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Trenton, Battle of

TRENTON, BATTLE OF

TRENTON, BATTLE OF. During the American Revolution, following General George Washington's evacuation of New Jersey, the British general William Howe established two unsupported cantonments of 1,500 Hessians each, at Bordentown and Trenton. Washington, sure the enemy only awaited the freezing of the Delaware River to seize Philadelphia, planned a simultaneous surprise movement against both cantonments, with the main blow falling at Trenton.

On Christmas night, with 2,500 troops, he crossed the Delaware at McKonkey's Ferry, eight miles above Trenton. Delayed by floating ice and a storm of sleet and snow, his two columns, under his command and that of General John Sullivan, reached the village at 8:00 a.m., in broad daylight. The Hessians, who had spent Christmas night celebrating, were completely surprised. Their commandant, Colonel Johann Rall, who had ignored warnings of the attack, seemed nonplussed. The Americans fired from houses and cellars and from behind trees and fences, while their artillery raked the two main streets of the town. In the battle, lasting scarcely forty minutes, thirty Hessians were killed (including Rall), and one thousand were taken prisoner, while the Americans had only two officers and two privates wounded. Two supporting divisions failed to cross the river until the following day; meanwhile, the Hessians at Bordentown safely withdrew.

Coming so swiftly after a succession of bitter defeats, this victory infused new life into the revolutionary cause, restored confidence in Washington both at home and abroad, strengthened the resolution of Congress, and, coupled with the victory at Princeton a few days later, practically freed New Jersey of British control.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bill, Alfred H. The Campaign of Princeton, 1776–1777. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1948.

Dwyer, William M. The Day Is Ours!: November 1776–January 1777: An Inside View of the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. New York: Viking, 1983.

Stryker, William S. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1898. Reprint, Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Co., 1967.

C. A.Titus/a. r.

See alsoDelaware, Washington Crossing the ; German Mercenaries ; New Jersey ; Princeton, Battle of ; Revolution, American: Military History .

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Trenton, battle of

Trenton, battle of, 1776. Washington's attack upon Trenton in New Jersey, though small scale, gave a welcome victory after the loss of New York in September 1776. Early in the morning of Christmas Day, the Americans attacked the Hessian garrison under the command of Colonel Rall. Nearly 1,000 Hessians were taken prisoner and their commander killed.

J. A. Cannon

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