Founding Fathers Blog

The Battle of Trenton — Did You Know?

March 19th, 2012

I’m sure you’re familiar with the miraculous march to the Battle of Trenton on Christmas Night in 1776. Everyone loves that beautiful painting of Washington crossing the Delaware. He was on his way to stealthily approach that city where the major force of the Hessian soldiers were encamped, along with the British.

Although we love that painting, it is technically not correct in all its details. For example, George Washington never would have stood up in such a precarious position while crossing that river with its ice floes floating so swiftly. And at that date there was no American flag as so prominently positioned in the boat.

I hope you are acquainted with some of the facts surrounding the Crossing of the Delaware, the march toward Trenton, and the almost hopeless fight being taken by the colonials to the British. You should know that none of the American soldiers died in the battle itself, although two of them died tragically from the march, being frozen to death.

For more on this battle and its miraculous outcome, and the following battle of Princeton, I invite you to read the accounts in “Founding Fathers–Uncommon Heroes,” by Steven W. Allen, at pages 62-66.

By this article, I just wanted to alert you to the acts of two of the other American heroes of the Revolution. Young men who also took part in that battle along with General George Washington.

James Monroe, at the age of 18, was a lieutenant in that division which attacked the barracks of the Hessian soldiers abiding at Trenton. Their success in this part of the campaign allowed the Americans to completely take over those barracks inhabited by the Hessian soldiers. That capture included new provisions of food, amunition, and clothing which were important for the woefully destitute American soldiers.

Monroe was severly wounded in his shoulder in this attack. Monroe would most likely have died from his wounds, if a doctor had not been near the scene of that tragic injury. Monroe would have bled out. However, the doctor provided the necessary medical attention to allow Monroe to survive.

James Monroe, of course, went on to become the fifth President of the United States of America from 1817 to 1825. He is remembered for his Monroe Doctrine which enables the U.S. to come to the aid of any country in the western hemisphere which is threatened by an outside source.

Another young man, Alexander Hamilton was the captain of the New York Artillery Company involved in that battle. He partly led the company of soldiers and their canon as they were transferred across the Delaware river and became an essential part of the attack on the Hessian headquarters. Imagine the dangers of that trip transporting the canon and soldiers accross that turbulent river and marching another 9 miles to Trenton. And then positioning the troops for the capture of the Hessians and their supplies.

After that battle, Alexander Hamilton came to the attention of his Commander of the United Colonial Army. Hamilton became the personal secretary to General George Washington, and served him as such during the war from 1777 to 1781.

Hamilton then went on to become a member of President George Washington’s initial presidential cabinet, when he acted as the first Secretary of the Treasury in 1789. Hamilton resigned his position in Washington’s cabinet in 1795, ironically due to personal financial problems.

At the end of his second term as President, George Washington asked Alexander Hamilton to help him prepare his famous “Farewell Address” for when he left office. This Farewell Address was once required reading for members of Congress. It probably still should be. You should find a copy of this address and read it. In it, among many other important items of advice, Washington described religion and morality as indispensible supports of our framework of government.

Aaron Burr challenged Alexander Hamilton to a duel on account of what Hamilton had published concerning Burr’s incapacity to act as a leader of government, among other things. The duel took place on July 11, 1804. Hamilton was shot and died the next day. Some witnesses to the duel claimed Hamilton fired at Burr at an intentionally high angle, in order to purposefully miss the man. But Burr shot directly at Hamilton. Aaron Burr eventially died in disgrace.

Those are just a couple of other uncommon heroes who were instrumental in the founding of the United States of America. It is important to know about the character, wisdom and foresight of these Uncommon Heroes.

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