May 2019 Readers’ Letters
Emanuel Leutze's "Washington Crossing the Delaware" is unquestionably iconic — but is it historically accurate?

May 2019 Readers’ Letters

By HistoryNet Staff
2/22/2019 • Military History, MH Letters

Crossing Facts
[Re. “Many Waters to Cross,” by James F. Byrne Jr., March 2019:] The famous painting by Emanuel Leutze, Washington Crossing the Delaware, on P. 22, contains many flaws: 1) The flag with the 13 stars and stripes did not exist until the summer of 1778; 2) the uniforms are German, not American; 3) Washington could not have stood up in the boat, as it would have flipped over; and 4) with all those men and horses in the boats, they all would have sunk before leaving the shoreline.

Larry Bossone
Berwyn, Pa.

Editor responds: Likely for reasons of aesthetics and scale, the boat at the center of Leutze’s painting is far smaller than the high-walled, double-ended Durham boat Washington is thought to have used that Christmas night of 1776. Washington would have been able to safely stand in one of those 40- to 60-foot decked vessels, which could transport up to 18 tons—plenty of capacity for horses and artillery. Leutze would have needed a second canvas to take in such a spectacle. His depiction of the motley American uniforms, particularly Washington’s, is thought to be accurate.

WWI Relics
I very much enjoyed your article “World War Relics” in the November 2018 issue. My grandfather was a lend-lease doctor to the British army and served in a field hospital in France. I have the several souvenirs that he brought back, including some of those in your article. They include: a Mills bomb grenade (deactivated); a Pickelhaube; a German flare pistol; two German Mauser bayonets; an Iron Cross 1st Class; my grandfather’s brass British compass; his dog tags; his commission certificate; his World War I Victory Medal with campaign bars; a British tanker’s leather and chain mail mask as you depicted; his canteen with cover; and both of the trench daggers you depicted.

He operated on many soldiers who had inhaled phosgene gas and exhaled it in his face while he was working on them. Over time he got enough of it in him that he went into a coma and was placed in a tent for the dying. He woke up two days later and was sent to Scotland for recovery, then home to Nebraska. He sent home a duffel bag with six Luger pistols and nine German binoculars, but all that arrived home was the duffel bag. All the lung specialists said he might live for five years on his one remaining lung if he moved to a high and drier climate, so he and family moved to Fort Collins, Colo. He ultimately outlived all those specialists and died in 1979 at the age of 100.

Col. Lowell P. Little Jr.
U.S. Air Force Reserve (Ret.)
Albuquerque, N.M.

Aleutians
Thank you for the article “Aleutian Battleground” [January 2019]. I am embarrassed to admit that I knew nothing of the ground battle fought in the Aleutians. I read a number of books about the Battle of Midway, and all of them mention the Japanese Aleutian campaign solely as a failed diversionary attack to try to draw American carriers away from their real objective of Midway Island. The story of the Aleutian operation typically ended there.

Kirk Carroll
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Braddock’s Defeat
I was intrigued to see your article “Braddock’s Defeat, 1755,” by James F. Byrne Jr., November 2018.

I own an 1899 copy of Captain Jack, the Scout; or The Indian Wars About Old Fort Duquesne, a historical novel by Charles McKnight. It goes into great detail about Braddock’s very slow progress, his dismissal of the colonial scouts who probably would have prevented disaster, and the battle itself. Two items of special note:

The ground Braddock was crossing was heavily forested and cut by three ravines. They were well hidden, and the French and their Indian allies hid in them. British survivors said the musket fire “seemed to come right out of the ground.”

Many British officers were shot down, yet Col. George Washington was not hit. Years later an Indian who’d been there said he and others had shot at Washington but never hit him. He said he and the other Indians concluded the Great Spirit had plans for this man and stopped shooting at him.

Thank you for your fine publication.

Robert Winter
Boulder, Colo.

 

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