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Skip to main content. Revolutionary War. New York and New Jersey Campaign. New Jersey. December 26, Battle Facts. George Washington. Johann Rall. Forces Engaged. Total Estimated Casualties. Rev War. Historical Map. Trenton - December 26, Battle Map. The Battle of Princeton. Battle of Brooklyn - August 27, Explore the Battle of Trenton.
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Battlefield Archaeology. Soldier Life. Women in War. Two detachments were unable to cross the river, leaving Washington with only 2, men under his command in the assault, 3, less than planned. The army marched 9 miles The Hessians had lowered their guard, thinking they were safe from the American army, and had no long-distance outposts or patrols.
Washington's forces caught them off guard and, after a short but fierce resistance, most of the Hessians surrendered and were captured, with just over a third escaping across Assunpink Creek. Despite the battle's small numbers, the American victory inspired rebels in the colonies. With the success of the revolution in doubt a week earlier, the army had seemed on the verge of collapse. The dramatic victory inspired soldiers to serve longer and attracted new recruits to the ranks. In early December , American morale was very low.
Ninety percent of the Continental Army soldiers who had served at Long Island were gone. Men had deserted, feeling that the cause for independence was lost.click
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Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, expressed some doubts, writing to his cousin in Virginia, "I think the game is pretty near up. At the time a small town in New Jersey, Trenton , was occupied by four regiments of Hessian soldiers numbering about 1, men commanded by Colonel Johann Rall. Washington's force comprised 2, men, with infantry divisions commanded by Major Generals Nathanael Greene and John Sullivan , and artillery under the direction of Brigadier General Henry Knox. Honeyman was a butcher and bartender, who traded with the British and Hessians.
This enabled him to gather intelligence, and also to convince the Hessians that the Continental Army was in such a low state of morale that they would not attack Trenton. Shortly before Christmas, he arranged to be captured by the Continental Army, who had orders to bring him to Washington unharmed.
After being questioned by Washington, he was imprisoned in a hut, to be tried as a Tory in the morning, but a small fire broke out nearby, enabling him to "escape. The American plan relied on launching coordinated attacks from three directions. General John Cadwalader would launch a diversionary attack against the British garrison at Bordentown, New Jersey , to block off reinforcements from the south. General James Ewing would take militia across the river at Trenton Ferry, seize the bridge over the Assunpink Creek and prevent enemy troops from escaping.
During the week before the battle, American advance parties began to ambush enemy cavalry patrols, capturing dispatch riders and attacking Hessian pickets. The Hessian commander, to emphasize the danger to his men, sent infantry and an artillery detachment to deliver a letter to the British commander at Princeton. On December 20, , some 2, troops led by General Sullivan arrived in Washington's camp. That same day, an additional troops arrived from Fort Ticonderoga under the command of Horatio Gates. On December 14, , the Hessians arrived in Trenton to establish their winter quarters.
Donop, who despised Rall, was reluctant to give command of Trenton to him. His request for reinforcements had been turned down by British commander General James Grant , who disdained the American rebels and thought them poor soldiers. Despite Rall's experience, the Hessians at Trenton did not admire their commander. Trenton lacked city walls or fortifications, which was typical of American settlements. We will go at them with the bayonet. As Christmas approached, Loyalists came to Trenton to report the Americans were planning action.
Rall publicly dismissed such talk as nonsense, but privately in letters to his superiors, he said he was worried about an imminent attack. Rall said that Trenton was "indefensible" and asked that British troops establish a garrison in Maidenhead now Lawrenceville. Close to Trenton, this would help defend the roads from Americans.
His request was denied. One wrote, "We have not slept one night in peace since we came to this place. The main Hessian force of 1, men was divided into three regiments: Knyphausen, Lossberg and Rall. That night, they did not send out any patrols because of the severe weather. Before Washington and his troops left, Benjamin Rush came to cheer up the General. While he was there, he saw a note Washington had written, saying, " Victory or Death ".
As the air's temperature dropped, the rain changed to sleet, and then to snow. The men went across in Durham boats , while the horses and artillery went across on large ferries. During the crossing, several men fell overboard, including Colonel John Haslet. Haslet was quickly pulled out of the water. No one died during the crossing, and all the artillery pieces made it over in good condition. Two small detachments of infantry of about 40 men each were ordered ahead of main columns. Washington realized it would be impossible to launch a pre-dawn attack.
Another setback occurred for the Americans, as generals Cadwalader and Ewing were unable to join the attack due to the weather conditions. They began to make better time. Some of the men's feet bled, turning the snow to a dark red. Two men died on the trip. As they marched, Washington rode up and down the line, encouraging the men to continue. Washington responded, "Tell General Sullivan to use the bayonet. I am resolved to take Trenton. Led by Adam Stephen , they had not known about the plan to attack Trenton, and had attacked a Hessian outpost.
Related 24. The Battle of Trenton (Young Heroes of the American Revolution)
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