CHRISTMAS NIGHT December 25, 1776
Crossing the frozen Delaware River into New Jersey*
Imagine Christmas night – 1776! Washington is crossing the Delaware! A night destined to become the most significant in America’s history. The snow that began at six in the evening has changed to sleet. The wind lashes the faces of the men as they huddle in the boats trying to hold on to their tricornes and headgear. Every man knows it is past midnight and that the crossing should have been made by this hour in order to complete the nine mile march to Trenton and strike before dawn . . . Boats, somewhat like this one, stretch as far as the eye can see. They are Durham boats, built for carrying iron ore down river. Their narrow bows and sterns make loading extremely difficult. Frightened and bewildered horses are led aboard amid blinding snow and sleeting wind . . . Now it will be after 2 a.m. before the crossing can be completed; long after daylight before the Americans can reach Trenton. Will it be too late to surprise the Hessians? Washington, alone, must decide. You sense the decision from his “unconquerable firmness.” You become aware that this outstanding trait is the rock upon which the American cause is clinging on this night of December 25, 1776 . . . Washington was not only winning his struggle against the icy current of the Delaware, but also turning the tide of the American Revolution in which he successfully defeated the Hessians who were caught by surprise. This became more than the crossing of a river—to him it was the crossing from previous defeat and despair to hope and victory.