Washington’s Historic Crossing

Students are to compare two documents: A Primary source (News of the American Victory at Trenton) and a Secondary Source (Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851). Students will examine both to see that the artistic representation is not accurate. This relates directly to our study of the American Revolution in the MCPS curriculum.

Lesson Objective

By the end of the lesson, students will determine the differences between a primary source and a secondary source by analyzing and comparing News of an American Victory at Trenton and Washington Crosses the Delaware through the use of a Venn diagram and an exit card.



  1. Display the famous painting, Washington Crosses the Delaware River (remove 1851 date). Ask students what they know about this painting. Discuss. Pass out blank Venn diagrams and the News of an American Victory at Trenton article. Have students compare the two sources using the Venn diagram to show similarities and differences.
  2. Have students share the information with their group and the class. Discuss and guide them to understanding that one is a primary source and one is a secondary source.
  3. Discuss artistic license with the students.
  4. Extra time: Have students draw a more accurate representation of what the crossing really looked like.


Exit card – Ask students to write down the difference between a primary source and a secondary source.


Leutze, Emanuel. “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” Painting. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/20011777 (accessed July 26, 2012).

“The first broadside printing of the news of Washington crossing the Delaware: Christmas day: 1776.” Broadside. http://www.davidhanauer.com/buckscounty/washingtoncrossing/misc/washington_account.html (accessed July 26, 2012).

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