Crossing the Delaware
History >> American Revolution
On December 25, 1776 George Washington and the Continental Army crossed the Delaware River into New Jersey in a surprise attack on the British. They had a decisive victory that helped turn the war back to the American's favor.
It was the cold of winter. The wind was blowing and it was snowing. On one side of the Delaware River, George Washington and the Continental Army camped. On the other side, a British army of Hessian soldiers held the town of Trenton. It was also Christmas and, with an icy and dangerous river between the two armies, it did not look to be a day for fighting. The Hessian soldiers probably thought the last thing the American Army would do was attack in these terrible conditions. That's what made the attack so brilliant.
Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze
The Battle of Trenton
When George Washington and the army arrived in Trenton, the Hessians were not prepared for such an attack force. They soon surrendered. The casualties were low on both sides with the Hessians suffering 22 deaths and 83 injuries and the Americans 2 deaths and five injuries. The Americans captured around 1000 Hessians.
Who were the Hessian Soldiers?
The Hessian soldiers were German soldiers that the British hired to fight for them. They hired them through the German government. Around 30,000 German soldiers fought in the American Revolutionary War. They were called Hessians because a lot of them came from the area of Hesse-Kassel. Many of the Hessians stayed in America and settled there after the war was over.
Why was the Crossing of the Delaware so important?
The American forces were going through a very tough time right before the crossing. They had been pushed back all the way from New York to Pennsylvania. Many of General Washington's men were injured or ready to leave the army. The number of troops were dwindling and winter was approaching. The army desperately needed a victory. The victory gave a huge boost in moral to the American soldiers.
They Crossed More than Once
There were actually three crossings. The first crossing was the famous one where the army surprised the Hessians and won the Battle of Trenton. The second crossing was to return back to the American army's original camp. During the second crossing they had to bring the 1000 Hessian prisoners as well as all the stores and weapons they had captured across the river.
The third crossing was a few days later. General Washington and the army crossed again in order to push back what was left of the British Army and take back much of New Jersey.
Fun Facts about the Crossing of the Delaware
- Every year on Christmas day the "Crossing of the Delaware" is reenacted at Washington Crossing.
- Future President James Monroe and Chief Justice John Marshall were both part of the army at the time of the crossing.
- Emmanuel Leutze painted a famous painting called Washington Crossing the Delaware. It's a beautiful painting, but not very historically accurate.
- Boats from all over the area were used to help the army cross the river. Many of the boats were called Durham boats which were from a local iron works company and were designed to carry heavy loads.
- Take a ten question quiz about this page.
- Listen to a recorded reading of this page:
History >> American Revolution