Mrs. Loring, stay here, and we’ll send General Cornwallis to do the deed
December 27, 2017
Now, where were we? Oh yes, on the banks of the Delaware with that blizzard blowing and the Continental Army loading boats.
Fortunately, Colonel Glover and his Maidenhead boys were in charge of this operation. These guys are like the Navy Seals. Tough, tough and tougher. What’s a little blizzard to men who are used to sailing the North Atlantic? And those blocks of ice floating down the river? Say, you wanna see a block of ice. They could show you some serious blocks of ice, ones we refer to as icebergs. Ergo, this crossing, for them, is business as usual.
Of course with the weather not cooperating, Washington’s timeline is all amiss. Make that missed entirely. It is late, and dark, and cold, and miserable by the time everyone is across the river. Soldiers strip every fence they can for the wood, and start fires. It is so cold, they constantly turn their bodies as they stand in front of the fires. No point in warming the front if the back freezes to death.
Washington and his staff take a meeting. Shall we go, or throw in the towel on this surprise visit to Trenton? There’s no towel to throw in, so it’s a go. Off they march to Trenton, up and down hills, iced trails all the way, plus navigating Jacob’s Creek makes for a memorable outing.
See what I mean when I said that painting doesn’t depict the real effort it took to take Trenton?
In my book, Big Battles in Trenton, I give many more details on this ordeal. The main character, Ell, dressed as a drummer boy, lives it. But that is why she time travels. To get not a taste of history, but a banquet.
At 7ish in the morning, a Hessian sergeant inside an outpost, looked into the falling snow, and flipped out at what he saw. Those damn Americans were headed his way! After the constant strain of a New Jersey militia taking potshots at them, and the fear of the Americans actually arriving one day in Trenton, well folks, here it was. That day had arrived.
The First Battle of Trenton didn’t take long. The gift of surprise works oh-so-well. The Hessians made a valiant effort to defend their position, but Washington had divided his army. After the main force struck, and the Hessians were intent on defending the onslaught, the second front opened up on their exposed western flank. Colonel Rall, the Hessian commander of Trenton, ordered his soldiers to retreat to the orchard. It was in vain. Colonel Rall was shot. And minutes later, the Hessians surrendered.
If Lexington/Concord was the shot heard round the world, Trenton was the victory heard round the world. When word soon arrived in NYC, I imagine that Howe’s jaw dropped. Mrs. Loring would have to wait because now business called in earnest. Pesky Americans! How dare they resurrect their revolution!
Pesky British, why didn’t they take us seriously as the “can-do” people?
General Cornwallis’ leave was cancelled. I surmise that he had mixed feelings about that. Torn between the need to minister to his ill wife, and minister to the new challenge, well, what is a man to do? It’s so easy when one has to follow orders. Believe me, his wife accepted her lot in life, like all army wives do.
Washington and his winners took over 900 Hessian prisoners, and skedaddled back over the Delaware. Nonetheless, the general knew he would meet the British forces again. And soon.
Cornwallis headed west with his army, keeping in mind his orders to “Crush this rebellion.” I wonder if he understood just how crafty that Washington guy was? Well, he would soon find out.
As for Howe, I will always ask the question: How much did the good life, with Mrs. Loring, distract Howe? We will never know.