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George Washington and some 2,400 troops cross the Delaware River at Trenton, New Jersey

December 25

|Recurring Event (See all)

An event every year that begins at 12:00 am on day 25 of December, repeating indefinitely

On the cold, stormy night of December 25, 1776, George Washington and some 2,400 troops, disheartened and in need of a victory, made the arduous journey across the Delaware River for a surprise attack on British mercenary soldiers at Trenton, New Jersey.

Only a year into the American Revolution, the Continental Army was in dire straits. The Americans had had several serious defeats and had won no major battles. General George Washington knew that the new United States needed a victory to gain the popular support and the overseas allies necessary to have a fighting chance at independence.

To minimize the chance of spies informing the British, Washington’s plan was kept top secret: to cross the river Christmas night, march to Trenton through the darkness, and attack at 5:00 AM the next morning. This plan would go awry, however.

A severe winter storm hit as the soldiers prepared to leave. In addition to the darkness of night, sleet, rain, and snow obstructed the men’s vision as they ferried themselves (and heavy pieces of artillery) slowly across the river.

The army fought the elements, finally arriving in Trenton at 8:00 AM, a full three hours behind schedule. Washington expected that they could not surprise the Hessians at this point—he even considered calling the attack off.

Despite Washington’s doubts, the army had retained the element of surprise. Though the British expected an eventual assault, no one was prepared for an attack in such terrible conditions—and many Hessians were still tired from the previous day’s Christmas festivities.

The Battle of Trenton went easily for the Americans with very minimal casualties. The Continental Army had secured their first major victory of the war, giving much-needed hope for American independence.

 

Washington Crossing the Delaware, Emanuel Leutze, 1851

-Written by Anna Zemaitaitis, Communications and Design Officer

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Date:
December 25
Event Category: