Delaware River too dangerous for re-enactment of 1776 crossing

Friday, December 26, 2003

WASHINGTON CROSSING, N.J. -- A Christmas Eve downpour following heavy rain and snow made the Delaware River too dangerous for the annual re-enactment of George Washington's bold Revolutionary War crossing Thursday, grounding the actors for the second Christmas in a row.

Last year, sleet, wind and strong currents prevented the crossing -- conditions similar to what Washington faced as he and his men crossed from Pennsylvania to New Jersey in the dark on Christmas Day 227 years ago. That 1776 maneuver led to key victories in Trenton and Princeton and reversed the Continental Army's fortunes.

Even with the crossing re-enactment called off Thursday, thousands of spectators watched as actors in period costume marched, fired artillery and read from Thomas Paine's "Common Sense."

New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey told the crowd that Washington's strengths are again needed to confront terrorism.

"It will be those same values, courage and determination that will forever keep this nation free," McGreevey said.

The re-enactment, started by local history buffs in 1952, typically involves 60-foot wooden boats, replicas of the Revolutionary War-era Durham cargo boats.

Jane Crawford, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, said the park had "plenty of volunteers," with 27 oarsmen and 72 troops signed up to cross the river. But in high or rough river conditions, the boats are considered unsafe.

The river was 7 feet above normal in morning, and flowing at 15 mph, triple the normal rate, park administrator Michael A. Berthaud said.

The commission, which owns and operates Washington Crossing Historic Park in Upper Makefield, Pa., called off the crossing a few hours before it was to take place.

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