Let’s Talk

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Actually, I’m the one flapping lips—but you’re cordially invited to listen in here to a recording of my first public remarks about the book that I’m anticipating Brookline Books will release early next year, Winning the Ten Crucial Days.

This is a talk I gave last night at the First Presbyterian Church in Titusville, NJ (Hopewell Township), as part of Hopewell Valley Heritage Week, in an event sponsored by the Washington Crossing Park Association of New Jersey and the D & R Greenway Land Trust. The other speaker (following yours truly) is Dr. Richard Veit, a registered professional archeologist as well as Associate Dean of the Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences and professor of anthropology at Monmouth University.

AND let the record reflect that Dr. Veit and myself are both Drew U. alumni, although he graduated a decade after me. (There’s nothing like that to make you feel ancient.)


Hello All –

This isn’t so much a blog post as an update on current activity that may be of interest to some subscribers.

I’ve had to postpone several in-person events and curtail my customary appearances at Washington Crossing Historic Park (WCHP) due to what I assume, i.e., hope will be a short-term physical issue, while trying to do a limited amount of face-to-face engagement and find opportunities to pound the keyboard.

Two recent blog posts on this site have morphed into articles for other platforms:

Defining Victory in the Revolution has insinuated itself into the WCHP blog.

Albigence Waldo: Surgeon, Soldier, Diarist, Poet appeared in the Journal of the American Revolution this week.

I’m looking forward to giving the inaugural guided tour of the 2024 season for the Princeton Battlefield Society on May 19 from 1—2:30 pm. More information and registration are available here.

As part of Hopewell Valley Heritage Week 2024, I’m scheduled to speak on May 21 at the First Presbyterian Church of Titusville, 48 River Drive, Titusville, NJ 08560 (Hopewell Township). This event is cosponsored by the Washington Crossing Park Association of New Jersey and the D & R Greenway Land Trust. The talk, which will be the first (and hopefully not the last) based on my forthcoming book, is entitled: “Winning the Ten Crucial Days: A Thematic Interpretation.” In addition, Dr. Richard Veit, a registered professional archeologist and professor of anthropology at Monmouth University, will discuss his findings in regard to the site where over 10,000 Continental troops encamped in Hopewell from June 23 to 25, 1778, prior to the Battle of Monmouth. The event runs from 7—8:30 pm. More information is available here.

Best to all.



70. A Proper Cropper

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Some 246 years ago this week, Lieutenant Colonel John Cropper of the 11th Virginia Regiment, then 23 years of age, wrote to his wife Margaret (Peggy) in Accomac County, Virginia, from the Continental Army’s encampment at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Peggy and their infant daughter Sarah were living on the north bank of Folly Creek on family land called Bowman’s Folly, on Virginia’s eastern shore. Cropper had been commissioned a captain in the 9th Virginia when the war began, and in 1777 as a major in the 7th Virginia. In September, he was wounded at the battle of Brandywine, and in 1778 General Lafayette appointed him lieutenant colonel in command of the 11th Virginia.

The Letter

Cropper’s missive to “My Dear Peggy” was written on May 10, 1778. It begins with an explanation of why he had been unable to come home “agreeable to the times promised in my last two letters,” owing to the fact that he had promised “at the time of getting leave, to stay until an officer of my rank should come, to care of General Woodford’s brigade, which I have commanded since his absence, ’till within these few days” that occurred.

The main part of the letter conveys sentiments that one might expect from a soldier long and far away from his family:

I beg you’ll have patience to go thro’ my absence with the same virtue and heroism, you have done. I think it too ridiculous to endeavor to convince you of my persevering in the same love I left you with, for I am sure my angel could never doubt my sincerity—I now anticipate the pleasure I shall shortly have in the company of my little daughter, and its mamma, how I will caress & fondle upon the sweet infant; but no more of that, the thoughts only make me unhappy, at the distance of 250 miles.

