Historic Valley Forge

Slave on the boat with Washington

Q.Was there an African slave in the boat when Washington crossed the Delware River?
rosita, wilbraham, MA

A.Washington crossed the Delaware in 1776 — a year before the Valley Forge encampment. The famous painting Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze was produced in 1851, 75 years later. In it, an African American man can be seen just behind Washington's right leg, pushing away ice with an oar. According to legend, this is Prince Whipple, a slave of General William Whipple until he was freed by the general in 1781.

Prince Whipple was a real person, but he was almost certainly not in the boat with Washington at the crossing of the Delaware. At that time, General Whipple was serving in the Continental Congress, which had relocated from Philadelphia to Baltimore, over a hundred miles away.