American Studies Class Retraces Washington's Steps

Taking advantage of Solebury School's location in Bucks County, PA — an area rich in American history — our American Studies class recently embarked on an lengthy foot tour, retracing George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River on December 25, 1776 and subsequent march to Trenton, NJ, where the Continental Army engaged with Hessian troops in the Battle of Trenton during the Revolutionary War.

In preparation, students read a passage from historian David McCullough's book 1776 about the journey. Then, on a crisp November day, they gathered by the Delaware River at Washington's Crossing Historic Park, where they viewed replicas of the boats commandeered by the Continental Army from the nearby Durham Ironworks. They walked across a bridge over the Delaware River to New Jersey, then down a leafy, pedestrian-friendly towpath that runs along the river to Trenton, NJ.

During the roughly 8 to 9 mile march, Henry Knox, one of the officers present in 1776, recalled that the troops pushed on toward Trenton "with the most profound silence." "To honor that, students walked in silence for 20 minutes, and it was one of the most memorable parts of the trip," said teacher Angelo Coclanis. Angelo team-teaches the interdisciplinary class with English teacher Sarah May, who also chaperoned.

In Trenton, the class toured the Old Barracks Museum, where they watched a musket demo, and learned about smallpox inoculation. Washington's controversial decision to inoculate new recruits to the Continental Army constituted one of the earliest large-scale military inoculations in history.

View photos of their journey below, and see our 2018-19 Academic Bulletin to learn more about American Studies, a course that combines Honors American Literature with Honors US History.