Washington Crosses the Delaware River

Washington Crosses the Delaware River

Freedom: Let’s look more at how the Patriots fought for their freedom.

In the winter of 1776, George Washington and the Continental Army found themselves in a similar situation – they were losing the battle for freedom, and time was running out. Recall from our earlier lessons that by 1776, the American Revolutionary War was fully underway. The first half of the year began with a lot of hope and enthusiasm for the colonists’ cause for independence.

It is important to remember that victory for the American colonists during the Revolutionary War was by no means guaranteed. In fact, many believed that the colonists would lose against the mighty British empire with their well-trained and well-armed military. But the Continental Army believed in the ideas and values that they were fighting for. The colonists were fueled by a deep sense of patriotism and courage, as well as their firm commitment to defend the fundamental freedoms that had been endowed to them by God.

But as the year went on, the Continental Army, led by George Washington, suffered a series of devastating defeats.

It was after these months of defeat that Washington’s military career during the Revolutionary War was at its lowest point. By this point, Washington’s troops were dwindling. Their spirits were low from defeat, some had given up and deserted their duties, and other soldiers’ contracts were about to be up. The colonists that once dreamed of an independent America were starting to lose hope in the face of daunting odds.

Weeks before Christmas, Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet that inspired the American Revolution, once again. Paine knew that it was not easy for the Continental Army to stand up and fight for what they believed in. However, as he wrote, it is those who stand up for what is right even when it is hard – not just when it is easy – who are heroes.


Washington knew the Continental Army also needed a bold victory. Not just for morale but to reignite confidence that the pursuit of freedom and independence could be successful. Washington devised a plan to launch a surprise attack against Hessian mercenaries (professional German soldiers hired by the British) who were defending Trenton, New Jersey. To do so, the Continental Army would have to cross from Pennsylvania over the Delaware River while braving blistering cold temperatures and terrible weather.



On that Christmas night in 1776, George Washington led his army by boat over the Delaware River from Pennsylvania to Trenton, New Jersey, where the Redcoats were camped. It was icy and extremely cold, but the Continental Army still sailed through the night. The Redcoats were so surprised to see them the next morning that the colonists were able to easily capture the city. George Washington’s idea was a huge success, and the Continental Army soon began to take control of the war.
With the defeat of the Hessians at the Battle of Trenton, Washington managed to secure a major victory for America. The brave leadership of Washington and the courage of his men during the crossing of the Delaware river was a vital turning point in the Revolutionary War. Without the success of this mission, the American revolutionary cause may have indeed failed. Washington’s triumph at the Battle of Trenton reignited the belief that victory was possible over the most powerful empire in the world, which, in the following weeks, encouraged thousands of volunteers to join the cause. The patriotic determination to continue the fight for freedom had been restored.