Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Battle Of Trenton, Or No Holiday for Hessians

This Sunday, December 26, 210 Marks the Anniversary of the battle of Trenton. If this Revolutionary War battle name does not jog one’s memory, ask yourself why Washington crossed the Delaware in the first place. Those now famous Hessians he fought were encamped in winter barracks in Trenton, New Jersey.


Washington achieved tactical and strategic surprise that day, routing the Hessians and raising the moral of his troops. It was a near run thing. Washington was delayed by foul weather. It was deep winter and New Jersey after all. Washington wanted to strike at midnight but the weather delayed the attack to dawn and caused some artillery units to be left behind.

Still the dawn attack was a very unpleasant surprise to the Hessians. The Hessian commander had some intelligence that Washington was up to something and was screaming for more troops and a change of venue, but he had no idea where or when Washington might strike. Thus when he was given his early wake up call, the Hessian commander was out of sorts.

The Hessian troops were not too happy either. They were sober, but the lack of a dawn post had left them bleary eyed, and lethargic. They attempted resistance, but tactical surprise and bad moral in the Hessian troops wrong-footed the mercenaries. The Hessian resistance quickly collapsed.

As battles go Trenton was minor both tactically and strategically. The real impact was psychological. After being pushed out of both New York and New Jersey moral was low in the Colonial Armies. Trenton was a much needed shot in the arm. Spirits rose after Trenton as did much needed recruitment and reenlistment efforts.

As for the British, they were shocked and dismayed by the news from the Garden State. Pacifying New Jersey was turning out to be a much taller order than suspected. Who knew such a small state could cause so much trouble? The Militia of New Jersey was especially irksome to the British, bloodying the noses of the Red Coats in several engagements.

The winter of 1776-1777 was none too jolly for British. The forces of King George III were getting the first taste of what was to be a long attritional struggle with an opponent that was often down, but never out.

So happy Delaware River crossing day. Hopefully December 26 will mean more to you than the first day you can return some of those awful gifts your clueless friends and relatives gave you.  “ A fruit cake; you shouldn’t have. No. Seriously. You really shouldn’t have. I’m allergic to the nuts.

 Trenton Battle Monument.
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