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, George Washington’s 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. 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 the Hessian mercenaries garrisoned at Trenton, New Jersey on Christmas Day. Throughout the night, 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 victory at Trenton provided a much needed morale boost for Washington’s beleaguered Army and extended the Revolution.