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The American Revolution escalated in earnest on August 27th, 1776 at the Battle of Long Island. Fighting during the four months that would follow culminated into what appeared to be total defeat for the Patriot Cause. On December 8th, 1776, Washington evacuated New Jersey in retreat, leaving the British in Manhattan. Congress fled the city of Philadelphia and left Washington in total control of the Army.

In 1776, the Delaware River was the one barrier protecting George Washington's battered army from the onslaught of the British, and it was here that he launched his daring Christmas Crossing that turned the tide of the war.

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” - Thomas Paine, The American Crisis #1, December 1776.

Using those words, Washington rekindled the spirits of his men. On Christmas night and with only days until his men's enlistments expired, he gathered the remains of his army along the bank of the Delaware River. At night and in a blinding winter storm, Washington recrossed into New Jersey and launched a surprise attack against the Hessian garrison at Trenton. This swift American victory and another at Princeton a week later marked what has come to be known as "The Ten Days That Changed the World."

Washington's tactical decision to recross the Delaware River was so important to the outcome of the Revolution that his long time opponent, Lord Cornwallis, made this toast at Yorktown five years later.

“When the illustrious part which your excellency has borne
in the long and arduous contest becomes a matter of history,
fame will gather your brightest laurels from the banks of the
Delaware rather than those of the Chesapeake.” - Lord Cornwallis

 

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