Did George Washington really stand up in his boat crossing the Delaware River?
Q.Did George Washington really stand up in his boat crossing the Delaware River?
Megan Younger, California, Age 10
A.You are referring to the famous painting of "Washington Crossing the Delaware" done in 1851 by the artist Emanuel Leutze.
On the practical side, it was winter, and the Delaware River was flowing with large pieces of ice. The boats were relatively small and crossing the river at such a time was pretty risky. Usually, by this time, both sides of the confrontation were quartered for the winter or just getting settled in.
There are several historical inaccuracies in the painting: the flag you see was not in use until six months later, the boat shown is the wrong size and shape, and if Washington himself stood in a boat such as the one depicted, it would most likely have resulted in his drowning.
What Leutze used in his painting is "artistic license." Sometimes accuracy will take a back seat to the portrayal of a feeling or an emotion. The painting is nonetheless impressive despite the inaccuracies and emotes a passion for the brilliant tactical move that Washington and his army were about to undertake. The direct result of the surprise attack on the Hessian garrison at Trenton was twofold: a victory for Washington and a psychological lift for the army...after experiencing so many defeats.
Visit Washington Crossing Historic Park's What's wrong with this painting? page.
SAS, Courtesy The Valley Forge Historical Society