Washington Bravely Crosses the Delaware

Washington Bravely Crosses the Delaware

Tough: General Washington knew his soldiers were tough. He was not about to give up.

Despite their bravery and unwavering commitment to freedom, things were not looking good for Washington and his Continental Army. After their victory at the Siege of Boston, the British retreated to Canada and sent over more forces to defeat the Continental Army in New York before pushing them out of New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. The Continental Army had decreased in size and were low in confidence after these defeats.

Few believed that the Patriots could defeat the British to secure independence, but Washington was not ready to give up.

On July 4, 1776, the 13 Colonies declared they were free and independent states; the document that announced this was called the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Paine

On December 19, Thomas Paine published a pamphlet called “The American Crisis”. Washington ordered this to be read to his soldiers which included, “These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” The same day as this reading, 3,600 Patriot soldiers arrived to join Washington’s forces, including divisions that had become isolated from the main army and new recruits.

The Continental Army now numbered 6,000 soldiers fit for duty and had been resupplied. After soldiers were sent for other duties, such as guarding crossings, supplies, and sick or wounded soldiers, Washington was left with 2,400 men to start the fight back.

Washington’s army had crossed the Delaware River from New Jersey to Pennsylvania at Trenton and destroyed or moved all boats anywhere near their crossing so that the British would find it difficult to follow them.

At 4 pm on Christmas Day, 1776, soldiers lined up for inspection while Washington had a plan in mind. The soldiers were provided with bullets and even officers and musicians were ordered to carry their guns. Only then were they told that they were to depart on a secret mission – but still not told what – so that Washington’s plan did not leak to the British. They left camp and marched to the Delaware River, reaching it at 6 pm.
As many boats as could be found were waiting for them. But the weather was bad – the rain had now become heavy snow.

Washington was with the first soldiers to cross. They formed a ring around the landing area. No one was allowed to pass the ring unless they spoke the password “Victory or Death.” The crossing was completed by 3 am on December 26 and soldiers were ready to march at 4 am.

The British were not expecting an attack as they did think that the Delaware River could be crossed with such heavy snowfall and it was Christmas. They were taken by surprise when Washington and his Continental Army attacked. Washington and his men captured 1,000 British soldiers and much-needed supplies in the Battle of Trenton, with which they returned to Pennsylvania. This victory was important for the morale of the soldiers.