What Was the Battle of Trenton?

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The Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776, was a daring and successful attempt by General George Washington to bolster the morale of his troops by defeating a garrison of Hessian mercenaries at Trenton, New Jersey. According to History.com, though it was a small battle, it significantly inspired and unified the Continental Army and proved it could be an effective fighting force.

Though Washington's men were weary and poorly equipped, he proposed the attack to shock the British and restore confidence to his own troops. Despite severely inclement weather, Washington and his men crossed the icy Delaware River on Christmas evening and commenced the march toward Trenton. By morning the continental troops had reached the city and surrounded it. After a battle during which the Hessian commander was mortally wounded, Washington's men took most of the Hessians prisoner. The Continental Army's losses were only four men killed and eight wounded, while the Hessian's losses were 22 killed and 918 captured.

The victory at Trenton achieved its aim of shocking the British commanders. In retaliation British General Cornwallis marched south with 8,000 men. However, at the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777, Washington quietly broke camp in the night and flanked Cornwallis, achieving another victory. Afterwards, after assessing the condition of his troops, Washington moved north to winter quarters. The victories at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton were extremely significant in putting new hope into the American effort.