With Christmas upon us, I thought it time for a classic Christmas story. Yes, you guessed it…The Crossing of the Delaware. Oh? Not your first guess? Well, then listen to the history.
December 1776 was a desperate time for George Washington and the American Revolution. The ragtag Continental Army was encamped along the Pennsylvania shore of the Delaware River exhausted, demoralized and uncertain of its future.
The troubles had begun the previous August when British and Hessian troops invaded Long Island routing the colonial forces, forcing a desperate escape to the island of Manhattan. The British followed up their victory with an attack on Manhattan that compelled the Americans to again retreat, this time across the Hudson River to New Jersey.
The British followed in hot pursuit, chasing the Americans through New Jersey and by December had forced the Continental Army to abandon the state and cross the Delaware into Pennsylvania. With New Jersey in their firm control and Rhode Island successfully occupied, the British were confident that the Revolution had been crushed. The Continental Army appeared to be merely an annoyance soon to be swatted into oblivion like a bothersome bee at a picnic.
To compound Washington’s problems, the enlistments of the majority of the militias under his command were due to expire at the end of the month and the troops return to their homes. Washington had to do something and quickly.
His decision was to attack the British. The target was the Hessian-held town of Trenton just across the Delaware River.
During the night of December 25, Washington led his troops across the ice-swollen Delaware about 9 miles north of Trenton. The weather was horrendous and the river treacherous. Raging winds combined with snow, sleet and rain to produce almost impossible conditions. To add to the difficulties, a significant number of Washington’s force marched through the snow without shoes.
The next morning they attacked to the south, taking the Hessian garrison by surprise and over-running the town. After fierce fighting, and the loss of their commander, the Hessians surrendered.
Washington’s victory was complete but his situation precarious. The violent weather continued – making a strike towards Princeton problematic. Washington and his commanding officers decided to retrace their steps across the Delaware taking their Hessian prisoners with them.
The news of the American victory spread rapidly through the colonies reinvigorating the failing spirit of the Revolution. The battle’s outcome also gave Washington and his officers the confidence to mount another campaign. On December 30 they again crossed the Delaware, attacked and won another victory at Trenton on January 2, and then pushed on to Princeton defeating the British there on January 3.
Although not apparent at the time, these battles were a decisive turning point in the Revolution. The victories pulled the languishing Revolution out of the depths of despair, galvanized colonial support, shocked the British and convinced potential allies such as France, Holland and Spain, that the Continental Army was a force to be reckoned with.
Now it’s obviously not a typical Christmas story of magic or Santa or even Rudolph, but it is a Christmas story with a miracle. Aside from the birth of Christ, the Crossing of the Delaware is perhaps the most important historical Christmas story of all time. Up to the point of crossing the Delaware, General Washington had lost every battle. His men were very tired and very ill supplied. It was said you could follow them because of the blood coming from their feet as they had no shoes.
Washington knew that if he didn’t act now, all hope was lost. So, in a move that very well could have ended the entire war, Washington lead his 2,400 men and crossed the Delaware. This move and battle proved to be the turning point of the entire war. It inspired the colonist to continue the fight for freedom and liberty. And what better day than Christmas Day. What better present then that of a free nation.
It could be said that this free nation was the greatest gift ever to be given on Christmas Day. A true act of God and a clear sign that we were founded on the firm belief of a Creator and of the Judeo-Christian beliefs. With Washington’s firm belief in God, he knew that freedom could be obtained, and thus he acted.
So when we have these so-called “Wars On Christmas” and people sit by and let it happen without saying a word, then we are doomed to end up in a Socialistic nation. We must stand up for these small battles for they make the greatest difference. If we don’t stand up now when the battle seems so small, then when will we stand up. When we live in a Socialistic nation? When they kill people over the issues?
They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
We must stand up now or else we will find ourselves alone and facing a tyrannical power. As Ronald Reagan said, “If not us, then who? And if not now, then when?” Now is the time to fight these battles not just within our community but communities all across America. If we don’t do it now, then there will be nothing left, and no one left to stand up.