The Battle of Trenton

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General Washington leading the attack at the Battle of Trenton

The Battle of Trenton took place on December 26, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War after General George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River north of Trenton, New Jersey. The hazardous crossing in adverse weather allowed Washington to lead the main body of the Continental Army against Hessian soldiers garrisoned at Trenton. After a brief struggle, nearly the entire Hessian force was captured, with negligible losses to the Americans. The battle boosted the Continental Army’s flagging morale, and inspired re-enlistments.

The Continental Army had previously suffered several defeats in New York and had been forced to retreat across to Pennsylvania via New Jersey. Morale in the army was low; in an attempt to save the army and end the year on a positive note, George Washington—Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army—devised a plan to cross the Delaware River on Christmas night and surround the Hessian garrison.

Because the river was icy, the crossing proved dangerous. Two of the offensive groups were unable to cross the river, leaving Washington and his 2,400 men alone in the assault. The army marched 9 miles (14 km) south to Trenton. The Hessians had lowered their guard, thinking they were safe from the American army, and didn’t even put a dawn sentry. After having an enormous Christmas feast, they fell asleep. Washington caught them off guard and before the Hessians could resist, Washington captured them. Almost two thirds of the 1,500 man garrison was captured, with the exception of a few who escaped across Assunpink Creek.

Despite the battle’s small numbers, its effect was enormous throughout the colonies. The revolution itself had been in doubt only a week earlier, and the army seemed on the verge of collapse. However, with this victory, soldiers agreed to stay and new recruits came and joined the ranks.

Battle in the Streets of Trenton

General George Washington crossing the Delaware at the Battle of Trenton on Christmas night 1776 by Emmanuel Leutze

BrittishBattles.com – The Battle of Trenton

Wikipedia – Battle of Trenton

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