New York & New Jersey Campaign > Battle of Trenton

Battle of Trenton

Background

The Battle of Trenton was a small but pivotal battle during the American Revolutionary War which took place on the morning of December 26, 1776, in Trenton, New Jersey. After General George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River north of Trenton the previous night, Washington led the main body of the Continental Army against Hessian mercenaries garrisoned at Trenton. After a brief battle, almost two-thirds of the Hessian force was captured, with negligible losses to the Americans. The battle significantly boosted the Continental Army's flagging morale, and inspired re-enlistments.

The Continental Army had previously suffered several defeats in New York and had been forced to retreat through New Jersey to Pennsylvania. Morale in the army was low; to end the year on a positive note, George Washington—Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army—devised a plan to cross the Delaware River on the night of December 25–26 and surround the Hessian garrison.

Because the river was icy and the weather severe, the crossing proved dangerous. Two detachments were unable to cross the river, leaving Washington with only 2,400 men under his command in the assault, 3,000 less than planned. The army marched 9 miles (14.5 km) south to Trenton. The Hessians had lowered their guard, thinking they were safe from the American army, and had no long-distance outposts or patrols. Washington's forces caught them off guard and, after a short but fierce resistance, most of the Hessians surrendered and were captured, with just over a third escaping across Assunpink Creek.

Despite the battle's small numbers, the American victory inspired rebels in the colonies. With the success of the revolution in doubt a week earlier, the army had seemed on the verge of collapse. The dramatic victory inspired soldiers to serve longer and attracted new recruits to the ranks.

New York & New Jersey Campaign Battles

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