In late December 1776, the American War of Independence appeared to
be on its last legs. General George Washington’s continental forces had
been reduced to a shadow of their former strength, the British Army
had chased them across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania, and
enlistments for many of the rank and file would be up by month’s end.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, however, and George
Washington responded to this crisis with astonishing audacity. On
Christmas night 1776, he recrossed the Delaware as a nor’easter
churned up the coast, burying his small detachment under howling
sheets of snow and ice. Undaunted, they attacked a Hessian brigade at
Trenton, New Jersey, taking the German auxiliaries by complete
surprise. Then, only three days later, Washington struck again, crossing
the Delaware, slipping away from the British at Trenton, and attacking
the Redcoats at Princeton—to their utter astonishment.
The British, now back on their heels, retreated toward New Brunswick
as Washington’s reinvigorated force followed them north into Jersey.
Over the next eight months, Washington’s continentals and the state
militias of New Jersey would go head-to-head with the British in a
multitude of small-scale actions and large-scale battles, eventually
forcing the British to flee New Jersey by sea. In this narrative of the American War of Independence, today’s guest Jim Stempel, author of “The Enemy Harassed: Washington's New Jersey Campaign of 1777” brings to life one of the most violent, courageous, yet virtually forgotten periods of the Revolutionary War.
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