Trenton Campaign

  • Time Period: December 26, 1776
  • Area:Southern New Jersey
  • Explanation:Engagements from Washington's retreat across the Delaware River to his encampment at Morristown

The British followed up their success on Long Island with a series of landings on Manhattan Island which compelled Washington to retire northward to avoid entrapment. When Forts Washington and Lee on the Hudson above Manhattan were lost in mid-November 1776, Washington retreated across New Jersey with General Howe in close pursuit, escaping finally over the Delaware into Pennsylvania with about 3,000 men. Howe then went into winter quarters in New York City, leaving garrisons at Newport, R. I., and in several New Jersey towns. In December 1776, Washington determined to make a surprise attack on the British garrison in Trenton, a 1,400-man Hessian force, in the hope that a striking victory would lift the badly flagging American morale.

Reinforcements had raised Washington's army to about 7,000 and on Christmas night (25-26 December) he ferried about 2,400 men of this force across the ice-choked Delaware. At 0800 hours they converged on Trenton in two columns, achieving complete surprise. After only an hour and a half of fighting, the Hessians surrendered. Some 400 of the garrison escaped southward to Bordentown, N. J., when two other American columns failed to get across the Delaware in time to intercept them. About 30 were killed and 918 captured. American losses were only 4 dead and a like number wounded.

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