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.)

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.

The Five Crucial Factors Behind The Ten Crucial Days

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My apologies for neglecting the blog of late, but (in my defense) I’ve been pounding the keyboard for sundry other purposes, including an article for the Friends of Washington Crossing Park newsletter that should appear October 1, another piece for the Summer 2023 Swan Historical Foundation newsletter (due out soon), and the item mentioned below. In addition, I’m over 40K words into a manuscript for what I hope will be book no. 5, which would be an extension of said item. (Holy sprained fingers!) There must be an easier way to ward off boredom.

This new article in the Journal of the American Revolution dissects the “Ten Crucial Days” campaign of 1776-1777 by focusing on five key analytical elements: leadership, geography, weather, artillery, and contingency. They obviously overlap, and perhaps this narrative neglects others worthy of consideration; however, it would be hard to argue that each of these did not have a significant influence on the outcome of a legendary winter offensive.

57. Who Said What About the “Ten Crucial Days” (Again)

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I know I covered the subject in a prior post (no. 35—published Dec. 4, 2021—to be precise), but I wanted to provide a link to a greatly expanded version of this, which just appeared in the Journal of the American Revolution. The article features some fairly obscure quotes, including ones from both sides, in addition to those with which many or most Rev War aficionados would be familiar by virtue of their being frequently referenced in secondary sources.

Oh yeah, I left out the alleged quote from one Lawrence Peter Berra that was in the earlier post and which I thought was an apposite observation in regard to the lesson to be learned from the “Ten Crucial Days” winter campaign of 1776-1777, i.e., “It ain’t over till it’s over.” (And Howe.) It seemed somewhat indecorous to include a reference to Yogi in a JAR piece—off-base, you might say. (And I didn’t want to be the Berra of such tidings.)

55. Giving History A Hand

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Also please note: I know I indicated in the last post that the next one would complement it by outlining the fate of various British and Hessian officers after the Revolutionary War. However, as you can see, I have taken the liberty (this is a Rev War blog, after all) of deferring the post on those officers until next time. Today’s offering is something that’s near and dear to my heart and—given the focus of my second book, The Road to Assunpink Creek—my keyboard.

Giving Revolutionary history a hand and then some is exactly what Thomas Black, a senior at Notre Dame High School in Lawrence Township, NJ—Maidenhead at the time of the War for Independence—recently did. For his Eagle Scout project, Thomas constructed a marker (seen above) to memorialize the delaying action waged by American skirmishers under Colonel Edward Hand against a far larger force of British and Hessian troops advancing from Princeton to Trenton on January 2, 1777—and especially the clash that occurred adjacent to the parking lot at Notre Dame.

The new marker is far more elaborate and informative than the preexisting tiny blue marker by Lawrenceville Road (Route 206) in front of the school. Thomas’s creation stands near Shabakunk Creek, which runs through the campus and was the scene of perhaps the most intense fighting between Hand’s men and His Majesty’s troops, the latter commanded by Lieutenant General Charles Earl Cornwallis. It is quite possible that the efforts of those unsung Patriot combatants saved George Washington’s army from destruction that day by preventing Cornwallis’s formidable column from arriving in Trenton until it was too dark to launch a full-scale assault on the rebel lines positioned behind Assunpink Creek on the southern edge of town.

Thomas’s effort was inspired by his history teacher John McQuarrie, who recently retired after more than two decades at Notre Dame. John (who BTW is a subscriber to this blog) was kind enough to share a link to additional information about this much-needed tribute to the heroic resistance by Edward Hand’s thousand-man detachment, who were outnumbered more than six-to-one by their adversary. Later that day—in the immediate aftermath of Hand’s fighting withdrawal—Washington’s troops held off the enemy thrust at the Battle of Assunpink Creek, or Second Battle of Trenton. The next morning, they counterattacked at Princeton in the capstone engagement of the “Ten Crucial Days” winter campaign of 1776-1777, which reversed the military momentum previously enjoyed by the Crown’s forces.

So kudos to Thomas and John. They deserve a hand and Hand deserves them. I hope what they’ve done is, well, a sign of the times. (Yes, I know, they worked hand in hand.)

And speaking of same, for anyone who may be interested, I will be discussing the significance of the events referenced above at the annual meeting of the Lawrence Historical Society on February 26 at the Lawrence Headquarters Branch of the Mercer County Library, 2751 Brunswick Pike, Lawrenceville, NJ (at the corner of Brunswick Pike and Darrah Lane). The talk will be based on The Road to Assunpink Creek. The meeting, which is open to members and nonmembers, is scheduled to begin at 1 pmAdmission is free but registration is requested—and here’s the link to register. (I hope to bring copies of my four books to the event.)

52. The Enduring Durhams

The image above is that of a replica Durham boat housed in the boat barn at Washington Crossing Historic Park (WCHP) along the Pennsylvania banks of the Delaware River. None of the Durhams that plied the Delaware and Lehigh rivers in the eighteenth century—some fifteen to twenty of which were used to transport George Washington’s infantry across the Delaware on Christmas night 1776—exist today, at least not on dry land. However, the four seaworthy (or river-worthy, to be precise) replica craft at WCHP are used in the re-enactment of that nautical enterprise undertaken twice each December, once on the second Sunday of the month (December 11 this year) and the other on Christmas afternoon. This ritual became routinized in 1953 and has been ongoing ever since.

