The town was full of antique stores in buildings that were older than most of the collectibles inside. They have more variety in their antiques here, more colonial and older stuff. They also have a lot of information posted with their antiques as to what they are and where they come from. I learned more than I bought. I won’t have much use for antiques in Oman ... and the shipping!
We visited another town that sprang up during the great canal building era at the beginning of the 1800’s. The downtown area was a narrow road that snaked up a hill. It was very picturesque and many stores were still occupied and open. It was nice to see when so many of the small stores at home have closed.
Down below in the culvert was the canal. We couldn’t see it and we got there too late for the museum but we learned a little about the canals. They were built for transportation. The large canal boats could transport three times the amount of coal, steel and timber up and down the waterways than a team of horses and a wagon. So the canals were built, commerce prospered and towns were built. Now this one is picturesque village surrounded by lovely country homes and still doing well.
Next we visited West Point. I wasn’t sure what it would have to offer but I was glad we went. We traveled up the Hudson River Valley. At one point I caught a glimpse of water and told Gary, “Oh, there’s a lake over there.”
No. No lake. The Hudson River. For a westerner like me, that much water in a river is amazing. Just as amazing as the country around it. The trees were thick and the mountains were really mountains. (I do have high standards. I was born in the Rocky Mountains.) As we drove through, I really felt like I was in the Last of the Mohicans country!
West Point was incredible. It’s built out of rock on a promontory overlooking the river. It looks like the fortress it started out as. It had highs stone towers and you could see up and down the river for quite a distance from them. These towers weren’t built until the 1800’s but West Point did start out as a fort, which Benedict Arnold commanded and tried to hand over to the British. His plan was foiled and he was chased down the river by George Washington.
Later we visited the place where Washington crossed the Delaware. It was a small museum with a really big story. There were so many pieces of equipment in the small museum, soldiers’ forks and mess packs. Glasses. Pens and letters. Muskets and balls. They had reproductions of uniforms as well, including a complete Hessian uniform. Hessians were German mercenaries, professional soldiers, hired by the British to keep control over the colonists even before the war. This action was one of the colonists’ complaints because the Hessians were brutal and plunder was part of their pay.
Washington had suffered defeats all across the north since the Declaration of Independence in July. The British had chased him all the way to Pennsylvania. It was Christmas and winter and the British felt they had defeated the American forces so they returned the way they had come.
Everyone agreed with them, including Washington. He knew that if they didn’t create some victory, the soldiers would go home and the revolution would be over. He planned a bold attack against a troop of Hessians on the New Jersey side of the Delaware, but the success of the attack would depend on surprise. So they crossed the Delaware Christmas night.
They used the same boats that later became canal barges to transport men, horses and canon across the river. A winter storm hit. Ice floes swept up and down the river. That doesn’t mean much unless you see the width and speed of that river! Then you understand the danger and courage it took. The storm was so bad that once they reached the other side, Washington’s advisors told him to go back. The only reason he didn’t was because he felt it would be more dangerous and difficult to cross again!
They marched forward at night, caught the Hessians by surprise and captured over 900 soldiers. A few days later they fought another battle and won. During the battle, British soldiers and Continental soldiers were at a standoff, facing each other and firing. The range of the old muskets was not that far. No impact was being made and no one was moving forward. Washington jumped on his horse and charged him down the middle of the battle line, encouraging his men to rise and fight. One of his advisors put his hat over his face certain that when the smoke cleared, Washington would be dead. But he wasn’t even hit. These 2 battles were the turning point of the war.
Washington was so important to the Continental Army, he had his own bodyguard. He also had his own spy ring which helped him uncover Benedict Arnold’s plot. Just these few facts reminded me why he was the hero of our country and asked to be the first president.
They do a reenactment of the crossing with three canal boats at Christmas. I thought it would be fun to see all the men crossing the river in blue coats and old-fashioned weapons but we can’t make the day. A new biography has just been written about Washington. I think I’ll buy it instead.
Next blog … New York!