When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few.
December 25, 1776 Washington crosses Delaware (offensive)
On blustery Christmas Day in late 1776, George Washington led a daring attack on the Hessian garrison in Trenton. After a series of defeats and a harried retreat across New Jersey, Washington’s army was in need of a victory; many troops were at the end of their enlistment; and winter was ready to set in.
In Trenton, was garrison of German mercenaries commanded by Johann Rall. This regiment of 1,200 battle-seasoned Hessian soldiers had settled into Trenton as a winter encampment. Washington had twice as many soldiers across the river. But he faced the prospect of losing much of his volunteer army in just a few days. The decision to attack the Hessians was made a few days before Christmas, and then a major storm, possibly a Nor’easter, hit the region on Christmas day.
Washington used the storm and the cover of darkness to cover the invasion. Expert mariners from New England, Marbleheaders, were able to use local shallow-draft boats to ferry all the troops across the icy river. The Hessians had called off their advance patrols during the Nor’easter expecting the American Army to stay in their encampment near Mckonkey’s ferry.
Early the next morning, Washington led the army into Trenton. Washington outflanked the Hessians and also had brought artillery to the battle. Rall was killed in action and the Hessians surrendered. About 1,000 prisoners were taken.
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