This episode of the History with Mark Bielski podcast covers Christmas during wartime, including the Revolutionary War.
A Christmas Victory in the Revolutionary War
In the winter of 1776 the American Revolution was still young and things did not look so good for the Continental Army and its commanding General George Washington. Lord Cornwallis and his experienced and well-trained British army had pushed the Americans out of New York and across New Jersey. Washington steadily withdrew, and, had he turned and fought, his rag-tag force of freezing and starved men surely would have been annihilated. Once he reached the Delaware River his men procured every boat available to cross over into the relative safety of Pennsylvania.
The Americans were desperate, but Washington decided to go back across the Delaware and launch a surprise attack on the Hessian mercenaries occupying Trenton. On Christmas night, he led 2,400 men in freezing temperatures, sleet and snow, through the ice river’s floes for an attack on the Hessians. The surprise worked, and in two hours, with few losses of their own, they captured nearly 900 of the enemy.
A week later it was a precarious situation for the Americans. Washington’s men were exhausted and even worse, many of them, whose enlistments had expired, departed for home. Nevertheless, the Americans pressed on and scored another victory at Princeton.