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 A Christmas tradition here

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Join date : 2015-08-28

PostSubject: A Christmas tradition here   Sat Dec 26, 2015 1:56 pm

Hello, all. You may recall a bit of history, General George Washington led his Continental Army across an ice-choked Delaware River prior to a successful surprise attack on the garrison at Trenton, my hometown, on Christmas night 1776. This improbable victory widely viewed as the turning point of the American Revolutionary War.

A popular misconception to point out first. Bought one of my cars -- the current 1995 Jag XJ6 -- from a guy in his 80s, who lives in Hopewell Township, NJ, north of Trenton. His house dates back to early 18th century from property records.

(The guy's brother was a crew member on the liberty ship SS Meredith Victory during the Korean War, which evacuated 14,000 civilians. If you want to read an incredible story, check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Meredith_Victory. A movie has been made of the evacuation voyage called, appropriately, "Ship of Miracles.")

He said that at the time of the Revolutionary War, his house was only one of two in the area, which is a few miles east of Washington Crossing, New Jersey. The other, he said, was over a ridge that he point to, which was to the northeast.

On that ridge was a tree line. Beyond the ridge, he said, was a large gully, which was not visible to British lookout spots across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. (The Delaware River in pre-historic times carved out a path south to the Atlantic Ocean. Through this area north of Trenton, there is high ground on both sides of the river. The river eroded rock over centuries, which is exactly what happened at the Grand Canyon.)

The Continental Army, he said, used that gully to hide materiel and soldiers used in the attack on Trenton. Started moving things across river from Pennsylvania to that area a week in advance, every night.

It was just not possible to move all of Washington's army across the river in one night even if the river was not ice-choked.

Yes, some of Washington's army did cross on Christmas night.

Now for the Christmas tradition. Every Christmas Day, there is a re-enactment of Washington Crossing the Delaware, from Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania to Washington Crossing, New Jersey. Participants wear replica uniforms, row replica (Durham) boats and fire replica guns and cannons.

If the river is deemed unsafe due to ice (not a problem this year) or the water level is too low or current too fast due to high water, the re-enactors simply walk across the nearby bridge.

I last went to the re-enactment maybe five years ago. Always cool to watch and think about the incredible hardship the Continental Army suffered in what was a VERY COLD fall/winter of 1776 and the incredible victory it pulled off at Trenton. Soldiers were camped for the winter OUTSIDE at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

Fearing that morale and thus the war effort would not last through the winter, the decision was taken to attack Trenton. Had the Continental Army been defeated or even if the sides had fought to a draw, there might not be a United States today. Continental Army was down 6-2 late in the third period and had already pulled the goaltender.

But as history shows, a complete victory was achieved. Helpful that the attack took place in the middle of the Christmas Party for the enemy soldiers in Trenton, largely German mercenaries called Hessians.

As the legend says, a soldier gave the garrison commander, Colonel Rall, a message that the Continental Army was advancing toward Trenton. He crumpled up the piece of paper, put it in his tunic and returned to the party. The message was found on Colonel Rall, with him no longer alive after the battle.  


Also of note, there is a spot in West Trenton, NJ, officially Ewing Township, two miles north of my house. The intersection of Mercer County Route 579 and Upper Ferry Road.

There is a small park on the spot and an historic marker that says, "A Crossroads Historic" with a short description. It is at this spot that the Contintental Army marshalled prior to the do-or-else march on Trenton.

General Washington split his army into two columns. One, primarily foot soldiers, marched to Trenton from the north, down Route 579, some as the story goes with no shoes and rags wrapped around their feet. They would have marched less than 100 yards from where my house is now.

The other column looped to the east and then south toward Trenton. This column a combination of artillery with horses to pull the cannons and foot soldiers to guard the artillery. The artillery was positioned on the high ground north what was then downtown Trenton and fired downhill toward the enemy.

Where the cannon were positioned is now the site of the Trenton Battle Monument.


I like to sit in the small park on nights when it is warm enough outside. There are retail venues all around, gas station, Dunkin Donuts, 711 convenience store, etc. But still, it will always be "A Crossroads Historic."

Got a chance this year with the mild weather to monitor NHL scores via the Internet early in the season on a few nights from the small park. If memory serves me correctly, unlike Colonel Rall, it was warm enough for me to sit outside the night the Sedin Brothers torched the Blue Jackets and Torts for Badger Bob in Columbus.

The 711 is open for refreshments. The Dunkin Donuts provides WiFi access. Have all I need.

Back to business in the FHL. Missed it for sure.
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