Painting of George Washington and his troops crossing the Delaware River.

Battle of Trenton

December 26, 1776

The Battle of Trenton took place on December 26, 1776. The Continental Army, led by George Washington, launched a sneak attack on Hessian troops stationed in Trenton, New Jersey. The night before, on Christmas, Washington and and his troops crossed the Delaware River undetected. A bold move that led to a resounding victory.



By the end of 1776, the euphoria created by the Declaration of Independence had been supplanted by the realities of waging war.

The size of the British army in North America had swollen to 32,000 troops — the largest expeditionary army the Crown had ever assembled.

By December, the Continental Army, once 25,000 strong, had been driven from New York and numbered only 4,300 men.

To make matters worse, the enlistment period for most of the remaining troops was set to expire on December 31. General George Washington knew that if he did not do something to reverse the tide, the army would nearly cease to exist and the Revolution would be lost.

From his encampment in Newton, Pennsylvania, Washington boldly decided to launch an attack on the Hessian mercenaries garrisoned at Trenton, New Jersey on Christmas Day.

Throughout the night of December 25, Washington ferried 2,300 men and equipment, undetected through a snow and sleet storm, across the ice-clogged Delaware River seven miles above Trenton.

On the morning of December 26, the Americans descended on Trenton and encountered the first Hessian resistance about 8 a.m. In little more than an hour, the Continentals completely routed the unsuspecting Hessians, killing, wounding, or imprisoning over 900 of the 1,500 troops in the garrison.


The Battle of Trenton was significant because it provided a much-needed morale boost for Washington’s beleaguered Army and extended the Revolution.

Crossing the Delaware River: In Four Minutes


Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Battle of Trenton
  • Coverage December 26, 1776
  • Author
  • Keywords battle of trenton
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date January 19, 2022
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update December 1, 2021
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