Washington's Crossing
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At Washington Crossing Historic Park...about an hour Northeast of Philadelphia...tour guide Richard Howett walks through McConkey's Ferry Inn. He enters a small room with a round wooden table and chairs:

[sounds of steps] ...This is an original part of the tavern...these two rooms. And it's this particular room that we're in now that I guess you'd call it the dining room which is where we believe Washington and his officers would have gotten together prior to the crossing.
Written accounts place Washington at the inn on Christmas Day... making final preparations for the surprise attack. Supposedly the General also ate a last meal here before the Crossing... but that's according to legend. Howett... a former history teacher... says extensive records about that evening just don't exist:

See here's where we get into this inexactness... We're just not exactly sure of what took place where. Was it the basement, was it the second floor, was it this room. It's an educated guess is what I've always called it.
There's guesswork about the actual Crossing as well. Historians can only speculate about the number of boats Washington used...anywhere from 10 to 30...or the evening hour he crossed the Delaware. Howett says the most popular question he gets from visitors is...where exactly did Washington cross? His response...we don't know.

Orientation Video excerpt:

It is a river of grace and beauty. A gentle river that can rise and match Mother Nature's anger...
Just down the road from the inn is the Park's Visitors Center. Every 30 minutes...tourists can catch an orientation video about the Crossing.

Orientation Video excerpt:

Images of that night burn vividly in our minds...idealized in famous paintings and annual reenactments...George Washington stands proudly aboard a Durham boat leading his weary troops in a desperate attempt to seize victory.
Emanuel Leutze captured that image in his ubiquitous painting, "Washington Crossing the Delaware." A reproduction covers a wall of the Visitors Center auditorium. An unlikely beam of sunlight strikes through a dark sky to illuminate Washington's figure.

Michelle Matz is the museum educator at the Park:

No, it probably didn't look anything like that. Definitely not dark enough. Not enough ice chunks in there. And what you also have to understand is that you probably had horses and cannons and all sorts of things going across in this particular scene.
Matz says the painting...rendered 50 years after the more of an icon of the revolutionary spirit than an historical document. She says dealing with factually flawed sources like Leutze's painting or a lack of historical record makes interpreting history for the public a challenge.

So maybe we don't know the exact detail of where the table was in the tavern, but we can take an educated guess from other 18th century sources as to what the type of table would look like and we can go from there.

Every Christmas Day at the Washington Crossing Historic Park, General George Washington and his army return to storm the banks of the Delaware River. They are Revolutionary War re-enactors...donning tricorn hats and long regimental coats. Though today is the dress rehearsal for the big event...over a hundred spectators press against a rope to glimpse the General in action.

Jim Gibson, who was chosen to play George Washington, gives a fictitious speech in character to his rebel troops:

You are all men of honor. I know many of you. I have served beside you.
A long-time re-enactor, Gibson says he can only glean from written accounts about what Washington might have said at the time of the Crossing or the way he acted. But he says despite the ambiguities...a flesh and bone representation can be a learning tool:

You can read about this Crossing in a book or see it in a movie but...put on a uniform, stand out here in the snow, and we just get a little snapshot in time what things may have really been like. And that's what you're going to leave here with.
On Christmas Day, thousands of visitors will flock to the Park to witness the reenactment of Washington and his men rowing across the Delaware. Though the Crossing will be completed in a matter of hours...for the park staff, volunteers and reenactors...the job of making history alive and accurate continues. I'm Joel Rose.
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