Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Monday, March 13, 2006

General Washington entering the Triumphal Arch at Trenton, 1789

Hanging, framed and mounted, in a bedroom at my family’s cottage is an 8-and-a-half by 11 inch piece of parchment dated April 21, 1789, a handbill describing George Washington’s visit to Trenton, New Jersey many years after fighting an important Revolutionary battle there. (The picture above illustrates the same scene but is not part of the handbill.) Written lightly in pencil at the top are the words “From Mrs. John den Bleyker to G.D.B.” Mrs. John den Bleyker was my great-great-grandmother, and G.D.B. was her unmarried daughter Gertrude, my great-grandfather’s sister.

The parchment describes the scene and prints the words of a song that the females of Trenton sang to Washington. According to C. E. Godfrey, writing in the Trenton [New Jersey] Sunday Advertiser on Dec. 29, 1912, the lyrics, by Richard Howell, were sung to the music of Handel’s “See the Conquering Hero Comes” from his “Judas Maccabeus.”

My last trip home I transcribed the parchment. The song lyric is a trifle, but Washington’s elaborately courteous reply is a gem. Here’s the whole thing:

* * * * *


Sung by a Number of young Girls, dressed in white and decked with Wreaths and Chaplets of Flowers, holding Baskets of Flowers in their hands, as General Washington passed under the Triumphal Arch raised on the Bridge at Trenton, April 21, 1789

Welcome! mighty Chief! once more,
Welcome to this grateful Shore:
Now no mercenary Foe
Aims again the fatal Blow --
Aims at thee the fatal Blow.

Virgins fair, and Matrons grave,
Those thy conquering Arms did save,
Build for thee triumphal Bowers.
Strew, ye Fair, his Way with Flowers --*
Strew your Hero’s Way with Flowers.

* As they sung thse Lines they strewed the Flowers before the General who halted until the Sonata was finished.

The General being presented with a Copy of the Sonata, was pleased to address the following Card to the Ladies.

To the Ladies of Trenton, who were assembled on the twenty-first Day of April 1789, at the Triumphal Arch erected by them on the Bridge, which extends across the Assanpinck Creek.

General Washington cannot leave this place without expressing his Acknwledgments to the Matrons and Young Ladies, who received him in so novel and grateful a Manner at the Triumphal Arch in Trenton, for the exquisite Sensations he experienced in that affecting Moment. -- The astonishing Contrast between his former and actual Situation at the same Spot -- the elegant Taste with which it was adorned for the present Occasion -- and the innocent appearance of the White-Robed Choir with the gratulatory Song -- have made such an Impression on his Remembrance, as, he assures them, will never be effaced.

Trenton, April 21, 1789
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