It's the 21st day of December, 1776. Do you know where the British Army is?
In Princeton, you say, with the Hessians in Trenton? Correct. At least a part of his majesty's forces are stationed in New Jersey.
Where are the rest, you ask?
Well, it's like this. If you are a high mucky-muck, like General Lord Howe, commanding general of the British forces in the American colonies, you certainly get to spend your winter in some other place besides out in the field. And where would that other place be?
New York City!
Here's the story. Whilst General Washington and his forces are cooling their heels on the western side of the Delaware, General Howe and General Cornwallis are in the city. Cornwallis is packing and making plans to return to London for the winter as his wife is quite ill. Howe is having a rather fine time, thank you very much. Both of the leaders think the American revolution is as dead as the proverbial doornail. Their plans are to wait until spring, and then mop up. And then, go home for good to hand back the keys of his colonies to George the Third.
The other George, Washington that is, is thinking, thinking, thinking. He knows he has to do something, that a cat must be pulled out of the bag, or he will have to go home.
The American patriots, however depressed they may be, are not defeated. Throughout New Jersey, sharpshooters take potshots at British regulars or Hessians out on patrols. I describe such an event in my novel, "Mary Stump at the Battle of Princeton." New Jersey had been especially hard hit with Hessians stationed in Trenton and Bordentown, and one of the signers of the Declaration, Richard Stockton, captured by Loyalists and placed in a cold prison in New York. Nor were the Patriots of New Jersey feeling nice about those British soldiers who ransacked Mr. Stockton's home in Princeton.
Feeling unduly confident, General Howe parties in New York with his lady friend, Mrs. Loring. They spend their time playing cards, attending the theatre and, ah-hem, other activities. Lord Howe's mind is not on much of anything that winter, except having a good time.
Meantime, back at the Patriot Ranch, a merchant friend comes to visit General Washington. And what he tells the general opens up a huge can of possibilities. One of those possibilities is to take back Trenton.
Stay tuned. I will tell you more of this story later.