Battle of Trenton, 1776



26 DECEMBER 1776


Washington crosses the Delaware River with 2,400 troops to surprise attack 3 regiments of Hessians and an unit of British Light Dragoons in the pre-dawn hours of Christmas night in Trenton, New Jersey

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, 1851, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public Domain



After suffering defeat in New York, American General George Washington regrouped near the Delaware River and received reinforcements.  Using river barges, Washington and his 2,400 men crossed the icy Delaware River after midnight on 26 December 1776 to surprise attack 3 Hessian regiments of 1,400 troops under the command of Colonel Johann Rall.  The British 16th (Queen’s) Light Dragoons fled Trenton at the outset of hostilities and did not participate in the battle.



Trenton, New Jersey, United States



Led by

Colonel Johann Rall (Killed in Action)

Lieutenant Colonel Balthasar Brethauer (died as prisoner of war)

Lieutenant Colonel Francis Scheffer (captured)

Major Friedrich von Dechow (Killed in Action)

Captain Ludwig Lowenstein (Killed in Action)

Lieutenant Andreas Wiederholdt

Lieutenant Friedrich von Grothausen (Killed in Action)

Supported by

British 16th (Queen’s) Light Dragoons



Led by

General George Washington

Major General Nathanael Greene

Major General John Sullivan

Brigadier General Henry Knox

Colonel Edward Hand

Captain William Washington (2nd cousin of George Washington) (Wounded in action)

 Lieutenant James Monroe (later, fifth President of the United States, 1817-1825) (Wounded in action)

Captain Alexander Hamilton (later, first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, 1801-1809)



A major actual and moral victory for the Americans.



The Hessians suffered 22 killed in action, 83 wounded, and 891 captured.  The Americans had none killed and only 4 wounded—one of which was Captain William Washington (2nd cousin on George Washington) and Lieutenant James Monroe (future President of the United States).  Colonel Rall was killed in action and his second in command, Lieutenant Colonel Balthasar Brethauer, later died a prisoner of war.  Two captured Hessians, Ensigns Carl Friedrich Führer and Carl Wilhelm Kleinschmit, later deserted after being paroled as prisoners of war and received commissions as Captains in the Continental Army.  These commissions were later rescinded by the Continental Congress and their attempts to rejoin the British Army were rejected.  Führer lived the remainder of his life in the United States and eventually received a pension from the Virginia Legislature for his service after claiming to have led troops in that state.  Prince Frederick Wilhelm II later convened a court-martial and found Colonel Rall posthumously guilty of failing to fortify Trenton.



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