My most fervent prayer is that this may meet you & the dear daughter in the enjoyment of health, peace & prosperity—my esteem to our good sister, our mother & all other friends. I am, dear Peggy, yours until time shall be no more,

The colonel also reported on the troops’ celebratory activity, four days before he put pen to paper, in commemoration of the newly minted alliance with France:

The 6th instant was a day of rejoicing with our army, in which all the artillery & musketry of our army was discharged, and the three following toasts drank & huzza’d—

Long live the King of France

Success to the friendly European powers

Success to the United States of America,

and many patriotic songs, the whole was upon the court of France’s declaring us independent.

Cropper enclosed with his letter “a pair of clasps for my little girl, and a newspaper,” along with “a plain gold ring” for Peggy, “an exact fellow to which I have on my finger.” He asked her to accept the ring, which bore the first letters of his name, “as a sincere pledge of my faith & constancy.”


In June 1778, Colonel Cropper commanded his regiment at the battle of Monmouth. He took a six-month furlough from the army that fall and returned to Bowman’s Folly to recuperate and spend time with Peggy and Sarah. The family survived a raid on their home in February 1779 by British soldiers from a nearby ship, and later that year the colonel was wounded in a Chesapeake Bay engagement.

After the war, Cropper lived the life of a gentleman planter and politician, serving in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate and as lieutenant colonel of the 2nd Regiment of the Virginia Militia. In 1815, Cropper was commissioned brigadier general with the 21st Brigade of Virginia Militia. He died on January 15, 1821, at age 66.

For anyone who missed out on reading blog post no. 68 (Defining Victory in the Revolution—March 26, 2024) or wants to revisit what is essentially the same narrative, you’ll find it here in an article just posted in the Washington Crossing Historic Park blog. Much of it is adapted from my forthcoming book, Winning the Ten Crucial Days: The Keys to Victory in George Washington’s Legendary Winter Campaign.

69. Where was Waldo?

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Why was Albigence Waldo Important?

In general historiographic terms, Waldo is best known for having kept a diary during the winter of 1777-78 that recorded his experience and that of his fellow Continental soldiers during the storied Valley Forge encampment. The diary provides a graphic firsthand account of the challenges faced by the army that winter. Waldo’s commentary is regarded as an especially valuable resource for studying this period, during which the young physician attended to many an ill soldier. His entries were recorded in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography more than a century later based on a manuscript furnished by Amos Perry of the Rhode Island Historical Society.

Who Was He?

Born in February 1750, in Pomfret, Connecticut, Waldo received his early education there and studied medicine under the guidance of Dr. John Spaulding in neighboring Canterbury. Afterwards, he settled in his native town, where he took the place of Dr. John Hall, who had moved to Vermont. Waldo married Lydia Hurlburt in 1772, and they would have four sons and three daughters.

When the Revolutionary War began, the Pomfret physician left his family and medical practice to join the cause. Waldo initially served as a clerk in a militia company from Woodstock, Connecticut, but In July 1775, he was commissioned surgeon’s mate of the 8th Connecticut Regiment under Col. Jedediah Huntington, only to be discharged that September because of ill health. In December 1776, the Connecticut Committee of War commissioned him chief surgeon of the armed ship Oliver Cromwell, but he was induced to leave that vessel by an invitation from Col. Huntington to join his newly raised 1st Connecticut Regiment as surgeon. In early 1777, Waldo joined the regiment, which was assigned to the brigade led by Brig. Gen. Huntington (having been promoted from colonel) in Maj. Gen. Alexander McDougall’s division of Connecticut and Rhode Island troops.

Raised largely in New London County, the 1st Connecticut took the field in the spring of 1777 at Peekskill, New York, and was ordered by Washington to join the main army in Pennsylvania in September after the battle of Brandywine Creek. At Germantown on October 4, the regiment was engaged at the front of Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene’s division. As winter settled in, Waldo recorded the experience of army life in a series of day-by-day chronicles that vividly convey his thoughts and feelings.

The army surgeon resigned his commission in October 1779 and resumed his medical practice in Pomfret, where he became an accomplished surgeon whose entire practice was devoted to that specialty. His first wife died in 1785; and two years later, he married Lucy Cargill, who survived him until 1830 (they would have two daughters). Dr. Waldo died in January 1794 and is buried in Pomfret.

