George Washington's Christmas Day Surprise

"It is a glorious victory. It will rejoice the hearts all over and offer brand-new life to our hitherto subsiding fortunes ... If he (General George Washington) does absolutely nothing more, he will reside in history as a great military leader" (Meltzer, 108). With these words recorded on Dec. 26, 1776, Washington's assistant, Colonel John Fitzgerald, stated the importance of the American success at the Battle of Trenton. This battle, together with the nighttime crossing of the Delaware River and the Battle of Princeton, demonstrated the strong and inspirational leadership of Commander-in-Chief George Washington. These occasions of the winter of 1776-1777, understood as the Christmas Campaign, are extensively thought to have actually changed the course of the American Revolution.

For numerous Americans Emanuel Leutze's historical painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware, with its representation of determination in the face of adversity, signifies the War of Independence. One hundred fifty years later on it remains a long-lasting image of the American Revolution and of George Washington. How did General George Washington and a rag-tag American army defeat British troops and hessian mercenaries and change the course of the war?

The Christmas Campaign of 1776: With the Continental Army threatening to dissolve around him, General George Washington led the remnants of his army across the icy Delaware River on Christmas night 1776 and routed a Hessian garrison at Trenton. The subsequent victories at the Battles of Second Trenton and Princeton protected Washington's place as one of the biggest generals in world history.

Washington crossed the Delaware River so that his army might assault a separated garrison of Hessian soldiers found at Trenton, New Jersey

Why were Washington and his bedraggled Continental Army trying to cross an ice-choked Delaware River on a cold winter season's night? After several councils of war, General George Washington set the date for the river crossing for Christmas night 1776.

Washington's attack plan consisted of three separate river crossings, but only one made it across

Deserters and spies had actually notified the British and Hessians that Trenton was likely to be attacked.

Spying and Espionage in the American Revolution.

Much of Washington's force crossed the river in shallow draft Durham boats-- strongly constructed cargo vessels, the majority of in between 40 and 60 feet in length, developed to move iron ore and bulk products down the river to markets in and around Philadelphia. It should not be surprising that most of Washington's soldiers stood throughout the crossing considering that the bottoms of Durham boats were neither comfy nor dry.

Washington's force utilized a collection of freight boats and ferryboats to transport his males across the Delaware.

George Washington's plan of attack consisted of three different crossings of the Delaware River on Christmas night. Col. Cadwalader was to lead his force of 1,200 Philadelphia militia and 600 Continentals across the river near Burlington, New Jersey. His role was to pester and prevent the British and Hessian systems near the town from racing north to support the Hessians at Trenton. Gen. James Ewing's force of 800 Pennsylvania militia was to cross the river at Trenton and use up defensive positions along the Assunpink River and bridge. Ewing's soldiers would work to prevent the Hessians from retreating from Trenton. And Washington and his 2,400 soldiers would cross at McConkey's and Johnson's ferryboats, roughly 10 miles north of Trenton and would then march down to Trenton to shock the fort at dawn. This was an ambitious plan, one that even well rested and experienced soldiers would have had problem in executing. Both Cadwalader and Ewing's forces were not able to cross the ice-choked river. And Washington's main force managed a crossing, but was more than 3 hours delayed.

Why were Washington and his bedraggled Continental Army attempting to cross an ice-choked Delaware River on a cold winter's night? After numerous councils of war, General George Washington set the date for the river crossing for Christmas night 1776.

The day in the past, Rall had received two American deserters who had actually crossed the river and informed the Hessians that the American army was ready to move. Why wasn't Rall more active in opposing the crossing or much better prepared to safeguard the town?

George Washington's strategy of attack included three various crossings of the Delaware River on Christmas night. And Washington and his 2,400 soldiers would cross at McConkey's and Johnson's ferries, approximately 10 miles north of Trenton and would then march down to Trenton to surprise the fort at dawn. Much of Washington's force crossed the river in shallow draft Durham boats-- strongly constructed cargo vessels, most between 40 and 60 feet in length, created to move iron ore and bulk products down the river to markets in and around Philadelphia.

This spy was privy to the early considerations of Washington's war council and correctly passed along to British Major General James Grant that Washington's army was looking to attack north of the river. And while Grant specified that he did not think Washington would assault, he did command Rall to be alert. Rall acknowledged receipt of this crucial intelligence at about the very same time that Washington was starting his crossing.

Plan of Operations of General Washington versus the King's Troops in New Jersey by William Faden, 1777 (Library of Congress Geography and Maps Division).

What kind of Chirstmas day surprise are you planning? 

Wait... Before you go

We hand curate the TOP trending gifts each year. Join our list now. 

Don't worry, you're details are safe with us. We will NEVER give your details to a 3rd party.