George Washington's famous surprise attack in Trenton, New Jersey, on Christmas Day meant he had to lead his troops across the icy Delaware River in the dark.
From the Mount Vernon website:
By the time that most of the soldiers had reached the launching point for the boats, the drizzle had turned into a driving rain. And by 11 o’clock that evening, while the boats were crossing the river, a howling nor’easter made the miserable crossing even worse. One soldier recorded that “it blew a perfect hurricane” as snow and sleet lashed Washington’s army.
What do you notice? What do you wonder? Write a story.
What Floats Your Boat?
Washington used cargo boats and ferries to transport him and his army across the river. Read about them on Mount Vernon's page under the #4 subtitle. Consider what type of cargo these boats were designed to carry. What style of boat would be best for carrying these large loads? Consider boat design as presented by the teacher. Then, in your group, design your own vessel to be used to float as large a load as possible. Make a paper prototype, then a final, boat out of a single sheet of aluminum foil. We will test your boat by putting weights into it to see which group has the best design.
Be Washington: It's Your Turn to Lead
Get ready to play the interactive theater game of Be Washington, directly from the folks at Mount Vernon. The teacher will direct you in joining the game about the Second Battle of Trenton. Will you make the same choices as General Washington?
Victory at Trenton
Washington's "surprise" attack at Trenton was a turning point. Because of his victory here, the men now had confidence that the revolution could successful. After Trenton came Princeton.
The Winter Patriots
The video here (right) tells a more complete story about the Trenton and Princeton campaigns.
In a December 28, 1776, letter to his wife, Lucy, Henry Knox outlined the Trenton attack. A page of the letter appears below, but you may also read a transcript of Knox's letter in its entirety.
In 1852, one of the soldiers who crossed the Delaware with George Washington sat for a photograph. The soldier, Conrad Heyer, had "the earliest date of birth of anyone who has ever been photographed," according the the Mount Vernon website. Heyer was around 100 years old when he sat for the photo.
In that famous painting (under Art Appreciation above), the man holding the flag is supposed to be 18-year-old James Madison, who was shot through the chest during the Trenton skirmish. Madison went on to become the fifth president of the United States. As you might have guessed, the painting is historically inaccurate.
Colonel Rall died in the battle at Trenton, but did you know that George Washington consoled him as he died? Rall asked Washington to treat his soldiers, now prisoners of the Continental army, well. Washington actually invited some of his German prisoners to dinner before they were shipped to prison. The prisoners reported that Washington was an affable gentleman, though they could understand little of his English language.
By the Numbers
Ice Ice, Baby
The men braved the icy waters many times after the battle of Trenton, standing knee-deep in water and ice in the boats. How much do you know about ice? Let's work some experiments to maneuver our way through the icy river ourselves.