23 Dec 2018

Ten Crucial Days

Ten Crucial Days

This winter marks the 242nd anniversary of the American victories at the battles of Trenton and Princeton. The Continental Army's triumphs in the Ten Crucial Days campaign were instrumental to rekindling Patriot morale and keeping the cause for American independence alive in the wake of early defeats.

During the final days 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. The events and battles that ensued during the Ten Crucial Days proved to be pivotal moments in America's quest for independence.

As we approach the 242nd anniversary of Trenton, Princeton and the Ten Crucial Days campaign, we hope you will reflect on these important events in our nation's history. See below for resources to trace the battles, events and people that defined our nation.

Washington's Crossing

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.

A Second Success at Trenton

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. Inspired by Washington, 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.

Onward to Princeton

The night of the victory at Second Trenton, 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.

First Citizen Soldiers

Our nation's first citizen soldiers went well beyond the call of duty for the sake of freedom. We salute them for their patriotism and sacrifice. In this In4, American Battlefield Trust President Jim Lighthizer gives a passionate address on the normal, everyday people that risked their lives to create the America that we have today.

Saving the Ten Crucial Days

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. This year, our supporters helped to secure a major victory on the Princeton battlefield: preserving the 15-acre Washington's Charge Site. Over 8,000 individuals from around the globe donated to this historic effort. We cannot thank you enough.

Planning A Visit?

The sites of the Ten Crucial Days Campaign are some of the most iconic, important places in American history. These battlefields and landmarks set the stage for our independence and defined our national identity. If you're planning a trip, we have assembled an agenda with helpful tips, online materials and maps to guide your journey. We hope you get the opportunity to visit and experience the history first-hand.

American Battlefield Trust

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