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Trenton & Princeton - Two Battles That Changed the World

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Essay title: Trenton & Princeton - Two Battles That Changed the World

The American rebellion against the British government was still very young, the Declaration of Independence had been signed but six months prior and the revolution was in trouble. Much had occurred that had led to this point, now it was up to one man, and his ragtag army, to bring things back on track. George Washington believed in freedom, he believed in the prospects of the American Revolution, and he was willing to sacrifice everything for it. It was through the strength of his character, and his unknown and previously underplayed military mind that brought about the resuscitation of Independence. This all occurred in less than two weeks, with two crucial victories over the British. By surprising the Hessians at Trenton, and then outmaneuvering the British and attacking Princeton, Lieutenant General George Washington proved that he could win battles, and the British could in fact be defeated. This kept the recruits coming for the Continental Army, fueled the Revolutionary spirit, and inspired the Continental Army’s confidence in their commanding general.

The war started out so well, with victories at Concord, Boston, and the numerical victory at Bunker Hill (Breed’s Hill). These were the golden times of the revolution, when recruits were not too hard to find, and it seemed to be more of a game, or a club, to belong to the Continental Army. Excepting a suicidal frontal assault at the battle of Bunker’s Hill, the full weight of the British had not been felt. To this point all had been a success.

Then came darker days where the Continental Army was continually outmaneuvered and defeated by the British. The battles of Long Island, Harlem Heights, the retreat at White Plains and the losses of Fort Washington and Fort Lee. With this, Lieutenant General George Washington retreated through New Jersey. British General, Sir William Howe, spent much of his time trying to reconcile with the colonists. Having received the authority from the crown t grant pardons to any who were willing to re-swear allegiance to the British monarch, King George III. Many thought the war was all but over, particularly in the British camp. With this, winter set in, the cold winter of 1776. Traditionally, Europeans did not fight during the winter. They would hold up and wait for the “campaign season” in the spring. Therefore, neither the British, nor their Hessian mercenaries expected what was about to befall them.

The Hessians had been hired in great numbers by the British to help remind the colonists who was in charge, and they were professional soldiers. Their reputation extended throughout Europe for being well-trained, if not somewhat brutal. A great number of them would eventually die in the American Revolution. But at this time, things were going moderately well. The Americans had retreated across the Delaware and due to the Quartering Act, the people of Trenton, New Jersey were required to board these Hessian soldiers. This Quartering Act is of importance in the American Revolutionary ideology, it created great anger among them, they saw it as a distinct attack on their rights. In Britain, the populace was not required to quarter soldiers, then why here in the colonies? Therefore, the Americans were outraged on this blatant attack on their rights.

Part of General Howe’s strategy was to spread his troops out and control as much of New Jersey as possible, denying it to the Rebels, he had Colonel Johann Raul move his 1,500 troops into town for the winter. Colonel Raul moved in with his troops, but was not too concerned of his proximity to the Continental Army, for he viewed them with much contempt. When asked by his subordinate about building fortifications, he replied, “"Earthworks!" to Major von Dechow, who came to advise him to fortify the town; "only let them come on! We'll meet them with the bayonet!"#

General Washington saw this as an opportunity to strike. A victory was very much needed at this point. Morale in the Continentals was at an all-time low, the American colonists were losing faith in the revolution, and particularly in the command abilities of the commander-in-chief. If the war for American independence was to continue, then military victories were absolutely crucial. Washington was about to show his true military genius.

Washington’s plan was to attack when and where none were expected. Thus, he went after Trenton on the morning of the 26th of December. His overall strategy was very sound, although somewhat complicated (George Washington tended to have the habit of making more complicated war plans). He called for reinforcements from Albany, also, he called out the local militia. Altogether, he was able to muster around 6,000 men. 1,800 men would go with John Caldwalader to feint an attack on Bordentown and keep the Hessian garrison there busy. Caldwalader did not succeed in this, but Caldwalader

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