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Washington Crossing

 
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Upper Makefield Township
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Washington Crossing State Park

Washington Crossing was first settled in the late 1600s or early 1700s and was known by several names including Bakers Ferry, McKonkeys Ferry, and Taylorsville until the name was changed around 1918 to commemorate Washington crossing the Delaware here. A park was formed here in 1917.

During the winter of 1776 the prospect of America winning the war was looking grim. The time for the enlisted army was about to expire on December 31 and most men were not interested in returning to the army. Washington realized that if he didn't make a move immediately he would lose most of his army. Then, in preparation for his surpirse attack he ordered all boats along the Delaware River to be confiscated and brought to the Pennsylvania side. The river at that time was extremely icy and treacherous to cross, so Washington used professional boatmen from Massachusettes who could navigate the waters. Under the cover of night on Christmas night, 1776, Washington and 2400 men crossed the river at McKonkey's Ferry. It took until about 3 am for all of the men and artillery to cross, but not a single man, horse, or gun was lost in the crossing. Washington and his men then marched 9 miles to Trenton where they surprised the Hessian forces there and won the Battle of Trenton. This was one of the major turning points in the American Revolution.

The Hessians were German mercenaries hired by England to help fight in the war against the Americans. They were a professional and well-trained army, and often very cruel in their tacticts, even with prisoners of war. Some people think that Washington's forces were successful because the Hessians were drunk and celebrating on Christmas night. However, there is no evidence to support this. The German soldiers were well trained but probably didn't expect such a large attack given the terrible weather at the time.

Few people realize that there were actually several coordinated crossings taking place that night. Other groups were supposed to have crossed at locations further up the river and then join forces with Washigton in order to overtake Trenton. But because the river was so treacherous that night, Washington's forces were the main group to cross and he never received the backup he was expecting, making it all the more impressive that he was successful in this risky campaign. General Washington wasn't the only future president to cross the Delaware that night. Crossing just a few miles up-river, at Coryell's Ferry (now new Hope), was 17 year old Lieutenant James Monroe, fith president of the United States.

The first bridge at Washington Crossing was built in 1835. The current bridge, known as a double Warren Truss bridge, is almost 900 feet long and was built in 1904. The stone piers it rests upon are part of the original foundation from the 1830's. Although the current bridge was damaged during the major floods of 1955, it was repaired and stills tands. The wooden bridge that preceded it was swept away by floods in 1903, and even before that the original bridge was swept away by an earlier flood in 1841.

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