Waldo’s Words

The Connecticut surgeon’s diary entries are thoughtful, lively, engaging, and in many cases quite caustic—understandably so given the prevailing circumstances. His observations reflect a determination to cope with the challenging circumstances facing him and his army brethren, a frustration with a lack of appreciation for the troops’ plight among the civilian population, an enduring love of family, a deep admiration for Washington and his fellow soldiers in general, and a recognition of the long-standing mistreatment accorded Indians by the colonists.

A Sample of Waldo’s Writing

December 15, 1777 — Mankind are never truly thankfull for the Benefits of life, until they have experience’d the want of them. The Man who has seen misery knows best how to enjoy good. He who is always at ease & has enough of the Blessings of common life is an Impotent Judge of the feelings of the unfortunate.

December 21 (after the army’s arrival at Valley Forge on the 18th) — Preparations made for hutts. Provisions Scarce … sent a Letter to my Wife. Heartily wish myself at home, my Skin & eyes are almost spoil’d with continual smoke. A general cry thro’ the Camp this Evening among the Soldiers, “No Meat! No Meat!”-the Distant vales Echo’d back the melancholly sound-“No Meat! No Meat!” Immitating the noise of Crows & Owls, also, made a part of the confused Musick. What have you for your Dinners Boys? “Nothing but Fire Cake & Water, Sir.”

December 24 — Hutts go on Slowly-Cold & Smoke make us fret. But mankind are always fretting, even if they have more than their proportion of the Blessings of Life. We are never Easy, allways repining at the Providence of an Allwise & Benevolent Being, Blaming Our Country or faulting our Friends. But I don’t know of anything that vexes a man’s Soul more than hot smoke continually blowing into his Eyes, & when he attempts to avoid it, is met by a cold and piercing Wind.

December 26 — Many Country Gentlemen in the interior parts of the States who get wrong information of the Affairs & state of our Camp, are very much Surprized at G Washington’s delay to drive off the Enemy, being falsely inform’d that his Army consists of double the Number of the Enemy’s-such wrong information serves not to keep up the spirit of the People, as they must be by and by undeceiv’d to their no small disappointment;-it brings blame on his Excellency, who is deserving of the greatest encomiums; it brings disgrace on the Continental Troops, who have never evidenced the least backwardness in doing their duty, but on the contrary, have cheerfully endur’d a long and very fatigueing Campaign.

January 1, 1778 — New Year.—I am alive. Hutts go on briskly, and our Camp begins to appear like a spacious City….
Nothing tends to the establishment of the firmest Friendship like Mutual Sufferings which produces mutual Intentions and endeavours for mutual Relief which in such cases are equally shar’d with pleasure and satisfaction-in the course of this, each heart is laid open to full view-the similar passions in each, approximate themselves by a certain impulsive sympathy, which terminates in lasting esteem.

January 4 — I was called to relieve a Soldier tho’t to be dying-he expir’d before I reach’d the Hutt. He was an Indian-an excellent Soldier-and an obedient good natur’d fellow. He engaged for money doubtless as others do;-but he has serv’d his country faithfully-he has fought for those very people who disinherited his forefathers-having finished his pilgrimage, he was discharged from the War of Life & Death. His memory ought to be respected, more than those rich ones who supply the world with nothing better than Money and Vice.

January 6 — If I should happen to lose this little Journal, any fool may laugh that finds it,-since I know that there is nothing in it but the natural flowings & reflections of my own heart, which is human as well as other Peoples-and if there is a great deal of folly in it— there is no intended Ill nature-and am sure there is much Sincerity, especially when I mention my family, whom I cannot help saying and am not asham’d to say that I Love….
We have got our Hutts to be very comfortable, and feel ourselves happy in them—I only want my family and I should be as happy here as anywhere, except in the Article of food,
which is sometimes pretty scanty.

January 8 — Unexpectedly got a Furlow [furlough]. Set out fur home. The very worst of Riding-Mud & Mire.

The diary ends here.

