The photo above is where Washington crossed the Delaware with a ragtag army of soldiers on December 25, 1776, many of whom were only committed for a few more days of service.
The war was not going well at the time. The British had won several battles in a row, forcing Washington’s troops down from New York, across New Jersey and back into Pennsylvania. The Declaration of Independence had been signed five months earlier, but unless the war turned for the better, we were likely to remain a British colony.
Washington boldly decided to cross the Delaware River on Christmas night, 1776, and try to surprise Hessian troops in Trenton. Despite a terrible storm that left much of the river icy and slowed their progress, they made it across. Further down the river, two other generals were unable to get their troops across.
On their own, Washington’s troops went on to defeat the Hessians at Trenton, and then won another battle at Princeton. As word spread of the victories, the Revolutionary Army was emboldened and British soldiers began to doubt. The rest, as they say, is history.
There’s a great, 30-minute documentary about the crossing and the battles called “10 Crucial Days.” If you ever get a chance to see it, you should. It’s not a stretch to say that our independence was saved in this timeframe.
Today, there’s a marker and other historical sites in the area to mark the spot where Washington’s troops landed on the New Jersey side. (That’s the photo.) There are two Washington’s Crossing state parks — one on the Jersey side and one on the Pennsylvania side. The former is bigger and has a visitor’s center with some amazing artifacts from the Revolutionary War. The PA park/center is undergoing renovations at the moment.
I grew up 30 minutes from here, but never visited it until three weeks ago when the whole McGee family went cross-country (from Washington state, appropriately) to see my side of the family.