General Washington, after the visit of the spy who told him that there were only 1500 Hessian soldiers stationed in Trenton, had to convince his staff that crossing the Delaware and taking Trenton was the thing to do.
Good luck with that! The Continental Army had proven its ability to lose, one battle after another, and then get itself chased out of New York and across New Jersey, as it dwindled down to a few of thousand soldiers. In Boston, the preceding year, the army had 17,000 soldiers.
Nonetheless, Washington was determined because if they did nothing, nothing would happen, and there would be nothing left of their country. Declaring, “We will be the United States of America!” won't go far if no one can make it stick. Realistically, meeting the British forces in pitched battles did not result in victory because the Continental Army was made up of farmers and shopkeepers who had non existent skills when it came to warring.
The secret weapon was that Washington was indeed flexible, and, he was leading by consensus. His job then, was to plot a small victory, and get his staff to think it was their idea. This he did. Because taking back Trenton would be the equivalent of an antidepressant.
Here is the plan. Cross the Delaware River on Christmas Day, march down to Trenton, to arrive in the middle of the night. Arriving after dark was all about surprise. Because surprising the enemy is simply delicious!
Meantime, back in NYC, Howe is having a wonderful time with Mrs. Loring and other gentle loyalist folk. Cards, theatre, and just hanging out with a good bottle of Madeira shared around. And, of course, when a beautiful woman is involved with an aristocratic general, well I don’t have to draw you a picture do I?
Naturally, today’s Loyalists are apologists for Mrs. Loring. Yes, there was a Mr. Loring as well. The apologists think Mrs. Loring and General Lord Howe had nothing more going on in their relationship than friendship. However, they spent an awfully lot of quality time together, and Mr. Loring had contracts with the British army. Hmm. Let’s think about that. My theory is that Mrs. Loring did have a friendship with the general, and that friendship was one with perks.
Continuing on with theory, and taking my own experience in life as a guide, I would say three things were going on.
1-General Lord How thinks the revolution is a done deal. Why should he think otherwise?
2-General Cornwallis agrees, and he is ready to step onto a ship and head back to London to care for his sick wife. His thoughts are there, not in the colonies.
3-General Lord Howe is genuinely smitten with Mrs. Loring. It is said she is quite the beauty. She is probably a delightful woman, and the general is quite happy to keep company with her. Ergo, that is where his mind is.
Now, back to our losers. On Christmas day, in the afternoon, the Continental Army gathers along the banks of the Delaware, ready to load up the barges and boats with their canons, men and horses. However, the weather refuses to cooperate. It is about 29 degrees, and dropping, as the loading commences. The conditions on the river are that the ice had broken, and now mini-glaciers float down the river. There was rain, followed by sleet, and then this turned into a blizzard.
Yes, my friends. Washington crossing the Delaware is not like that painting we all love. It was a bitch of a night.
Meanwhile, back at the NYC ranch, Howe and Mrs. Loring sit nicely before the fire, sipping their wines and playing their cards. Oh how sweet it is, not a thought nor a concern over the storm or what is transpiring on the shores of the Delaware.
Too bad the general didn’t hang out more with a few of those clodhopper Patriots to learn of their determination. Men without shoes left blood on the frozen ground as they marched toward Trenton. That could tell General Lord Howe the real story about who was fighting this revolution against his king. Which is a classic piece of strategy: Know thine enemy.
Methinks Howe did not know his enemy. No, not at all. Mrs. Loring, though American, was a Loyalist. She could not help him there because she would have the same attitude towards those farmers and shopkeepers as he had. Peasants!