The Battle of Trenton
December 26, 1776
By 4 AM the crossing of the Delaware River had been accomplished, but now the army was faced with an arduous nine mile march to Trenton with the weather continuing to be severe. John Greenwood described the march:
...we began an apparently circuitous march, not advancing faster than a child ten years old could walk, and stopping frequently, though for what purpose I knew not.
The army marched inland for about a mile, then south to Birmingham (now West Trenton). Here they halted for a brief rest and hasty meal and then the army was split into two divisions, one led by General Greene, accompanied by Washington, and the other by General Sullivan. Marching in separate columns for another four and a half miles through a fierce and relentless winter storm, they arrived at opposite ends of Trenton.
Contrary to popular myth, the 1,400 Hessians in Trenton had not been celebrating Christmas by drinking. If anything they were fatigued from the constant patrols, guard posts and duties that were required of them and every night, one of the three Hessian regiments had orders to sleep in uniform in case of an attack. Due to the intensity of the storm, one early morning Hessian patrol had been canceled and another shortened and as the battle began, the snow, sleet and freezing rain would quickly begin to affect the priming powder of the muskets and cause them to misfire.
After daybreak, at about 8:00 AM, the Hessian pickets on the outskirts of town were encountered, driven in and boldly pursued by the advancing Americans. The artillery was quickly brought forward and would play a decisive role in breaking up two enemy counterattacks. According to Colonel Henry Knox:
The storm continued with great violence, but was in our backs, and consequently in the faces of our enemy... They endeavoured to form in the streets, the heads of which we had previously the possession of with cannon... these, in the twinkling of an eye, cleared the streets. The backs of the houses were resorted to for shelter. These proved ineffectual: the musketry soon dislodged them. Finally they were driven through the town into an open plain beyond... The poor fellows... saw themselves completely surrounded... and were obliged to surrender upon the spot...
Surrounded, outnumbered and overpowered, with their Colonel having received mortal wounds, and the weather having affected the musketry, the Hessians were left with no options but surrender.
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