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The signing of Declaration of Independence brought an end to the minor skirmishes of the American rebellion. Britain launched large-scale offensives against the Continental army commanded by George Washington, defeating the rebel forces in nearly every battle. A few spectacular American victories kept the rebellion alive. Two of these were the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. (America’s History, 169)
After the capture of Fort Washington on Manhattan Island in November 1776, the British general Sir William Howe forced the Americans to retreat through New Jersey and across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. (World Book, 280)
Washington’s discouraged forces were near collapse. New Jersey militiamen had failed to come help and the winter was taking its toll on the army. Howe missed an opportunity to destroy the Continental Army. As it was customary in the eighteenth century to halt military campaigns during the winter, he decided to wait until spring to attack and allowed his troops to rest in Trenton, Princeton, and other towns. (World Book, 280)
Washington saw an opportunity to attack the British. Although he had few troops, he decided to attack the Hessian troops at Trenton. The Hessians were German mercenaries who had long fought for the British army. On December 25, 1776 Washington ordered the troops to cross the Delaware just after dark, but an ice storm arose. Washington\'s aide, Colonel John Fitzgerald wrote as the troops started across: " It is fearfully cold and raw and a snowstorm is setting in. The wind northeast and beats into the faces of the men. It will be a terrible night for those who have no shoes. Some of them have tied only rags about their feet: others are barefoot, but I have not heard a man complain." (Discovering American History, ?)
Colonel Glover\'s soldiers from Marblehead, Massachusetts, who were primarily sailors, carried the soldiers across the river. They managed to get about 2400 men, their horses and 18 cannons across the icy river. The two other units, one to cross to the south of Trenton, and one farther south at Bristol, were unable to cross, due to the storm and ice. These southern crossings were to prevent the escape of the Hessians and to prevent reinforcements from supporting Trenton. Fortunately all British reinforcements were tied up with colonial militias. (Decisive battles of the American revolution, ?)
Delayed by the storm, Washington\'s troops did not get across until 4:00 AM, well behind schedule for the early morning attack. They marched south to Trenton along the river and Pennington Road. (Decisive battles of the American revolution, ?)
General Sullivan sent word that the men\'s muskets would not fire due to being exposed to the storm all night. Washington replies telling them to rely on the bayonet-"I am resolved to take Trenton." (America’s History, 169)
At 8:00 AM Washington\'s army met a group of Hessians just outside of Trenton. The Hessians began to open fire. The battle of Trenton had begun.
The Americans moved to quickly for the Hessian officers to gather and form their troops. They were constantly attacked by fast moving American units, charging in to cover all routes in or out of the town. (untitled, 1)
Washington then ordered that the American cannons should be placed on a hill that oversaw the two main streets of the town. The Hessians tried to counter with some of their own cannons, but these were captured before doing any damage. The Americans moved rapidly and aggressively, closing in on the Hessians, breaking up their formations. (untitled, 1)
A large group of Hessians retreated to an apple orchard. They mounted up an attack trying to get back into Trenton, but when some civilians from the town and soldiers firde at them from buildings, they were utterly defeated. After trying to retreat back to the orchard, they were surrounded by Americans and surrendered. (America’s History, p170?)
The remainder of the Hessians troops were positioned on the south end of town. They decide to try to retreat to Bordentown, but were slowed by trying to pull a cannon through a boggy area of a creek. They were soon surrounded and surrender as well. (America’s History, p170?)
Although many Hessians escape in small groups, over 900 were captured. Another 106 were killed or wounded. The American army had 4 men wounded and 2 or
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United States, New Jersey in the American Revolution, Battle of Trenton, Hessian, William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe, George Washingtons crossing of the Delaware River
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