Inaccurate “facts” often litter the popular perception of many historic events. Take one of the American Revolution’s most iconic paintings, Washington Crossing the Delaware. It is dramatic, stirs the viewer’s soul, and as such, it is great work of art. As to the accuracy of its depiction of the actual event, though, it falls short of the mark. Below are thirty things about that and other inaccurate things about history that are widely taken as true in America.
30. The American Revolution’s Most Iconic Image?
Decades after it ended, German -American artist Emanuel Gottleib Leutze painted in 1851 what came to be one of the American Revolution’s most iconic images: Washington Crossing the Delaware. Leutze actually painted three copies, one of which was housed in Germany and was destroyed in a World War II bomb raid. The other two survive, one in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the other in the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. The oil on canvas paintings, which measure twenty one feet and three inches by fourteen feet and five inches, captured imaginations ever since they were unveiled.
The event involved a surprise attack in the closing days of 1776 against an enemy garrison at Trenton, New Jersey, was dramatic and worthy of commemoration. It came at the heels of a series of disastrous American defeats, and its success prevented a complete collapse of the Patriot war effort. Leutze depicts George Washington at the prow of a boat, as he stares determinedly straight ahead as it is rowed towards the enemy bank, while flanked by other Patriot-laden boats. It is a great work of art, but its historical accuracy leaves much to be desired. Indeed, Washington’s actual crossing of the Delaware looked nothing like Leutze’s depiction. Below are some of the inaccurate aspects about that painting.