P.S. For anyone who may be interested, Brookline Books is accepting preorders HERE for my upcoming book, Winning the Ten Crucial Days: The Keys to Victory in Washington’s Legendary Winter Campaign.

68. Defining Victory in the Revolution

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Pyrrhic Victories

The resilience displayed by the Continental Army was paramount in England’s failure to defeat the American rebellion, especially as that insurrection was supported by weapons and ammunition from France and then subsequently by the armed forces of its monarch, Louis XVI. According to 18th-century military protocol, the side that held the field at the conclusion of battle was regarded as victorious; and, from that perspective, the redcoats won most of the Revolutionary War engagements from 1775 to 1783. They achieved unambiguous success (in chronological order) at Long Island, Kip’s Bay, Fort Washington, Brandywine Creek, Paoli, Germantown, Savannah, Charleston, Camden, and Waxhaws, while suffering clear-cut defeats at Princeton, Saratoga, Stony Point, Cowpens, and Yorktown. But they also “won” in a narrow tactical sense at Breed’s Hill, White Plains, Freeman’s Farm, Guilford Courthouse, Hobkirk Kill, and Eutaw Springs, by forcing the Americans to retire from the battlefield. However, those technical victories represented a strategic setback for the crown’s forces in that they depleted their precious reserves of military manpower, failed to neutralize enemy armies in the field, and were unable to sway public opinion against the insurrection.

When General Nathanael Greene, who was chosen by Washington to lead the Continental Army in the Southern Theater in 1780, memorably asserted his resolve to rebound from one of those purely tactical reversals, he arguably articulated the overall strategy behind the American war effort. Writing to the Chevalier de La Luzerne, Louis XVI’s minister to the United States, three days after the battle of Hobkirk Hill—near Camden, South Carolina—in April 1781, Greene declared, “We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again.”

A Case in Point

Hobkirk Hill is an illustrative example of the pyrrhic victories by the king’s troops that proved their undoing. This was a classic eighteenth-century battlefield engagement in which the opposing lines exchanged musket fire, at close range and in the open, until one side pulled back. Greene’s casualties were 270 (including 136 missing), and the British 258. Estimates vary as to the number of killed, wounded, captured, or missing on both sides, but the numerical equivalence between the respective casualty counts obscures a very disparate impact. The losses represented about 29 percent of the British force versus about 17 percent of the American.

The casualties sustained by the redcoats were substantial enough—along with other actions during this period, including the fall of Fort Watson to a rebel contingent led by Lieutenant Colonel Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee (father of Confederate general Robert E. Lee) and General Francis Marion (the legendary “Swamp Fox”) just two days before—that the British commander, Colonel Francis, Lord Rawdon, abandoned his position at Camden and fell back to Monk’s Corner on the Cooper River thirty miles north of Charleston. By doing so, Rawdon yielded the key British post in South Carolina, and significant strategic consequences ensued. This began the unraveling of Britain’s tenuous hold over the interior of the state, for one after another of the posts occupied by its regulars or Loyalist units fell to the rebels—Fort Granby, Fort Motte, Orangeburg, Fort Galpin, and Georgetown in South Carolina, and Augusta in Georgia.

Winning By Not Losing

In the end, the Continental Army and its supporting militia prevailed in a war of attrition against a military superior opponent, That achievement was notwithstanding the various challenges posed by man and nature: battlefield reverses; desertions; expiring enlistments; the specter of mutiny; illness; and ongoing shortages of equipment, food, and supplies—and in spite of the many unforced errors made by American generals.

The insurgent side won the contest by not losing it. A lengthy war of attrition eventually sapped Britain’s will to fight following Lord Cornwallis’s surrender to the Franco-American army at Yorktown, Virginia in October 1781. There followed parliament’s vote to abandon the struggle and any claim to sovereignty over the 13 former colonies. What did England have to show for its eight-year-long effort to subdue the rebellion? Losses of 40,000 casualties and 50,000,000 pounds, including at least 20,000 soldiers and sailors whose lives ended in America, the West Indies, or at sea, some from battlefield wounds but more from disease—often in some squalid setting—and typically without the benefit of a stone to mark the final resting place of anyone other than a commissioned officer.

