There’s diamonds in the sidewalk there’s gutters lined in song
Dear I hear that beer flows through the faucets all night long
There’s treasure for the taking, for any hard working man
Who will make his home in the American Land
Springsteen, American Land
That winter, Jersey girl and I took a drive down the Delaware to Washington’s crossing. This was right towards the end of my second visit and so was inevitably tinged with a certain sadness. I must say, however, that day remains one of my most magical memories of the entire three weeks.
We began in Frenchtown. This had actually been the scene of the mini-drama I wrote about in my post Iceman, but that had all occurred on the far-flung outskirts of the town. I had not, at that point, seen the town proper and this encounter left a very different impression.
Frenchtown lies on the Jersey side of the mighty Delaware River. It is a bit of a magnet for arty, bohemian, hipster types and so, for a slightly out of the way little village, it has quite a culturally vibrant aesthetic.
We lunched at the Bridge Café which, as the name implies, is situated adjacent to the steel girder bridge that spans the river over to PA. The food was great and the coffee more than decent (a huge relief for me – I’m from Melbourne, where really good coffee is everywhere you go – In Jersey? Not so much). After eating we wandered around the town a little. It really is a charming little place and well worth a visit.
Then we got back in the car, crossed the bridge and headed down towards our ultimate destination; Washington’s crossing. The drive alongside the river on the Pennsylvania side is so beautiful. There are many houses and villages that date back to colonial times, so you can well imagine how stunning a lot of it looked under a blanket of snow.
Everywhere we looked there was food for the eyes and I think I was grinning and clicking the camera for the entire drive. The only largish sized town between Frenchtown and the crossing is New Hope. If you love a little colour, I recommend New Hope. It is made up almost entirely of bars, restaurants and galleries. If you do find yourself there, try Marsha Brown a very cool place to eat situated in what was once an old church.
After many ‘oooh’ moments, we eventually arrived at Washington’s crossing. I shouldn’t really have to remind anyone of the significance of this place, but educations being what they are these days; I’ll include a little context.
In 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, General Washington’s army was driven out of New Jersey by the British and forced to winter, under very difficult conditions, in Pennsylvania. It was becoming clear that the brutal snows and the series of defeats and retreats that had been suffered had taken a heavy toll of his men. Soldiers were beginning to desert in droves and Washington knew that, if he didn’t do something decisive soon, He would lose his army.
He decided to go on the offensive. This was virtually unheard of in those times. Armies bunkered down in the winter and fought when the weather was more hospitable. Washington, therefore, knew that the German Hessians, garrisoned in Trenton and celebrating Christmas, would not be expecting an attack.
The crossing took place around 11pm on Christmas day and from the start things didn’t go to plan. He had split his army into three units and only a portion, rowing through the ice filled water in small boats, made it to the other side at the appointed time. It was therefore with a somewhat denuded force that Washington attacked Trenton the following morning, 26th December.
Despite these setbacks, Washington took the Hessians completely by surprise and, in a matter of an hour or two, had captured the town and close to a thousand prisoners. Due to a lack of troops and artillery, he could not hold the town and ultimately the victory was more symbolic than strategic. However, this success put fresh spirit into the hearts of the patriots and probably helped turn the tide of war in favour of the rebel cause.
Jersey girl and I wandered around the historic buildings that have been left, pretty much, as they were at the time of the revolution. It was an idyllic way to spend an afternoon and I found it hard to believe that in just a few short days, we would have to part again. I gazed around at the gleaming snow and tried to imagine being back in the sticky heat of a Melbourne summer. Somehow, my brain just didn’t want to make that jump.
We drove back over the same route we’d come by and I really enjoyed seeing it all over again. I think that was the day I absolutely knew that this was a place where I could make a life. I’d long been committed to Jersey girl as my true ‘home’, but in that moment, I committed myself fully to America.
I can’t really think of a more apt place to have made that commitment.
All images in this post are my own.