One of the most, if not the, most powerful images of the American Revolutionary War is the image above. As we are shown at a very young age, we see George Washington crossing the Delaware River on his way to defeat British troops in New Jersey. First, let me give a little backstory. On Christmas night, 1776, George Washington led about 5,400 American troops in small canoes across the ice covered Delaware River in a surprise attack against the British forces fighting to retain control of New Jersey and New York. After several called off attempts to cross the icy river due to apparent danger concerns, Washington made the final call to risk the journey in order to regain control of their lost territory. As we know now, this battle marked a key turning point in the American campaign and led to a resurgence in patriotic moral.
Now think back to being a young child and seeing this picture or other war images like this. Did it not make you impersonate Washington’s assertive stance over the boat? When you mocked his stance did you not exude confidence? After understanding his decision to launch a surprise attack did you not feel compelled to take action in various aspects of your life? I know for sure it did for me. Washington understood that by waiting for any other night he would lose the edge they needed to swing the tide of the war and win. Normally it is an understanding in wars to not fight on holidays, but by launching the attack the night after he caught the troops off guard and utilized an advantage against the enemy.
The ethos appeal comes from Washington himself. One of the beloved founding fathers of our country, any American flooded with patriotism would follow any order he gave with urgency and delight. The pathos appeal comes from the backstory of the event. America was fighting for freedom! America wanted to be a free country from Great Britain with a burning passion and would do anything to achieve their liberation. Americans today understand the risk Washington put his troops in in order to defeat the enemy and back his decision 100 percent. While this painting was not intended to invoke action by the audience, it does. We understand risks that we have to take in order to achieve our goals and some things have to do with timing. Whether it is when to ask your boss for a raise, when to hit a drop shot in tennis to throw off your opponent, or when to ask that special someone for their hand in marriage, sometimes you have to just get it over with and take action. Often times you can come out victorious like Washington did if you take the risk!