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Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Remembering the Ten Crucial Days

Remembering the Ten Crucial Days

As many of you may know, this winter marks the 241st anniversary of the American victories at the battles of Trenton and Princeton. The Continental Army’s triumphs in the Ten Crucial Days campaign proved instrumental to rekindling Patriot morale and keeping the cause for American independence alive in the wake of early defeats.

At the end of 1776, Gen. George Washington and the Continental Army faced a crossroads in the quest for American independence. Patriots’ spirits were low after losses in the New York campaign and a disheartening retreat into Pennsylvania. The expiration of many soldiers’ enlistments on Dec. 31 threatened the army’s very existence. The Americans needed a victory if they were to survive what Thomas Paine wrote were “the times that try men’s souls” and reemerge as a force strong enough to rival the British.

On Christmas night of 1776, Washington moved his troops across the icy Delaware River to launch a surprise attack against Hessian soldiers encamped in the British garrison at Trenton, New Jersey. Washington’s plan was a bold one, but the commander knew that such an endeavor was necessary to prevent the revolution from crumbling. On Dec. 26, Washington and his men achieved a stunning victory, capturing 900 Hessian prisoners and setting the stage for the 10 crucial days to come.

After their victory at Trenton, expiration of the Continental soldiers’ enlistments drew near, prompting Washington to appeal to his men to commit themselves for another month. He appealed to their patriotism and their dedication to the American cause. He implored them to consider the unique opportunity they had to determine America’s future, exclaiming:

“If you will consent to stay only one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty and to your country which you probably never can do under any other circumstances. The present is emphatically the crisis which is to decide our destiny.”

Inspired by Washington’s words, 3,300 men decided to reenlist in order to see the campaign through. On Jan. 2, 1777, Washington’s men secured another key victory in the Second Battle of Trenton, where they repelled three waves of Hessian and British forces at Assunpink Creek, again proving their perseverance when America needed it most.

That night, Washington made another bold decision. The commander-in-chief knew his forces would be trapped on the banks of the Delaware River if he did not enact another plan. Washington covertly moved his troops toward Princeton, where he would lead a heroic charge that resulted in a final American triumph to end the Ten Crucial Days campaign. The victory at Princeton renewed the Continental Army’s resolve and ensured that the fight for American independence would live on.

The victories at Trenton and Princeton during the Ten Crucial Days were pivotal moments in America’s quest for independence. On the battlefields of New Jersey, Washington and his soldiers proved that the will of the American people would withstand the early trials of the Revolution.

On the 241st anniversary of Trenton, Princeton, and the Ten Crucial Days campaign, we hope you will join us in honoring the sacrifice and patriotism of our nation’s first citizen soldiers, who went well beyond the call of duty for the sake of freedom. Let us now secure their legacies as they secured our liberty so many years ago.

As we reflect on this important anniversary, please explore the Trust’s resources on the Battle of Trenton, the Ten Crucial Days, and the American victory in the Battle of Princeton.

Campaign 1776
The Civil War Trust