As Washington retreated across New Jersey to Pennsylvania, he made sure that the British could not follow by capturing or destroying every boat on the banks of the Delaware.
As Christmas time arrived, the Delaware river had frozen once, then been partially melted by warm rains, and would partially refreeze . By Christmas day, the river had swollen into a full flood. Great blocks of ice jammed the river. Any Hessian solder looking out across the river would have considered it impassable.
On Christmas night the American solders assembled. Many with broken shoes, some with no shoes at all. They shivered in the gale force winds, pounded by sleet.
The crossing was arduous. Men had to row the heavily laden boats fight the flood swollen currents. Others would have to fend off great slabs of ice, protecting the boats from damage.
Washington crossing the Delaware. By 4am on the 26th of December they had assembled on the New Jersey side of the Delaware. Now the men had nine miles to walk, hoping to arrive early in the morning, surprise being the key goal.
All night they walked, no talking, no resting. Washington's army was divided into two forces. One force followed the river. Another force took Scotch road to Pennington and then on to Trenton.
As the two groups of Americans approached Trenton, the Hessian were sleeping heavily, having spent a lonely Christmas drinking rum. In fact, the Hessians were ill prepared for Washington's attack.
Colonel Johann Rall, the leader of the Hessians and a professional solder, viewed the Americans with contempt. Heading into Trenton, the Americans marched on ice covered roads, passing ice coated picket fences.
As the dawn rose, the sky darkened under storm clouds. In the Trenton barracks, few of the Hessians were awake. Guard post were empty or partially manned, due to Christmas hangovers.
Some time after 7:30am, a group of Hessians on the Pennington road spotted movement and heard the running solders.
A cry went up as the Hessians fell back. Even though the warning had been raised, it was too late.
With perfect timing the two groups of Americans converged on Trenton at the same time.
The battle was joined!
Henry Knox's cannons went to work on the Hessian barracks. General Mercer's troops attacked with bayonets. All around Hessians fell, their attempts to organize failing.
For professional soldiers, the Hessians did not give a good account of themselves. After about 45 minutes the battle was over.
Colonel Rall lay mortal wounded, along with more then 100 of his men. Another 900 prisoners had been captured. And, important supplies had been captured.
The best news was the American only suffered four wounded solders, no fatalities.
Many historians consider the battles of Trenton one of the major turning point of the war. It was a real offensive, not a counter-attack.
The Americans showed a mastery of the bayonet, a weapon that weren't expected posses, much less use effectively. And, it showed the Americans could win.
This victory kept the revolutionary hopes alive.
Next Washington moved on to Princeton.