While we spend tonight in the warmth of our home’s with family and friends enjoying Christmas, take time to remember that 237 years ago a rag tag Continental Army set out from their winter encampment along the Delaware River to cross the river to attack a British garrison of Hessian troops in Trenton, NJ. Washington’s army was fresh from a defeat at the hands of the Redcoats that caused them to lose New York City. The Army was dispirited, hungry, and ill clothed with many of the enlistments of the soldiers expiring. Genera Washington believed that a victory was needed to restore the morale of the Continental Army. He decided to cross the Delaware River on Christmas night with 2,400 troops, horses, and artillery. Almost from the start the plan developed by General Washington went awry because a severe winter storm that included wind, rain, snow, hail, and sleet met the soldiers at the banks of the river significantly slowing their crossing. While crossing the river, the boats had to dodge ice flows and battle the current in the darkness made worse by the storm. Eventually they reached the New Jersey shore, but were nearly 3 hours behind schedule. Washington seriously considered abandoning the attack, but decided to go ahead anyway because to retreat would be too costly. The tired and freezing Continental Army assembled on the Jersey Shore in the vicinity of Johnson’s Ferry and began their 10 mile march to Trenton. On the morning of December 26, three columns of soldiers attacked the Hessians completely surprising the sleeping soldiers. After about an hour of fighting, the Hessians began to flee the area and the Continental Army was victorious.
After the Battle of Trenton, the Army retreated across the Delaware River to Pennsylvania where they rested and prepared to take the battle to the British in New Jersey. In early January 1777, Washington moved the Continental Army back to New Jersey and defeated the British in Princeton and Morristown. After 3 defeats in 10 days the British left central Jersey for New York. Washington spent the winter in Morristown. We would return to Morristown during the winter of 1778-79 and stay at the Ford Mansion that is now a National Historic Site.
I recently visited most of the places in the history above on a short trip to New Jersey for some work. Since it was snowing, I took the opportunity to take some pictures that I thought I might be able to use for a Christmas Card. I did use the picture of the Ford Mansion for the card that I sent to business associates. I added some of the others to this post so you might get a feel for how Washington and the Continental Army felt that cold night over 200 years ago.
We hope you all enjoyed your Christmas.