George Washington Crossing the Delaware: A Brazen Christmas Attack

By | December 6, 2019

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Copy of 'Washington Crossing the Delaware' by Emanuel Leutze, Abbot Hall, Marblehead, Massachusetts. (Photo by: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

During the fall of 1776, the Continental Army experienced a severe morale problem. The Revolutionary War wasn't going in their favor, and spirits were down. The previous several months saw the colonists defeated by the British in several battles, New York City had been lost to the British, and supplies were running short. Christmas was coming, and many of the soldiers just wanted to be home with their families. Faced with lagging morale, General George Washington planned an audacious and daring attack on a garrison of Hessian troops in Trenton, New Jersey. Let's look at this Revolutionary War event that was memorialized in a famous painting and bolstered the spirits of the Continental Army so much that they came back and won the war. 

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Morale was down in the months leading up to the attack on Trenton. (

Washington's Men Were Counting Down the Days

Washington's men were somewhat downtrodden after a series of defeats by the British. A number of the enlisted men's commissions were set to end soon, and they were counting the days until they were released from the army and could rejoin their families. Washington anticipated the impending loss of many of his soldiers and the very real possibility that the colonists were losing the war, so he decided to make one final military statement while he had the manpower to do it. He also hoped that a victory would encourage some of the men to reenlist and other colonists to join the cause. Washington set his sights on a garrison of Hessians wintering in Trenton.