The focus on New Jersey in the American Revolution starts with an intelligence blunder.
As is typical in war time, one is always trying to guess the enemy's next move. In November of 1776, the American council of war tried to understand the implications of British General Howe's (picture on the right) night move back to Manhattan.
The council misread Howe's move as the start of an enemy attack on New Jersey. Based on that mistake, American troops were shifted from New York, across the Hudson river, into New Jersey.
The Americans were stunned to learn on November 16th, the British had taken Manhattan's Fort Washington. And worse news was to follow.
By November 20th all of Manhattan would be under British control and they even established a foothold in New Jersey with the fall of Fort Lee.
To make matters worse, the American army was now split into three groups.
One group in New Castle on the Croton River, one group in Peekskill, and Washington was retreating in New Jersey, heading south.
Lord Cornwallis, followed Washington at a blinding pace (20 miles in a day), leading Hessians mercenaries and British troops.
It was dark days for the Americans.
The British handed the Americans defeat after defeat.
Newark fell, with the American soldiers falling back for a brief respite at New Brunswick.
The British continued their pursuit, driving the Americans all the way into Pennsylvania.
At that point, the American army had fallen to less than 3,000 soldiers. Poorly outfitted and under supplied, Washington wrote, "without more men the game is up".
As winter set, in Cornwallis offered the Americans a ray of hope. He declared that "no army ever campaigned in winter". So he deployed his troops across New Jersey to wait for spring. Posts included, Amboy, New Brunswick, Bordentown, and Princeton.
The post of honor was Trenton. Cornwallis gave the Hessians Trenton in recognition of their service in the New York campaigns.
Washington turned the tide of the war in the Battle of Trenton.