GENERAL GEORGE WASHINGTON & THE CONTINENTAL ARMY CROSSED THE DELAWARE RIVER ON DECEMBER 25-26, 1776

So why were Washington and his bedraggled Continental Army trying to cross an ice-choked Delaware River on a cold winter’s night?

mountvernon.org/george-washing…
Washington’s aim was to conduct a surprise attack.

Washington hoped that a quick victory at Trenton would bolster sagging morale in his army and encourage more men to join the ranks of the Continentals come the new year.

CHRISTMAS NIGHT 1776
George Washington’s plan of attack included three different crossings of the Delaware River on Christmas night.

Col. Cadwalader was to lead his force of 1,200 Philadelphia militia and 600 Continentals across the river near Burlington, New Jersey.
Gen. James Ewing’s force of 800 Pennsylvania militia was to cross the river at Trenton and take up defensive positions along the Assunpink River and bridge.

Ewing’s soldiers would work to prevent the Hessians from retreating from Trenton.
Washington & his 2,400 soldiers would cross at McConkey’s and Johnson’s ferries and would then march down to Trenton to SURPRISE AT DAWN.

This was an ambitious plan, one that even well rested and experienced troops would have had difficulty in executing.
Both Cadwalader and Ewing’s forces were unable to cross the ice-choked river.

And Washington’s main force managed a crossing,
but was more than three hours d e l a y e d.
SPIES AND DESERTERS HAD INFORMED THE BRITISH THAT TRENTON WAS LIKELY TO BE ATTACKED.

Lurking within Washington’s headquarters was a British spy who has never been identified.
The day before, Rall had received two American deserters who had crossed the river and told the him
that the American army was ready to move.

Other loyalists informed the Hessians that an attack was imminent.

So why wasn’t Rall better prepared to defend the town?
History records that a series of false alarms &

the
growing
storm
had
given
the
defenders
a
sense
that
no
attack
was
likely
this
night.
WASHINGTON'S FORCE USED A COLLECTION OF CARGO BOATS AND FERRIES TO TRANSPORT HIS MEN ACROSS THE DELAWARE.

Thanks to the foresight of General Washington and the actions of the New Jersey militia,
the Americans had brought all available watercraft to the southern bank,
thus denying the British the use of these crafts, while making them available for an American recrossing.

Washington’s force crossed the river in shallow draft DURHAM boats.

Washington’s soldiers stood while crossing since the Durham boats were neither comfortable nor dry.
The crossing of the Delaware was made worse by the arrival of a strong storm.

One soldier recorded that “it blew a perfect hurricane” as snow and sleet lashed Washington’s army.
Experienced watermen from New England and the Philadelphia area ably guided the boats across the challenging river.

One factor in Washington’s favor was the large number of experienced watermen to be found at the crossing site.
Col. John Glover’s Marblehead regiment was filled with New Englanders who had extensive experience as seamen. Glover’s men were all quite identifiable with their short blue seaman’s jackets, tarred pants, and woolen caps.
Other experienced watermen from the Philadelphia area,

many familiar with this exact stretch of river, had also

congregated in the area and were able to provide the

muscle and skill needed to make the perilous nighttime

crossing.
WASHINGTON'S CAREFULLY PLANNED TIMETABLE WAS BEHIND SCHEDULE.

His patriots were tired.
They marched miles through the dark & a storm.
"...As I was certain there was no making a retreat without being discovered and harassed on repassing the River, I determined to push on at all Events,” George Washington wrote, while reflecting on this fateful moment in time.
mountvernon.org/video/view/256…

The Winter Patriots

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THE WINTER PATRIOTS: A REVOLUTIONARY WAR TALE

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