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George Washington and the Daring Campaign That Saved the American Revolution


General George Washington’s defeated and dispirited Continental Army was the picture of desperation in December 1776. Conditions in the army were simply miserable. The Commander-in-Chief reported that some of his troops were “so thinly clad as to be unfit for service,” and another officer described his starving comrades as resembling “animated scarecrows.” To make matters worse, the British Crown appeared to be on the brink of victory in the Revolutionary War, causing many to lose hope in the fight for American Independence.

During this dark time, the famous writer and Patriot Thomas Paine wrote in The American Crisis, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of men and women.” With the fate of America’s destiny hanging in the balance, General Washington proceeded to conduct one of the greatest campaigns in military history.

On Christmas night 1776, the Commander-in-Chief and his troops left their frigid Pennsylvania encampments and crossed the ice-chocked Delaware River in the middle of a severe winter storm. After making it over to New Jersey, Washington and his band of 2,400 soldiers marched ten difficult miles to reach the town of Trenton, where they routed a garrison of 1,500 Hessian mercenaries on the morning of December 26.

The victorious Americans quickly returned to Pennsylvania, but rather than retiring to winter quarters to rest up until the next fighting season, Washington decided to strike the enemy again. Another hazardous crossing of the Delaware was made and Washington’s troops engaged a British force under General Charles Cornwallis at the Second Battle of Trenton on January 2, 1777. Cornwallis hoped to finish off the Americans the following day, but Washington and his army deceptively slipped away from the field that night and boldly marched to Princeton, New Jersey. With their commander leading from the front, the soldiers of the Continental Army struck Cornwallis’s rear guard at the Battle of Princeton on January 3 and won another stunning victory. After Princeton, Washington and his troops made their way to Morristown, New Jersey and finally settled into winter quarters.

Under Washington’s leadership, the soldiers of the Continental Army faced every hardship imaginable and went on to achieve two major battlefield victories in the span of ten days that saved the Revolution from ruin and inspired the public to renew their faith in the fight for liberty. Because of the Commander-in-Chief and his faithful warriors, America had survived “as dark a time as any in the history of the country,” as noted by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough. Although there would be many more despairing moments in the war, Washington and his troops endlessly persevered together year after year until American Independence was finally secured in 1783. Through perseverance and spirit, they changed the world forever, and for the better.


1776 by David McCullough.

Washington Crossing Historic Park: The Ten Crucial Days.

Video Photo Credits

24. Joe Archino.

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