The Decision That Saved America
The Decision That Saved The World
Washington Crossing The Delaware Before The Battle Of Trenton.
It is one of the most iconic moments in American History, immortalized in a great (if wildly inaccurate) painting that has been endlessly reprinted.
The image is so familiar that it can be used to highlight any battle, including Barack Obama’s political battle to speed the economic recovery.
Or simply to get a laugh:
But what REALLY needs to be remembered is that Washington’s unimaginably bold decision to cross an icy river, at night, in frightful weather and march for hours to fight a ferocious and feared foe saved the War For American Independence. And, by extension, that decision saved the world by guaranteeing the protections of a democratic republic would survive the brutal efforts of a monarchy to suppress individual rights.
After leading the fledgling Continental Army through a series of disastrous defeats in and around New York, Gen. Washington marched them in terrible conditions to the banks of the Delaware River where they set up camp on the Pennsylvania side. Using their dwindling forces and the icy river as a barrier, the Continental Army set up what appeared to be a last ditch effort to protect the Congress of Philadelphia from the wrath of the mighty British and the feared Hessian armies.
Many of the soldiers in the Continental Army had enlisted for one calendar year. On January 1, 1777, they could simply walk away and the War For Independence would end with a whimper, not a bang, on the frozen bank of a freezing river. So brutal were the conditions, so sparse the supplies, so desperate the situation that it seemed that the only thing to hope for was survival. Today, when Americans remember the Revolutionary War, they think of the men suffering at Valley Forge. But those who served at both Valley Forge and on the shores of the Delaware agreed that Valley Forge was much easier.
Washington’s bold plan to cross the Delaware on Christmas night, in terrible weather and then march through the dark to attack the heinous Hessians seemed at best impractical and at worst idiotic. Muskets need dry powder to shoot. The boats would have to be poled across the river. The limited number of boats meant that it would take many hours, in frigid weather to cross all the men to the New Jersey side of the Delaware. And then, marching eight miles through the woods, into a headwind pelted with rain, sleet, and snow, the Continental Army would only then attack a better trained, better rested, better equipped army. It is hard to imagine a less plausible plan.
During the march, it became apparent that all the musket powder had become sodden and useless. The Continental Army would have to attack and fight a battle without guns that wouldn’t shoot. Washington’s orders were clear: Trenton must be taken. It was victory or death. The Battle Of Trenton was on.
The Battle Of Trenton lasted 45 minutes. The Americans lost two men – both frozen to death. Six were wounded, including the heroic James Monroe.
George Washington is today still the highest ranking American military officer of all time.
The stunning, overwhelming victory at the First Battle Of Trenton and then in the next week at Princeton and a 2nd battle of Trenton, saved the Revolution. The Revolutionary War saved America. America has become the beacon of liberty to the world.