The Boats

At Washington’s command, the Durham boats that were to be used in the crossing on the night of December 25-26, 1776 were collected from the upper Delaware and Lehigh rivers. Daniel Bray, Jacob Gearhart, and Thomas Jones, all captains in the Hunterdon County militia, engineered this effort and reportedly concealed the boats behind Malta Island below Coryell’s Ferry (today New Hope) on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware, several miles above the site at McConkey’s Ferry where the main Continental force would cross. (Malta Island cannot be discerned today because of topographical changes to the area.) In addition to the Durhams, the militia gathered other boats over a forty-mile stretch of the Delaware and moored them in various creeks and behind wooded islands along the river’s west bank, intending to deprive the enemy of these craft while keeping them ready for the Americans’ use.

The Durham boats, which were constructed at the Durham Ironworks or Durham Furnace near Easton, Pennsylvania, typically ranged from thirty to sixty feet in length and were about eight feet wide in the beam. It is estimated that each of these boats carried between thirty and forty soldiers, in addition to a crew of several rowers and a captain. The latter functioned as a pilot by steering the boat with a “sweep” oar, about twenty-five feet long and weighing some ninety pounds, which protruded from the stern (rear). The crew used oars that were about eighteen feet long and weighed some thirty-five pounds; two men were required to operate each oar, and there were two to four oars on each side depending on the length of the boat. The soldiers would have been required to stand on the Durhams, as these vessels had no seats since they were not built to hold passengers but rather to transport heavy cargo such as iron ore, pig iron, produce, and timber downriver to Philadelphia.

The River

The float ice on the Delaware that night—and there were copious amounts of it—posed a particular impediment to the Durhams. The swift current combined with the ice, bitterly cold winds, freezing precipitation, and swollen river to make the army’s endeavor especially challenging. Moreover, the full-blown northeaster that descended on the area by 11 p.m. compounded the difficulty of carrying out Washington’s battle plan. As a result, it took between nine and ten hours for the entire 2,400-man force to make its way to the New Jersey side. By the time those troops did so, it was 3:00 a.m., and it would be another hour before their march to Trenton commenced.

The Result

With the aid of the Durhams and the sailor-soldiers of the 14th Massachusetts Continental Regiment known as the Marblehead Regiment, who with other units rowed the Durhams (accompanied by ferry boats that conveyed the army’s horses, artillery, and wagons), Washington’s troops succeeded in traversing the ice-laden river. Remarkably, they did so without losing a single soldier, cannon, horse, wagon, or boat and later that morning defeated the brigade of German soldiers, known to us as “Hessians,” occupying the town of Trenton. The victorious rebel troops made further use of the Durhams on the night of December 26-27, when they returned to Pennsylvania with some nine hundred prisoners, and again between the 29th and New Year’s Eve as they crossed the river once more—the fourth time that month—back to New Jersey. From there, the Patriot forces went on to win two more battles, at Trenton on January 2 and Princeton the next day, to complete their remarkable “Ten Crucial Days” campaign and reverse the momentum of the war.

The sturdy Durhams accomplished what Washington envisioned when he ordered that they be rounded up for the army’s use. In fact, you might say those boats kept the Revolution afloat (in a manner of speaking).

Season’s Greetings! 

I’ll be taking a break from blogging until 2023. In the meantime, my best wishes to all for a joyful holiday season and a healthy and happy new year.

51. To SAR with Love

It would obviously be gratifying to learn that my literary and educational activity relating to the “Ten Crucial Days” of the Revolution is viewed favorably in any quarter but especially so when the judgment is rendered by a group whose members are passionately committed to preserving the legacy of that pivotal moment in American history and those who made it possible.

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Washington Crossing Chapter of the Pennsylvania Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) during their dinner meeting at the Continental Tavern in Yardley, PA. The subject was John Haslet’s World, the third volume in this scribbler’s trilogy about the “Ten Crucial Days,” and I left with a full stomach (if you’re in the area, try the salmon – it’s really good) and the SAR Bronze Good Citizenship Medal.

The accompanying citation was presented by chapter president William B. Hampton and reads as follows (cue the gauche display of immodesty):

The Washington Crossing Chapter of the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the American
Revolution is honored to present the SAR Bronze Good Citizenship Medal and certificate to
David Price for his work promoting the historical and accurate story of the Crossing and the
succeeding 10 days of the American Revolution. Without this Crossing, the American
Revolution may well have failed. This Crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Night
of 1776, envisioned and led by General George Washington, successfully initiated the “Ten
Crucial Days” of the American Revolution. David has authored 3 books with inspiring
stories about the events during this period. His historical research has illuminated the stories
of this pivotal time. Through his authorship, affiliations with local and national
organizations relating to the Revolutionary War, and his work as an historical interpreter
and outreach educator for 8 years for the Friends of Washington Crossing Park and 4 years
at Princeton Battlefield, David has been instrumental in furthering our SAR Chapter’s
primary goal: that of the careful perpetuation and accurate teaching of Washington’s
Crossing. In addition, he has been a featured speaker for our chapter twice and for other
SAR chapters. We are grateful for his service to perpetuate the memory of Revolutionary
War Patriots through his historical research, and education, 2 purposes of the SAR.

To be honest, I’ve had it up to here with such comments (let the record reflect that I’m pointing to my ankle). That said, if this exercise in whistle tooting offends anyone’s reverence for humility, I apologize. (Actually, humility is what slaps you in the face when you’re speaking to an audience of eleven people in an auditorium that seats about 250 and one of them starts snoring during your talk, to which I can attest.) Apparently seven years of literary exertion with little to show for it in the way of tangible recognition on the order of the referenced encomium—and who’s to say that isn’t for good reason—has reduced me to this shameless state. Hence I stand guilty of exploiting this one post to revel in a few kind words from fellow history geeks. Begging your indulgence, I promise to provide something more illuminating next time.