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The river’s too wide - Soundings Online

The river’s too wide

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DEC. 28 — After 31 years of participating in every re-enactment of George Washington’s daring Delaware River crossing on Christmas of 1776, this year Ronald Rinaldi III was ready to play the coveted role of the general himself — but the river made sure history didn’t repeat.

Rinaldi and crew watched as the first of three boats carrying 25 re-enactors attempted to make their way across in the twilight, but were swept downstream, according to The Associated Press. A rescue craft for the event caught the boat and returned it to shore, but that was enough for organizers to put a halt to the remainder of the demonstration, leaving the barest amount of time for a few souvenir photos of the boats closer to shore.

 
“Washington Crossing the Delaware,” by Emanuel Leutze, 1851

Since the original crossing took place at night, the re-enactment is always the last event of the day, drawing up to 5,000 spectators to the Pennsylvania shores, according to the article.

“It wouldn’t be a Christmas Day without going down there,” says Rinaldi.

The first crossing in 1776 marked a significant turning point in American history. The crossing took 2,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 18 cannons into Trenton, where they surprised three regiments of Hessian mercenary soldiers for the British crown, capturing 1,000 and killing 30, according to the article. Rinaldi has amassed 500 books on the Revolution and works as a crime scene investigator for Middlesex County in N.J.

“I remember I was fascinated by the muskets and rifles and the uniforms the soldiers had,” Rinaldi, who recruited his son as crew, told reporters. “I never thought when I was growing up that I’d be doing this with my son, much less doing Washington.”

— Elizabeth Ellis