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A day to celebrate

Posted by Richard on December 25, 2007

If you're an American — or just a lover of Liberty — please join me today in celebrating the 231st anniversary of the Battle of Trenton. 

 George Washington crossing the Delaware at the Battle of Trenton, by Emmanuel Leutze


After being driven out of New York by the British and forced to retreat to the West bank of the Delaware during the late summer of 1776, the American cause was at a low ebb. In the harsh winter Washington was faced with the annual crisis of the expiry of the Continental Army’s period of enlistment. He resolved to attack the Hessian position at Trenton on the extreme southern end of the over extended British line along the Delaware, before his army dispersed.

Washington’s plan was to cross the Delaware at three points with a force commanded by Lt Col Cadwallader with a Rhode Island regiment, some Pennsylvanians, Delaware militia and two guns, a second force under Brigadier Ewing of militia and the third commanded by himself which would cross the river above Trenton and attack the Hessian garrison in the town. Washington had as his subordinates, Major Generals Nathaniel Greene and John Sullivan.

It was a cold dark night and the river was running with flowing ice. At about 11pm a heavy snow and sleet storm broke. Washington’s force did not reach the east bank until around 3am. His soldiers were badly clothed and many did not have shoes.

Washington’s men then marched to Trenton, some of the men leaving traces of blood on the snow.

The Hessians attempted to form in the town but were under artillery fire and attack from front and rear. The Americans occupied the houses and shot down the German gunners and foot soldiers during which Colonel Rahl was fatally wounded. Rahl’s troops retreated to an orchard in the South East of the town where they surrendered.

Ewing and Cadwallader failed to make the river crossing and took no part in the attack.
Casualties: The Americans suffered 4 wounded casualties. It is said that in addition two American soldiers froze to death. The Hessians suffered 20 killed and around 100 wounded. 1,000 were captured.

The effect of the battle of Trenton was out of all proportion to the numbers involved and the casualties. The American effort across the colonies was galvanized and the psychological dominance achieved by the British in the preceding year overturned. Howe was stunned that a strong German contingent could be surprised in such a manner and put up so little resistance. Washington’s constant problem was to maintain the enthusiasm of his army for the war, particularly with the system of one year recruitment and Trenton proved a much needed encouragement.

• Washington’s army crossing the Delaware in the freezing conditions has become an important national image for the United States as can be seen in Emmanuel Leutze’s picture.
• Present at the battle were: two other future presidents James Madison and James Monroe, the future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton

Truly a glorious event worthy of celebration.

Oh, yes, and I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, too! I'm not a Christian, but I love Christmas. Christians have long had the best music, from classics like Ave Maria and Missa Solemnis, to anything ever sung by George Beverly Shea, to countless wonderful Christmas songs. But no Christmas song is better than Mel Tormé's The Christmas Song, sung by the Velvet Fog himself. Enjoy!

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2 Responses to “A day to celebrate”

  1. Mo'thanskin (Roosevelt) said

    Thanks for the American history lesson. That Battle was an galvanizing symbol for the insurgent American colonies and the breeding ground for some of our Founding Fathers. One of my favorite movies, “The Patriot” truly captured the courage and valor of the real life American revolutionaries. Good post!

  2. T F Stern said

    I’m afraid the lesson which should have been learned has been lost to this generation, a bunch of spoiled brats with no sense of determination against our enemies; instead the rally cry is a constant buzz to “bring our troops home” rather than finish the job and do it right. It doesn’t have to be a trip across the Delaware with ice flows, troops so poorly equipped as not to have shoes as they marched in the snow; no, our military fights even as our own congress denies them funding all to rest power at the polls. It’s enough to make a patriot sick to his stomach.

    Thanks for the post and a needed reminder of what Resolve means. Merry Christmas.

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