In a Broader Sense

All this begs the question of whether Britain could have ever “won” in terms of indefinitely suppressing the American quest for independence or whether that independence was inevitable. If as John Adams insisted, the revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people (the Whig faction, to be sure), would a purely military victory by the crown have made that population any more amenable to subjugation? Could the mother country have possibly borne the cost of deploying a permanent army of occupation in the colonies large enough to effectively impose British rule over a largely hostile people spread across an expanse of territory that dwarfed Great Britain in size? For how long? What reason is there to assume that her North American colonies would not at some point have attained their sovereignty given what happened with Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, and New Zealand? Surely it’s a question of when and not whether that would have occurred. In this context, I’m reminded of remarks by the great parliamentary orator Edmund Burke in March 1775, arguing for a policy of conciliation towards America, that included this: “Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom, and a great empire and little minds go ill together.”

Much of the preceding is adapted from my upcoming book, Winning the Ten Crucial Days. For those interested, the manuscript is now in the hands of the publisher, Brookline Books (an imprint of Casemate Publishers), and an image of the preliminary front-cover cover design can be viewed here.

If you’d like to read more about the battle of Hobkirk Hill, check out my article in the Journal of the American Revolution—Hobkirk Hill: A Major Minor Battle (June 27, 2023).

67. Whither the Republic?

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A 72-page pamphlet by Moses Mather (1719-1806), entitled “America’s Appeal to the Impartial World,” which mounted a vigorous defense of American rights against Great Britain, was published in the spring of 1775 by Ebenezer Watson in Hartford, CT, and advertised for sale in the April 3 edition of Watson’s paper, The Connecticut Courant. Mather, a native of Lyme, CT and a Yale College graduate, was ordained a Congregational minister in 1744. The pastor of the Congregational church in Darien, he later became an outspoken revolutionary and was imprisoned in 1779 and 1781 by British raiding parties from New York. After the war, he received a divinity degree from the College of New Jersey (today’s Princeton University) and continued his ministerial duties in Darien until his death.

In reading the above pamphlet, it struck me that one of his observations has particular relevance for this generation. Without seeking to make a partisan point (which would be at variance with the intent and purpose of this platform), I wanted to share the following, which I believe is especially deserving of our consideration:

Mather references the assertion of an anonymous “celebrated French writer, treating of the English, and the excellence of their constitution … that England could never lose its freedom, until parliament lost its virtue.”[1] It seems to me that we can contemporaneously echo that claim in regard to the status of American democracy going forward. We can never lose our freedom unless our government loses its virtue.

That point was essentially made by no less a luminary than the nation’s 16th president. On January 27, 1838, a youthful Abraham Lincoln, then a member of the Illinois General Assembly speaking before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, opined as follows regarding any hypothetical threat to the republic:

At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach[es] us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.[2]

He and his generation would be forced to grapple with just such a challenge a little over two decades later.


[1] Gordon S. Wood, ed. The American Revolution: Writings from the Pamphlet Debate, 1773-1776. vol. 2 (New York: The Library of America, 2015), 598-599.

[2] Mario M. Cuomo and Harold Holzer, eds. Lincoln on Democracy (New York: A Cornelia & Michael Bessie Book, 1990), 16.

66. Washington Crossing State Park – History is in its Future

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Hello All –

I want to talk about where George Washington landed on Christmas night 1776. Today it’s called Washington Crossing State Park (WCSP) in Titusville (Hopewell Township), NJ, and it typically does not get as much publicity as Washington Crossing Historic Park (WCHP) on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. The latter is located where the McConkey’s Ferry was and where the Continental Army embarked on that storied occasion. WCHP is where I’ve been hanging out for much of the last decade, notwithstanding my Garden State residence, because of the opportunity it affords me to give guided tours through the Friends of Washington Crossing Park. But for purposes of this post, I am in spirit (as well as fact) a New Jerseyan, and as such would like to share some information with you.

What is Washington Crossing State Park?

