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Battle of Trenton

George Washington Crossing the Delaware, by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze.

The Battle of Trenton took place during the American Revolutionary War on December 26, 1776. As the occupying Hessian forces celebrated Christmas, Washington led the main Continental Army across the Delaware to surprise and virtually eliminate the Hessian garrison at Trenton, New Jersey. This overwhelming victory helped to preserve the Continental Army and set the stage for the Battle of Princeton the following week.

Trenton was garrisoned by three regiments of the Hessian mercenaries, commanded by Colonel Johann Rall for a total of about 1,200 men. Washington's force of about 2,400 attacked in two columns: Major General Nathanael Greene's division from the north, and Major General John Sullivan's division from the west.

The American forces had only a handful of wounded (although two men froze to death on the march), while the Hessians lost 106 dead and wounded with at least 600 captured. Colonel Rall was mortally wounded and died the same day. The Rall and Lossburg regiments were effectively removed from the British forces.Parts of the von Knyphausen regiment escaped to the south, but Sullivan did capture some men, along with the regiments cannons and supplies.

By noon, Washington's force had recrossed the Delaware back into Pennsylvania, taking their prisoners and captured supplies with them. This battle gave the Continental Congress a new confidence in that it proved American forces could defeat regulars. It also increased the reenlistments in the Continental Army forces.

An interesting note is that while only four Americans received light wounds, all of these came during the rush to capture the Hessian artillery park, preventing the guns from being used. Two of these were officers; William Washington (the General's cousin) and young Lietunant James Monroe, the future President of the United States.

A moment before the battle served as the inspiration for a famous painting of "Washington crossing the Delaware River." The image in the painting, in which Washington stands majestic in his boat as it is crossing the river, is almost certainly fictional, as the waters of the river were icy and treacherous. Washington, as with all of his troops, most likely stayed low in the boat to provide cover and protection. Nonetheless, the image has become an icon of American history.

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