While listening to Obama’s inaugural address this section bugged me:
So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
“Let it be told to the future world … that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it).”
America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come.
OK, lets get some things straight about George Washington and the crossing of the Delaware. First off, Wasington’s men weren’t doing so well on the PA side of the Delaware. Soldiers were running away because the army couldn’t provide them with provisions. It also doesn’t help that it was really cold. As I type this a good portion of the Delaware is iced over. The part that is still flowing has fast flowing chunks of ice in it. I sure as heck wouldn’t want to try to cross it or camp out next to it without the proper equipment.
Obama states that the men were sitting around campfires before the crossing. This isn’t true. Washington ordered the campfires doused and then crossed the river to spend the rest of the 9 hour crossing in a tavern. While his men froze without campfires Washington was sitting at the hearth of a bar occasionally looking out to see how things were going. Washington also used the code phrase “Victory or Death” for the operation, highlighting just how expendable he considered his men to be.
The enemy wasn’t advancing. The Hessians were 9 miles away waiting in Trenton. They had no intentions of moving. Washington’s army was on the offensive.
The snow probably wasn’t stained with blood. They had been camped out for a while and hadn’t done any major fighting at that spot. Even the ensuing battle after the forced march into Trenton wasn’t that bloody.
Obama is correct that the battle was a turning point. It was perceived as an easy win. People got excited and joined the army. The hardest part of the battle was the river crossing and many people who enlisted after the battle didn’t fully understand that particular hardship. They just heard of very little bloodshed and a big win for their country. It’s the kind of thing army recruiters pray for.
The fact that politicians lean so heavily upon this idea that our founding fathers were these great figures bugs the hell out of me. Washington as a general was a tyrant. He ruled the continental army with an iron fist willing to beat his men to death to get things done. I’d be hard-pressed if someone forced me to choose between spending my time in the mountains with Che or colonial PA with Washington. Please America, let’s stop it with the saintly Washington BS and the idea that everything from the end of the American colonial period was good.