WCSP lies opposite its Pennsylvania sister park and is part of the same National Historic Landmark. It is where Washington’s army came ashore after crossing the Delaware River to assault the Hessian brigade occupying Trenton. In addition to its historical significance, the 3,500-acre park is well known for its trails and wildlife habitat. It includes a visitor center and museum that houses an extensive collection of Revolutionary War artifacts on loan from the Swan Historical Foundation, as well as the Johnson Ferry House, an early 18th-century farmhouse and tavern near the river that was probably used by Washington and his officers during the Christmas night crossing. The park is managed by the NJ State Park Service in the Department of Environmental Protection, which has a cooperative relationship with the Washington Crossing Park Association, the volunteer friends group that works to preserve, enhance, and advocate for the park and the history it represents.

I love the Pennsylvania park, but facts are facts – and they include these:

— The Swan Foundation collection of Rev War artifacts at WCSP vastly exceeds anything comparable on the other side of the river.

— Unlike the historic buildings in the lower park at WCHP (most of which date from the 1820’s or 1830’s), the Johnson Ferry House on the New Jersey side was built circa 1740 and so it was THERE when GW’s men stormed into NJ (in more ways than one) on December 25-26, 1776.

— For my money, the movie on the New Jersey side runs circles around the one shown across the river (but is about twice as long, which has something to do with it).

— There is a replica ferry boat adjacent to the Nelson House on the New Jersey side, which is one more ferry boat than you’ll find across the way.

Now, before I lose my job on the Pennsylvania side, let me hasten to add that you won’t find (in my opinion) a more hallowed patch of ground on the North American continent than where the McConkey’s Ferry Inn once stood, and as such it’s a must-see for history nerds and even those with only a casual interest in where America’s First D-Day operation was launched. Plus the early Americana ambience given off by the remnants of the village of Taylorsville on the Pennsylvania side is simply unmatched at WCSP—and then there are those replica Durham boats. (Note to Gettysburg aficionados: I’m not saying WCHP is THE most hallowed ground, so chill.)

But back to New Jersey  .  .  .

What’s Happening at WCSP?

The park expects to break ground sometime this year on a new visitor center and museum expected to open sometime in 2026, but definitely in time for the annual reenactments of the Delaware River crossing that will occur that December and mark the semiquincentennial of American independence. The new structure will be much closer to the river’s edge than the current one; in fact, it will overlook the river and be in close proximity to the Johnson Ferry House. Inside, visitors will be greeted by a new, expanded, and exciting exhibit that is designed to immerse them in the “Ten Crucial Days” winter campaign that profoundly altered the course of the war for independence. This is exiting news that should fill local (and maybe not-so-local) history geeks with eager anticipation.

What Else?

Aside from all that, the new visitor center and museum at WCSP will house a significant original work of historical art that will be publicly displayed for the first time in more than a half-century, a priceless mural (an aspect of which appears above) that depicts Washington’s troops crossing the Delaware. Having languished in a dusty basement for 50 years, it was recently unearthed and is being restored by the Washington Crossing Park Association. Once the restoration is complete, this  approximately 15.5-by-10-foot work will be displayed in the  museum. Its creator, George Matthews Harding (1882–1959), was an American muralist and combat artist who worked in both world wars and painted this mural in 1921 for Trenton’s Taylor Opera House, where it hung until the building was razed in 1969.

At the time, the mural was coated with homemade wheat paste and Japanese rice paper, and rolled onto a custom-made cylinder with a view to restoring it for the new WCSP visitor center that was slated for completion by the 1976 bicentennial observance. The cylinder was transported to Ringwood Manor State Park in North Jersey, where it was placed in storage in a basement; however, the visitor center at WCSP was too small for this piece, and it was essentially forgotten for the next five decades.

The Washington Crossing Park Association took on the mission of determining if the mural could be restored for the park’s new museum by 2026 and, with the approval of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, engaged Christyl Cusworth of Cusworth Conservation in Lambertville, NJ, to restore and frame the piece. The association launched a $60,000 fundraising campaign to support this effort with the help of large donations from Americana Corner, NJM Insurance, and private funders, as well as many smaller contributions from members and friends. More information is available here.

