George Washington’s Christmas Eve Surprise 

 Christmas Eve marks the anniversary of one of America’s most renowned historic events, Washington crossing the Delaware.

The Crossing

The Continental Army achieved early success in 1776 when it forced the British to evacuate Boston however the war took a downward turn in August when General Washington’s army was forced to evacuate New York. Washington set up camp in McConkey’s Ferry Pennsylvania and started to plan his next step. Washington’s decided to conduct a surprise attack upon a Hessian garrison (German mercenaries fighting for the British) located in Trenton, New Jersey. Washington hoped that a dramatic victory would help the Continental Army’s recruitment efforts and raise the sagging morale of his troops who were battle- weary, underfed and clothed in rags. Washington chose Christmas Eve as the attack date, hoping that he would surprise the enemy.

Washington’s plan called for his 2,400 soldiers to march several hours to the Delaware River and then after crossing into New Jersey, march ten miles to Trenton. As the weather turned from a constant drizzle to a raging Nor’Easter, Washington seriously considered postponing the raid. However, he decided to go forward despite the weather causing a three-hour delay to the schedule.  The crossing finally commenced at 11:00 PM and the flotilla didn’t reach the New Jersey side until just before dawn. The intrepid soldiers continued their journey over icy trails and reached Trenton at 9:30 AM.

The Hessians had been warned by a spy who had infiltrated Washington’s inner circle that an attack was imminent. However, the horrible Christmas Eve weather gave them a false sense of security. While Washington’s troops were encircling the garrison, the Germans were in their barracks, recovering from an evening of hard partying. Nearly 1,000 Hessians were captured at the cost of only four American lives. News of the much-needed victory buoyed American colonists and put the army in much better position for the long, arduous war.

The Incomparable George Washington

Because of his military brilliance, indomitable will and commanding presence, historians agree that he is the only person who could have led the ragtag Colonials to victory over the British empire. Thanks to Washington’s leadership, Americans are not forced to bow to the Queen, have freedom of choice whether to drink tea and are not forced to watch endless Benny Hill reruns. And not to go on a rant but what’s up with a country that measures a person’s weight in “stone” but issues its currency as “pounds”. Well, it’s the season to be charitable so let’s just thank Great Britain for Winston Churchill and The Beatles and point out some interesting facts about The General.

Feats of Strength

At six-foot-two inches, Washington was a giant among men. Prior to his military career, Washington was a surveyor in the backwoods of the Ohio Valley, making rafts out of trees with his bare hands. He was able to crack walnut shells between his knuckles and forefingers (BTW, a great way to impress your relatives at Christmas dinner). He mastered numerous sports including swimming, fencing and wrestling and according to Thomas Jefferson, was “the best horseman of the age.”  In his outstanding book, “Washington’s Crossing”, David Hackett Fischer states that during the march to Trenton, horse wagons were constantly getting caught in the mud. Washington continually dismounted from his horse to personally free the incapacitated wagons. Fisher writes that “it was another example of why his soldiers stood in awe of the man “

Setting the Example

Seven long years after he crossed the Delaware, the British finally surrendered and on December 23, 1783, Washington went before the Continental Congress and announced, “Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theater of action”

Washington could have easily seized power or declared himself king. But the honorable general set the stage for future American military and political leaders by voluntarily giving up power. When King George was told of Washington’s intentions to retire to his farm, the king declared “If he does that he will be the greatest man in the world”

Because of his role in establishing how American soldiers should conduct themselves, Congress passed a resolution in 1976, promoting George Washington to a new rank, “General of the Armies of the United States”.  It was further mandated that no other officer should ever outrank him.


Merry Christmas and Thanks Again, George


Ted Curtin

December 23,2017