it is not in the average american history textbook about the 40% of colonel glover's unit. because during that time in massachusetts, black men were a large part of the wailing and whaling and fishing industry. they caught cod every day. this is a typical dress of a cod fisherman. the trousers, they're open, so just in case you fell in the water, you wouldn't have any
water in your pants. they could drain and you could come up and you would not drown that easy. and the head, if it got cold, you could have it pulled down over your ears. not like the tri-core hats. everything was made. what you wore was practical. [indiscernible conversations] >> black guys being here, we were here from day one. i have a cousin. he did extensive research on my father's mother, and he traced her ancestor back to one of the 20 and odd africans that was on the boat that landed in
hamptons, virginia, 1619, so i can trace my family back in this country 400 years. you have to go deep into libraries, you have to go to used bookstores, and the internet has helped also. i picked up a book out of a library, and in this book i found in the painting of george washington's crossing the river, the man rowing the boat to the right of george washington is a black guy. his name was prince whipple. he was a servant of one of george washington's aides, and he is a black guy rowing the boat on the painting. >> heave ho. heave ho.
>> we meet all year long to plan this. there are 48 boats. per boat.12 pe it will be about 300 soldiers crossing, a lot less than crossed in 1776. if we had to wait for 2400, it would take all day. it took washington nine hours. but yes, about 300 today, and about 48 boat crews. crews come out and practice. they practice on a local lake. then we come down and practice on the river. the planning goes on all year. there will be a meeting in january just to debrief, and we will start planning for next year. >> i kind of have advanced training because my father, he never owned a motor. when we went out fishing, we rowed in the chesapeake bay. our spot and fish and
rode into the bay. i was 10 years old. doing this is just a reflection of my childhood. >> as a reenacter, i have been doing george washington for nine years now. it is a tremendous opportunity. as you look around here and you see hundreds and hundreds of visitors that come to this park just to see this one event, it is an iconic event. it is something that is not only regionally important, but also nationally important. because without this victory, the army would have collapsed. >> how did you get into doing this type of thing and why do you do it? >> as an amateur historian, i have been doing revolutionary war reenacting for 26 years. over the years when you work your way up from a private to a sergeant to an officer, you look at your predecessors and you say, i think i could do a better
job, or i could do something different. i have taken on the role for the last nine years and have had many successful crossings. i actually like the fact that we not only educate the public in what took place here and how much i this meant to our nation, but it keeps the site viable. 2013, we had six inches of snow in four hours. when i launched my boat to go across, you could not see the shoreline on either side. once you got in the middle of the river. they canceled it right after i went out there because it was unsafe to cross anymore boats. it started out as a day like today, sunny, a little cool. by the afternoon, by the time of the crossing, we had six inches of snow on the ground. it certainly did feel like the period. been here when it
rained, sleeted, and snowed on the same day. the troops are complaining, they are standing out waiting to cross. i look at them and say, these were the conditions the troops crossed under. i am sure they were complaining about the same discomforts. i have a general staff. i also have a guard, and we have our standardbearer. he carries the flag. that is how you know where the general is on the battlefield or in camp, that specific flag. the original is now in a museum in philadelphia. >> and pull. and pull. and pull. and pull. and pull. and pull. and pull.
>> the officers were aware of where they were going, where they were marching to, and that they were attacking the hessian outpost. the men in the boat did not necessarily know exactly where their destination was, but clearly they were aware that something significant was about to take place. they were cold. many of them were sick. they were hungry. they didn't have the equipment as far as appropriate clothing that they needed to protect them from this weather. they did this under great hardship. they were very brave and did accomplish something that i know i certainly couldn't do under those circumstances. they marched nine miles after this crossing in a snowstorm. they marched nine miles south to trenton and they attacked the hessians, who were not expecting to be attacked for a number of reasons.
first of all, because it was just after a major snowstorm. it was also the time of the year, wintertime, when most armies went into their winter camps and stopped fighting, and the hessians had actually been engaged several times by some of the local militias in new jersey and were really on edge. this wasn't the type of fighting that they were accustomed to. by the time it was christmas and there had been a major snowstorm. they were hoping to have the opportunity to rest a little bit, and of course, that didn't happen. they were attacked by the continental army, who was able to defeat them in pretty short order. the army stayed in trenton for just a short amount of time, then brought prisoners, about
900 or so prisoners, back. officers were kept overnight at the tavern here and enlisted, and eventually the officers were taken to newtown, pennsylvania, which is a couple miles from here. >> it is always good to know your history, know from where you have come. that way you know where you are going, and you try not to repeat some of the same mistakes. when i was in school, i hated history. because it was always teaching me about what somebody else did, not what my people did. now i have two join this hobby to learn what i did not learn in high school, nor in college, about real american history, all-inclusive american history.
one time, i was giving a lecture at an office of homeland security. it was their black history month program. after i gave a short speech on the black involvement in the civil war, one of the white men in the audience stood up and said, why are you here teaching us black history? i said, sir, i am not teaching you black history, i am teaching you american history that just happens to be about black people. >> most people are probably familiar with the painting. what do you think of that painting? >> i think it is a lovely painting. he was not trying to provide a
snapshot of the actual historic event. he was telling a story. in that painting, you see the story of the american revolution that he was trying to inspire people in germany at the time in their quest for revolution. so you see washington crossing the sea. james monroe, who ends up being a president. you see a flag, what we now call the betsy ross flag used in the painting. that flag was not being used in knows howhe already the story ends, so he includes that. so you see the flag. you see a variety of people in that boat, which was just like the makeup of the army, a
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$100,000 of cash prizes with a grand prize of $5,000. for more information, go to our website. >> on december 16, 16numbers, 19 -- december 1944, adolf hitler's launched a surprise counter attack. known as the battle of the bulge, hitler's committed over 1000 tanks and 200,000 troops to this last nazi effort, hoping to recapture the port city of antwerp. next, veterans, their families and officials from the u.s. military and allied nations mark the 75th anniversary of the battle with a ceremony in washington d.c. the friends of the national world war ii memorial hosted the event. >> good morning.