Feb. 22, President George Washington’s birthday, and along with it a legend that continues to captivate. After crossing the Delaware on Dec. 25, 1776, Washington embarked on a 10-day campaign that would turn the tide of the Revolutionary War.
It would take the Battle of Princeton on Jan. 3, 1777 to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. That battle on a bloodstained, snow covered field, was salvaged at sword’s point by the great general himself.
Sometimes forgotten are the nearly 100 days before.
From the shores of Brooklyn, Washington faced a British armada.
While 400 men from Maryland held the British, the rest of his army retreated and scattered. Washington was totally out gunned. Under a providential fog, he crossed New York and New Jersey to reach the safety of the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware.
All that was left were prayers that the British would not attack again.
While we would like to think of the American Revolutionary War as a team effort, politicians are not well known for their courage or virtue in times of struggle.
Once the coffers were empty, there went the funding of the Continental Army. Congress had packed up and left Philadelphia, and Washington could not secure more troops. While much of the political class were on furlough.
Washington alone carried the American cause on horseback, as he asked for the loyalty of his remaining two or three thousand troops, and guaranteed payment to keep what was left of their fading fighting spirit
Washington understood the dire conditions.
Although he was eventually joined by Generals Greene and Sullivan, for good reason Sullivan was reluctant to fight.
Washington went with a small patrol down the bank of the frozen river, close enough to view the Hessian camp on the other side in Trenton.
Smoke, drinking, laughter and a lot of guns — Christmas Eve revelry. It was a chance to strike, but, more important, a chance to resupply his army to fight another day.
While many will say that Washington was merely a pragmatic Deist and not a man with an active faith, his personal writings seem to belie that. True, Washington was a resourceful man, and quite connected to terra firma as a fighting general, but when it came to understanding his role in Providence, he was quite the believer.
If for no other reason than "we must submit, whilst we hope that the injustice of our Cause if War, must ensue, will entitle us to its Protection."
There was no time to wait, snow was falling and the divine clock ticking.
Washington led his tattered, shoeless men and battered cannons across the icy river in boats to begin a 19-mile march toward Trenton in a freezing storm.
Washington was a man who recognized the moment in history.
Without a move now, the cause would be lost. He would look back in 1789 and write in a letter to Samuel Langdon, "The Man must be bad indeed who can look upon the events of the American Revolution without feeling the warmest gratitude towards the great Author of the Universe."
The Hessians were asleep, but the Continental army was late and without the cover of night. Even with a diminished chance of a surprise attack, this hungry militia routed the camp without losing one man.
Washington’s desperate mission from heaven paid off, knowing that it was one fleeting moment of victory.
He commanded his men to cross back over the river with the supplies. It was a chance to rest, but not for long.
Supplies in hand, Washington could have dug in over the winter and regrouped with a larger force, perhaps even with some support from the politicians.
Instead, in an even bolder move, Washington attacked Trenton again on Jan. 2, with the hope of inviting the British to take him on. It was a resounding statement to the Congress: this is possible and we can win!
Facing General Howe in Trenton was no easy task but providence intruded again with freezing cold weather, making it easier for his army to move across the tundra.
When the British were spotted in Princeton, Washington detached a brigade to engage them and ordered General Cadwalader’s troops to plug the gap.
With victory, hanging in the balance, Washington personally led his fresh troops onto the field while grapeshot forced the British back.
Washington, as if an 18th-century Cincinnatus (Washington’s model citizen), embodied the emerging American spirit and infused his troops with belief in Independence.
For the first time if it was the Continental Army that would triumph and gain the support of the Congress before the British general, Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown. The general would write,
"Providence, to whom we are infinitely more indebted than we are to our own wisdom, or our own exertions, has always displayed its power and goodness, when clouds and thick darkness seemed ready to overwhelm us." ~ George Washington
Even in our highly charged political world, which might try to erase heroic acts, it would be wise to not only give the great general and president his due, but to remember those few thousand faithful soldiers, a timely snow and heavy fog. Without them there would be no United States of America.
Robert Orlando is a filmmaker, an author, an entrepreneur and a scholar. As an entrepreneur, he founded Nexus Media. As a scholar, he has in-depth knowledge of ancient and modern history and politics. As an award-winning writer/director, his latest films are the thought-provoking documentaries "Apostle Paul: A Polite Bribe," "Silence Patton," and the new release, "The Divine Plan: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Dramatic End of the Cold War." His books include "Apostle Paul: A Polite Bribe" and, as co-author, "The Divine Plan." His work was published in "Writing Short Scripts" and he has written numerous articles on a wide range of topics for HuffPost, Patheos and Daily Caller. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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