by James Still, RetraceOurSteps.com

(Dec. 1, 2016) — It was 3:00 a.m. when the last piece of artillery crossed the Delaware.  General Washington gathered his troops and, in the unrelenting storm, began the nine-mile march to Trenton.  Despite arriving after daylight and three hours behind schedule, the Americans surprised the Hessians.  The battle was brief, lasting only about an hour.   Two Americans died from exposure and only five were wounded in battle.  After the victory, Washington moved his troops back across the Delaware for safety.  The Battle of Trenton encouraged many troops to extend their enlistments and Washington’s army survived to see a new year.

“It was just 8 o’clock. Looking down the road, I saw a Hessian running out from the house. He yelled in Dutch [German] and swung his arms. Three or four others came out with their guns. Two of them fired at us, but the bullets whistled over our heads…  The next moment we heard drums beat and a bugle sound, and then from the west came the boom of a cannon. General Washington’s face lighted up instantly, for he knew that it was one of Sullivan’s guns.

We could see a great commotion down toward the meeting-house, men running here and there, officers swinging their swords, artillerymen harnessing their horses…  We saw [the Hessian Colonel] Rall come riding up the street from his headquarters [and]… We could hear him shouting in Dutch, ‘My brave soldiers, advance.’

His men were frightened and confused, for our men were firing upon them from fences and houses and they were falling fast. Instead of advancing they ran into an apple orchard. The officers tried to rally them, but our men kept advancing and picking off the officers. It was not long before Rall tumbled from his horse and his soldiers threw down their guns and gave themselves up as prisoners.”  An Officer, Diary of an Officer on Washington’s Staff, December 26, 1776

“We immediately retreated across the River and did not get to our Tents till next Morning-  two Nights and one day in as violent a Storm as I ever felt.  What can’t Men do when engaged in so noble a Cause.”  William Hull, Letter to Andrew Adams, January 1, 1777

“The General, with the utmost sincerity and affection, thanks the Officers and soldiers for their spirited and gallant behavior at Trenton yesterday.  It is with inexpressible pleasure that he can declare, that he did not see a single instance of bad behavior in either officers or privates…”  General Washington, General Orders, Dec 27, 1776

“… should we wander from [The Founding Principles]… let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.”  Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

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