Final Words

Feel free to spread the word about what’s coming down the pike at WCSP in the near future.

And remember, Pennsylvania was Washington’s launching pad but New Jersey was where he landed—and where the battles were won. With the possible exception of South Carolina, it’s where more military engagements occurred in the struggle for America’s independence than anywhere else. Not for nothing is it known as the “Crossroads of the Revolution.”


I wanted to close with an update on my current literary project. Winning the Ten Crucial Days: The Keys to Victory in George Washington’s Legendary Winter Campaign is now under contract with Brookline Books, an imprint of Casemate Publishers, and projected for release next winter or in the spring of 2025.

I’ve asked several people to review the manuscript, and the first (but hopefully not last) endorsement quote is in:

David Price’s latest book is an engaging account that provides the reader with a truly in-depth understanding of how Washington and his army were able to turn the tide in the winter of 1776-77. For any Revolutionary War buff, this book is a must read.

— THOMAS MADDOCK II, Historical Interpreter, Washington Crossing Historic Park

Thank you, Tom. Glad you enjoyed it.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Entertainment vs. Information

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For anyone, myself included, who enjoyed the admirable performance of Jeff Daniels as George Washington in the 2002 A&E Television Network movie, “The Crossing” (one of many notable roles in an illustrious career), the commentary provided by Roger S. Williams, cofounder of TenCrucialDays.org and vice chair of the History Committee of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, provides useful context that is worth taking time to read and reflect upon. It’s entitled “Washington’s Televised Rubicon: The Hollywood Artistic License of A&E’s The Crossing,” and you can read it here.

Happy New Year to all!

BTW the annual reenactment of the Christmas night 1776 crossing at Washington Crossing Historic Park two days ago drew a crowd that I’m guessing included at least six thousand people – a nice way to ring out the year and hopefully a harbinger of even greater public enthusiasm for this venerable ritual as we approach the 250th anniversary of American independence in 2026.

65. Not Another “Ten Crucial Days” Book!

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Afraid so. (It’s only a minor compulsion; I can deal with it if I want. Really.)

But let me get back to that in a moment. First, I want to acknowledge that, in one sense, tomorrow marks the beginning of the 250th anniversary of America’s struggle for independence. I say that because the so-called Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773 proved to be a milestone on the road to armed insurgency. It caused His Majesty George III to pivot from a more detached stance with respect to the unrest that had ensued from British colonial policy and support punitive measures against his American subjects for resisting royal authority. The King and Parliament responded to the dumping of British East India Company tea into Boston Harbor by adopting a series of hardline measures under the rubric of the “Coercive Acts” as they were known in England, and the “Intolerable Acts” as they were called by Americans. These were intended to punish the residents of Boston specifically and Massachusetts generally by closing the port of Boston and abrogating that colony’s right of self-rule. The new policies were to be enforced by an occupying force of British troops under the command of General Thomas Gage as military governor of the colony. These developments paved the way for a war that became increasingly inevitable and erupted less than a year-and-a-half later at Lexington and Concord.

BTW, if you want to read a magnificent analysis of how Britain stumbled into this abyss, check out Nick Bunker’s An Empire on the Edge.

And on that cheery note, let the semiquincentennial begin!

Back to the Book

I wanted to report some progress on the path to a fifth book. It comes courtesy of Brookline Books, an imprint of Casemate Publishers in Havertown, PA, which has agreed to take on this project that I hope will eventuate in a  release next winter. Brookline is a new publishing platform focusing on subject matter that relates to the history of the greater Philadelphia area and the Delaware Valley. While Casemate has traditionally specialized in military history, Brookline’s publishing purview is broader than that; however, its list of upcoming releases does include two “revolting” volumes that should be out sometime next year. These are: Perceptions of Battle: George Washington’s Victory at Monmouth by Jeff Dacus (due in May); and The Loyalist Experience and Aftermath in Revolutionary Philadelphia by Kimberly Nath (coming in August).

