The Battle of Trenton
Written by Peter Fitzgerald
American Wars - War of independence
The Battle of Trenton was one of a series of battles that occurred between the British and Americans during the American Revolutionary War, also known as the American War of Independence.
This was a battle that happened over the Christmas period of 1776 and caused a long lasting impact which helped the Americans win the war overall and gain independence from the British.
For those that enjoy history and wonder about the Battle of Trenton there is a great deal of information that many do not know about. This information shows the prelude to the battle and the battle itself.
Prior to the Battle of Trenton
In the August before the battle of Trenton the Americans had suffered a huge defeat at the Battle of Long Island in New York. After this battle the Americans felt deflated and were starting to believe that they could potentially not beat the British.
There were a few in the American hierarchy who were still under the belief that the British could be beaten and that it would require a strong battle plan. These strong minded individuals were George Washington, the overall American commander, and his Generals called General John Cadwalader, General Greene and General James Ewing.
The Americans forged their plan and decided they were going to attack the British. The plan was to attack the British from three sides with diversionary attacks to throw the British off the scent and cause confusion.
A week before the battle commenced the Americans brought their soldiers to the Trenton area and started ambushing the Hessian contingent and the supporting British; this made the Hessian commander send a letter to the British advising them of the situation.
While all this was going on another American General called General Sullivan joined the forces with 2,000 men. Sullivan had a reason to want to be involved as he was part of the force that was beaten at the Battle for Long Island.
Prior to the battle the American contingent broke up into their three formations, this meant that General Washington took his men back over the Delaware River while Generals Greene and Sullivan stayed put ready for the attack to begin. All Generals knew the code word for the attack to start which was “Victory or Death”.
The Battle of Trenton
Washington and his men were the first to engage in their assault, this assault started with Washington riding in front of his men as they engaged a Hessian outpost. The Hessian commander came out and was fired at, he shouted the enemy was upon them and his men came out, the Americans opened fire with three volleys with one returned by the Hessian soldiers. Washington sent a group of German speaking men to block the road and another outpost held by Hessians was attacked.
The Hessian men realised the attack was a large one so they all retreated into an orderly fashion until they met a Hessian Regiment on higher ground and continued the retreat, firing as they went.
The retreating Hessian soldiers made it back to Trenton where they gained covering fire from the rest of their group.
While this was happening General Sullivan took his men around the back of Trenton and entered via a small road, his forces then blocked the only other escape route to block and retreat out of Trenton by the Hessian forces. After this General Sullivan then started his advance when he knew Greene had placed the third prong of the attack in the north ready for action.
As Sullivan continued his advance a small group of Hessian troops came out to attack but seeing the size of the American force in front of them quickly retreated. The Americans then started their artillery bombardment.
A group of Hessian soldiers and the supporting British with them escaped from the battle over a bridge or by attempting to swim the river when they saw the huge formation of Americans attacking them.
The rest of the Hessian troops prepared for battle but they were quickly stopped in their tracks by American fire which caused them to break rank and flee. Rall, the Hessian leader called up their cannon but the Americans decimated those manning the cannon in a matter of minutes.
Sullivans men who were still in the south of town started taking control of their battle with the Hessian troops. While this happened another American contingent led a bayonet charge causing Hessians to flee in the direction of Sullivan and his troops who cut them off.
The Hessian force was reorganizes by Rall and a final attack by the Hessian troops was put in place, this attack was fruitless and the Americans quickly surrounded them causing surrender.
The battle finishes in a resounding victory for the American forces as they only had two killed while the Hessians and British suffered 22 killed and 83 wounded and 896 captured.
This battle was the first time that the Americans were able to beat the British and their allies and it meant the Americans gained confidence in knowing that their cause was possible. This victory meant that the numbers enlisting swelled for the Continental Army and desertion reduced dramatically.