First Mile: Washington’s Crossing

Looking downriver from the bridge at Washington's Crossing
Looking downriver from the bridge at Washington’s Crossing

As those of you who have read the account of my initial attempts to start a business know, I didn’t know much. (You’ll find that on Medium.)

That’s always been a good place for me. Or if I’m honest, it’s a place I find myself in a lot!!

I think that’s a good place for any journalist. One of our professional skills is to be a sort of blank slate that allows us to see what is, not just what we want to see.

I live in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania, where it borders New York and New Jersey, and the border is formed by the river. Every time I want to go to the city I cross the river and drive through New Jersey. Every time I travel to New York State, I cross the river.

I’ve lived here for about eight years, and before that near Middletown, N.Y., which was about a half hour from the river, so the river has been a part of my life for a while. But it was for a long time, just a river.

Things got more interesting when I realized that this part of the world is part of the Pocono plateau, and because of that we have AWESOME waterfalls. I’m a big fan of waterfalls! That subject needs a blog or two of its own.

But once those waters had spilled into the Delaware, it all got sort of (Forgive me!!) same old, same old. I’m not a big fan of swimming in the river, mostly because I can’t swim. I have done some rowing and rafting, which is fun, as long as there was someone along for the ride who knew what they were doing. I had the sense that the river, though it looked mild, could be wild.

There are deaths, mostly from folks who weren’t wearing life jackets. I figured I was safe enough on dry land, admiring how the river steamed when the temperatures changed, how it surged brown when the rains came, how it shivered with the first ice of winter.

Through this blog, you and I can discover just how many faces this river has, just how many stories it can tell, beyond that well-known fact that we learned in school: That George Washington crossed the Delaware when the river was icy.

So, here’s a pop quiz: Which direction was he going in? Why does it matter?

Our first story: The Revolution wasn’t going well, and Washington decided to attack Trenton, NJ, which was manned by Hessians as they were called. (This is before Germany united under Bismarck, but that’s not this story). It was 11 p.m. on Christmas Day when he started the crossing with 5,400 troops from three separate locations. He crossed from Pennsylvania to New Jersey and even though he didn’t connect with the other two forces, he attacked the party-weary Hessians and routed them, capturing 1,000 with the loss of only four Americans.

Mostly because the other two sections of his force never crossed the river, he wasn’t able to hold the city, so it wasn’t an important victory in a strategic sense. But it came at a time when the American side wasn’t winning battles and the British seemed to have the upper hand.

See? A story of the Delaware that you thought you knew, and now you really do!! Every December there’s re-enactment of the crossing. Here’s coverage from December 2015:

That’s what this blog will be — a discovery and in some cases a re-discovery of the river next door: The Delaware.

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