Over 15 years ago Don and I saw the Christmas Day crossing. It was the year the Washington Crossing Bridge was closed for repairs. I remember it was that year because otherwise you wonder why the soldiers didn't just take the bridge -- it would be faster than gathering in boats to go across the Delaware River and back again to ferry soldiers and equipment from one side to the other.
I have not yet found a reliable link to when the crossing started. Someone in the crowd thought it was about 34 years ago. They have been coming for the past 13 years. Six of the times they actually crossed, the rest of the time they did not due to weather conditions. Keep in mind, the fate of the country does not rest on them safely crossing the river in 2015, so they do what is best for the reenactors.
This year we were lucky and they crossed. The event runs from noon-3 PM with the actual crossing taking place at 1 PM. We drove across the bridge at 11:59 AM -- moments before it was closed to cars. In some of the pictures you can see people watching from the bridge. We snagged a spot on the bank behind a family who brought chairs and were camped out (the ones seeing it for the 14th time).
Around 12:30 PM it was incredibly foggy.
Fortunately the fog burned off by 12:45 and all systems were go. The first boat left and crossed around 12:50. It seemed like a scout boat. They got stuck halfway across, but were able to recover.
Other soldiers (including Col. Hand in the crimson sash around his waist) marched to the boats. The cannon was put into place.
At least one of the officers decided to take a selfie.
I took a picture of Ashley with part of the thinning crowd in the background. Once Washington and his boat (with my friend Stacy and John on it) much of the crowd started to head home to their Christmas fun.
There they go again! There were four boats. Back in 1776 2,400 troops crossed. There were far fewer. I'm still researching how many boats were taken and how many trips they made to ferry everyone across the river.
Here is another crowd shot. Glad we had a really good vantage point.
The Big Cheese -- General Washington left in the third boat (there were four). You can tell it is Washington because he is wearing a blue sash instead of the crimson sash worn by Col. Hand. You can tell it is his boat because he is traveling with the blue flag with the stars on it. Now you have learned something reading my blog instead of solely what we have been up to lately.
The people we were with were disappointed the cannon was not where it is usually stationed. They were happy to see it roll into place. They made an announcement warning people with dogs that the cannon is loud. The first couple of "shots" included someone holding up a sign that said BOOM (which the crowd read without enthusiasm). When the cannon actually went off, I jumped. I lined my camera up on my eye to take a shot of the smoke. It is a wonder I did not give myself a black eye when I jerked my hand and the camera hit my brow bone.
At some point Washington Crossing State Park added a second crossing about two to two and a half weeks ahead of time (on a Saturday). This is also known as the dress rehearsal. Unlike the Christmas Day event, which is free, they charge $8 adults /$4 children for the rehearsal. The event is a little longer, too, running from 10 AM to 4 PM, instead of noon to 3 PM. I hope parking is also better organized. On Christmas Day we were told to just create a spot. I have been there for races and I know they can do a better job of packing cars into organized rows in that space than the did that day. Fortunately we were there early enough to get a decent spot.
When we do this again I would like to position ourselves so we can hear the speeches. The addition of a couple of speakers would ensure everyone could hear what was happening. However, if we were closer to the speeches, we would not have had as great a view of the crossing.
Afterwards I learned a few of our Facebook friends were also at the crossing -- including Arlene and a different Stacy.