Nope, they weren't able to cross by boat in 1998 - they had to walk across a bridge, the farbs. - Jonah

At Least They Won't Be Worried About

Keeping Their Powder Dry

(By William Power, Wall Street Journal, Dec 17, 1998)

WASHINGTON CROSSING, Pa. -- The president has a problem.

The first president, that is. Unless there's a miracle of Mother Nature in coming days, a frustrated George Washington -- that is, the actor playing him -- won't get to re-enact his crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Day.

A bunch of history buffs spend every Christmas remaking the Revolutionary War crossing from the shores of suburban Philadelphia to Trenton, N.J., just as Washington and his troops did in 1776 to attack the Hessians. But this year a drought has left water levels so low, it's impossible for George to float his boat.

"At this point, they're not calling it off completely but it looks very doubtful," says Pat Patrizio, museum educator at Washington Crossing Historic Park. The crossing, in its 46th year, has never been called off for low water before, though it was once for ice.

K. Ward Vinson is a 69-year-old history professor who got the nod to play George this year after being a supporting character before. He can't tell a lie: "I'm very disappointed, of course," he says. "I've been doing it [as a soldier] for 27 years, and have my chance to be George -- and no water."

By some measures, the water level is the lowest in 114 years. Plus, the crossing point is one of the lowest points of the Delaware anyway, and the two boats that are used for the historical play would be in danger of getting grounded.

The plan now is to have the troops make the crossing on foot, over a nearby bridge. It should still be a nice ceremony that will let Mr. Vinson shine. But it won't be as photogenic as having the president and all his soldiers in their 40- to 60-foot-long boats.

Then again, as most high-school history students are taught, the famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware isn't historically accurate anyway. Among other things, no one believes he really was standing up in the boat as it made the trip. Also, it's the wrong time of day, wrong type of boat, and the president is the wrong age in it (about 60 in the painting, some 20 years too old), points out Mr. Patrizio, a stickler for historic accuracy.

The 10,000 spectators who sometimes show up for the crossing seem, at times, to approach the event with the spirit of auto-racing fans. The re-enactors "always have trouble crossing the river," concedes Mr. Patrizio, noting that few of the men are actually top-notch seamen. "And people get a kick out of that."