When All Seems Bleak, Look to 1777

‘Times that try men's souls’ gave way to hope and optimism

"Washington Crossing the Delaware" by Emanuel Leutze, 1851. (Public domain)

’Twas the early evening of Christmas Day in 1776 and Gen. George Washington was on the verge of losing the Revolutionary War. His armies felt defeated and discouraged, his countrymen had lost confidence in his abilities, his adjutant-general Joseph Reed had conspired against him, his second in command Charles Lee had been captured two weeks prior on Friday the 13th, and Gen. Horatio Gates was off currying favor at his expense with the Continental Congress, which had fled Philadelphia for Baltimore days earlier.

A Desperate Gamble

With his men’s enlistments expiring in one week, Washington had no choice but to risk everything on a desperate gamble he hoped would save the cause. His plan was to split up the approximately 5,000 men left under his command into three coordinated strike teams, cross the Delaware River, surround the Hessian-occupied town of Trenton, and attack an hour before sunrise.