The title of my new work is: Winning the Ten Crucial Days: The Keys to Victory in George Washington’s Legendary Winter Campaign. Unlike earlier works on this subject, each of which is, in its own way, a largely chronological account of the Continental Army’s 1776-1777 winter endeavor, this narrative will rely largely on an analytical approach to interpreting what happened. I have tried to focus its discussion around what I believe to be the five crucial factors behind the “Ten Crucial Days”—leadership, geography, weather, artillery, and contingency (or just plain luck). Each of these analytical elements will be accorded its own chapter, and the challenge for yours truly will be to somehow synthesize the somewhat-overlapping subnarratives into a reasonably coherent whole.

This will NOT be a comprehensive account of the TCD campaign (maybe quasi-comprehensive?). David Hackett Fischer in Washington’s Crossing and my friend Larry Kidder in Ten Crucial Days have done that in splendid fashion, so there’s no need to go there. That said, I hope this will make some measurable contribution to assessing the meaning of what occurred during perhaps the ten most extraordinary days in American history. If not, at least it’s helped me keep boredom at bay for several months.

More to follow on this. Meanwhile, best wishes for a very happy holiday season and a healthy and safe 2024.

64. How Conclusive are your Conclusions?

Reminder: If you’re reading this in your email, you have to click on the link at the bottom or go to dpauthor.com and click on the Speaking of Which tab in order to view the actual blog post with the featured image.

Hope everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving. I know I’ve neglected this blog of late, due in part to other literary exertions, but felt compelled to scribble something that bears on what I’ve been doing and will hopefully satisfy an urge to be at least minimally conscientious about posting stuff. (I will not make a new year’s resolution to do better on this score because experience suggests—actually screams—that it would guarantee nonperformance.)

Anyway, what triggered this latest post is something from Al Frazza’s book, State of Revolution: My Seven-and-a-Half-Year Journey Through Revolutionary War New Jersey, Al, who created RevolutioaryWarNewJersey.com, provides a useful reminder to maintain humility in the context of historical interpretation—and other pursuits too, for that matter. In other words, it’s a good idea to know what you don’t know (so to speak). I’ve tried to keep that in mind when writing and doing my tour-guide thing at Washington Crossing and Princeton, but it never hurts to give the memory banks a nudge on that every so often.

So here’s the relevant excerpt:

…one should always stay humble about what one is researching. Always consider that, no matter how much you know, it is only a small part of the larger story, and that other people know things that you don’t. Even when it comes to the things that you know very well, it is good to be open to the possibility that you may be incorrect in your conclusions. It can keep you from finding a deeper truth if you are too confident in your assumptions.

And speaking of assumptions, one that I never made relates to an early holiday gift for yours truly that just arrived from the Journal of the American Revolution (JAR). I never know what’s going to (as they say at the Washington Crossing parks) really float the editors’ boat, but today I learned that one of my articles from earlier this year—Eutaw Springs and the Ambiguity of Victory—has been selected for inclusion in the next annual hardcover book produced by JAR, scheduled for release in April. These hardcover volumes feature the best (as determined by the editors) historical research and writing published by the journal during the prior calendar year—typically between thirty and forty articles (forty in the 2024 volume). They are available from Westholme Publishing, Amazon, or wherever books are sold. (Since 2021, I’ve written nine articles for JAR and three have made the cut for the annual volume. Boy, if only I could have hit .333 playing softball at Glen Ridge High.)

I hope to be able to share encouraging news on the next book very soon—but I don’t want to sound too, well, confident in that assumption.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a great holiday season and extend my best wishes for a healthy and happy new year!

If any of you will be attending the annual Princeton battle reenactment on January 7, I’ll be manning the “general store”for the Princeton Battled Society that day, i.e., selling stuff, along with my wife Alison. (I mean to say she’ll be helping me, not that I’ll be selling her.) So stop by and say hello. I’ll also be helping out at the Delaware River crossing reenactments at Washington Crossing Historic Park on December 10 and Christmas Day, so the same goes for them. (No, I will not be in a boat; I get seasick in a bathtub.)