|Victorian era St. Nick|
|Hessian Grenadier of|
Regiment von Rall
The patriot cause was at its nadir. Panic had set in, especially in Philadelphia. Lord Howe had issued a proclamation accepting back any rebels willing to swear an oath to the King. Some had begun to accept it. Worse still, many of Washington's best troops had enlistments expiring with little likelihood that replacements would arrive. Fearful of a British assault on the capital, the Continental Congress fled and turned governance over to the military. To stall the British, Washington had all the serviceable boats along a 70 mile stretch of the Delaware confiscated. The British advance had to await their engineers to plan a crossing. Fortunately, Lord Howe had decided he had all but whipped the rebels and ordered his army into winter quarters with brigade-sized garrisons at Brunswick, Trenton, Princeton, Bordentown, and Cherry Hill. The remainder took quarters in Staten Island or Manhattan.
|Dramatic portrait - Washington crossed over in the dark of a December night|
|Overrunning the Hessian guns at Trenton|
So what's the Christmas connection? The German garrison, a brigade under the command of the renowned Hessian Colonel Johann Gottleib von Rall, was caught unprepared. Germans celebrate two days of Christmas and Washington struck between the two. Indeed, the Germans themselves had been worn out by the rigors of the campaign and the Jersey militia had played apart in tiring them and causing a "hunker down" factor. But Rall never expected the onslaught that caught them in the weary hours of their holiest of days. Rall fell mortally wounded rallying his battalions and soon after the garrison surrendered over one thousand men. The battle did not last an hour. The stunning victory saved the American cause that was all but finished.