Christmas morning, 1776. About 2,500 continental soldiers wait on frozen ground on the western banks of the Delaware. A secret plan was in the works that only the army brass knew; the soldiers, culled from New Jersey, New England and the Virginias awaited orders.
By 4 p.m., a group of Hunterdon County landowners had delivered boats used to transport iron up and down the river to the banks, about 10 miles north of Trenton. They’d be used to carry the men across (of course you know this if you’ve taken a history class in a New Jersey public school, or stayed up too late and stumbled upon some glossy uber-patriotic retelling on Fox News.)
Ice floes jetted down the high-flowing (90 feet) river as the boats travelled the 800 feet of the river, carrying men, horses and artillery, from PA to NJ. The plan was for two other regiments south of Washington’s group to cross at night as well. They never made it. Washington’s small group would march to Trenton to battle the surprised battalion of Hessians, Brits and Tories. They’d win, take Princeton, and, eventually, the war.
Hard to imagine sheets of ice rocketing down the Delaware, or frozen bits further south (which is what derailed the other two Continental troops), after the sweltering week we had. And, certainly, you ought to take the rose-colored history our textbooks paint the American revolution in with a grain of salt. But if modern-day American politics has you blue this Independence Day weekend, take a trip through history, to Washington Crossing State Park, to the beginning of America. At the very least, it’s a peaceful, natural area easy to get lost in—and forget all about political bullshit.
Several trails run through the park, but it’s kind of neat to start at the river’s edge, cross over the pedestrian path and take Continental Lane, which runs through densely wooded areas. It’s the path on watch Washington’s troops marched to Trenton. And at the end of it, you don’t have to fight a bunch of Hessians—you can, like, go to Hopewell.
Get into the park and there’s a nature center and some more trailheads; there’s also history scattered throughout—a ferry house, shacks, boats. There’s also an open-air theater that (pandemic pending) hosts productions throughout the summer.
Washington Crossing State Park. 355 Washington Crossing Pennington Rd, Titusville. washingtoncrossingpark.org.