Since George Washington crossed the Delaware River in 1776 and bombers didn’t make their appearance until the 20 Century, you might be a little confused by my headline to this post. Never fear. An explanation will follow, but a little background first.
Washington Crossing the Delaware is an iconic painting of a crucial event in American history. When Washington and his Continental Army crossed the river on Christmas Day in 1776 and captured the Hessian troops in New Jersey, it marked a turning point in the war. Up until that point the fledging United States had lost all of its battles against Great Britain. The success of the sneak attack set the U.S. on the road to winning the war of Independence.
Emanuel Leutze immortalized the event in his 1850 painting. The painting, which can be seen in its full 12-foot by 20-foot glory in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, is not the original Washington Crossing the Delaware. It is a second full-size copy of the original that Leutze painted in 1851 and sent to the United States.
The original 1850 painting has a story as interesting as the event it depicts. A fire broke out in Leutze’s studio after the painting was completed and it suffered smoke damage that obscured Washington and James Monroe in a white haze, according to David Hackett Fischer in his book, Washington’s Crossing.
An insurance company took possession of the painting and put it on public display. It eventually was acquired by the Bremen Art Museum as part of their collection. And it was there that it was destroyed on September 5, 1942, when the British bombed the city during World War II “in what some have seen as a final at of retribution for the American Revolution,” Fischer wrote.