Apparently, this is the second year in a row that the famous historical event has been nixed. This year, the water was too high. Conversely, last year, the water was too low. (Apparently, the river’s water level needs to be at least nine feet above sea level to use the usual Durham style boats; and water levels were not up to snuff.)
Either way, what it amounts to is this: for the second year in a row, those who honor George Washington by imitating his famous deed of crossing the Delaware just couldn’t pull it off!
Now, do not get me wrong. I understand that this is merely a reenactment. As such, there is no need to push forward in unsafe conditions where people’s lives may be put at risk. As they say, better to be safe than sorry.
And to be sure, the reenactment of Washington’s crossing is quite an undertaking. The annual event, replete with speeches and similar fanfare, draws hundreds and even thousands of people to the banks of the Delaware River in Washington Crossing, Pa., and Titusville, N.J.
Of course, it was here that the famed original crossing took place by Washington and his troops on the night of December 25-26, 1776. That bitterly cold night, boats ferried some 2,400 soldiers, 200 horses, and 18 cannons across the river. Washington then forced marched his troops several miles downriver before surprising and attacking Hessian mercenaries hired by the British in the streets of Trenton.
The crossing was immortalized in an 1851 painting by Emanuel Leutze titled “Washington Crossing the Delaware”, that hangs today in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. This painting (first row, center above) is how most people view the event in their mind.
Other depictions exist. There is an 1871 painting by George Caleb Bingham titled “Washington Crossing the Delaware”. But this painting (second row above on the left) likely does not do as much justice to what Washington and his men faced that night. An 1819 depiction of the crossing by Thomas Sully probably comes closer to the reality they face. This last one (second row above on the right) shows the treacherous snow and ice enveloping not just the river itself, but the entire valley.
Having personally visited both the site and the museum attached to it, I well remember how difficult and treacherous the original crossing was described as being. To say the least, it took daring, bravery, and courage. It also took plenty of what people used to call “pluck” (great determination). Many of Washington’s men had no food, no winter clothing, and no shoes. They literally wrapped their feet and themselves in rags and doggedly plodded forward into a bitterly cold and completely uncertain night.
Having crossed the river, they then marched through snow and ice for several miles before attacking the enemy. The motto for the night was “Victory or Death!” The result was the former! Only three Americans were killed and six wounded, while 22 Hessians were killed with 98 wounded. The Americans captured 1,000 prisoners and seized muskets, powder, and artillery. Not to mention, food, clothing, supplies, and warmth and shelter!
We are told that the victory had a marked effect on the revolution’s cause – especially on the morale of the troops! Soldiers, many of whom had been considering not re-enlisting, celebrated the victory. Washington's own role as leader was secured. And most important of all, both Congress and a fledgling nation gained renewed enthusiasm for the war, complete with fresh political fury and funding.
At this point, my regular readers may be asking: “So, what’s your point?” Only that one has to be impressed at the mettle of these brave men! What they did was hard enough in peace time. But to do what they did and then go on to fight and defeat an enemy is more than merely impressive! It is heroic! And yet, a little over two centuries later, with no real cold weather about, our imitation of their deeds is hampered and/or cancelled by mere water levels.
I am reminded that some two thousand years ago, there was another individual who undertook a brave series of steps at Christmas. Jesus Christ took a bold step from Heaven down to earth. And in so doing, He began a journey that would take Him into the greatest battle ever fought at Calvary. Here, He would be cursed, mocked, spit upon, slapped, beaten, whipped, and even crucified! And yet, He would persevere and ultimately come out victorious in that greatest of all battles!
Some two thousand years later, however, it seems as if we who are pledged to bear His name and imitate His great commitment, find ourselves so easily distracted, discouraged, and/or dissuaded. If our Lord and Savior was faithful to His calling, then surely we can be faithful to emulate Him and fulfill the calling we have been given in His name! Especially at Christmas time!
And so, my friend, take heart. Boldly step forth and, in what Thomas à Kempis called "the imitation of Christ", go where God has called you to go, do what God has called you to do, and meet whomever God has called you to meet.
Along the way, if you encounter obstacles, do not shrink from them, no matter how daunting they may be. Rather, knowing God has clearly called and equipped you, take heart, rise above and cross over any such barriers, knowing that God does not necessarily call the equipped so much as He equips the called!
As the writer of the New Testament Book of Hebrews puts it (chapter 13, verses 20-21): 20Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Published by reporter Lukas Mikelionis on December 26, 2018 on Fox News. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.