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The Trenton battle monument commemorates the American victory at the first Battle of Trenton, NJ, which occurred on December 26, 1776. It is located in an area of the city known as “Five Points.” It was here, at the intersection of North Broad Street, Warren Street and Brunswick, Pennington and Princeton Avenue, that the American artillery was placed. From this vantage point, the artillery dominated the streets of Trenton, preventing the Hessian troops from organizing an effective counter attack.

In the months leading up to the battle of Trenton, General George Washington and the Continental Army retreated across New Jersey. Attempts to successfully engage the British forces in New York had failed. The Americans were outflanked and out manned. Washington managed to move his army south across the Delaware River and into Pennsylvania by early December 1776. To check the enemy’s pursuit, the Continental Army confiscated all available boats along the river and hid them on the Pennsylvania side. With 6,000 troops now situated along the west bank of the Delaware River. Washington planned his march on Trenton where approximately 1,400 British forces were stationed.

Three divisions of the Continental Army would cross the Delaware River on Christmas night, attacking the British from three directions. Colonel Cadwalader’s division would move north from Bordentown. General Ewing would attack at Trenton Ferry. Washington, with approximately 2,400 men, would lead the main attack from the north

Hessian colonel Johann Gottleib Rall was in command of the British forces in Trenton. Despite reports of an American attack, Rall, who considered the Continental Army to be little more than loosely organized group of farmers, ignored the warnings. He, along with his fellow officers, continued to celebrate the Christmas holiday, it was a fatal mistake.

Throughout the cold, snowy night, Washington continued his advance on Trenton. His planned three-pronged attack, however, failed to materialize. Cadwalder and Ewing were unable to cross the Delaware as directed due to heavy river ice and extreme weather conditions. Unknowingly, Washington was going to engage the enemy with only a third of his forces.

As dawn approached, the American troops surprised the British forces occupying Trenton. In less than an hour, Washington’s army met with victory. Thirty officers, 918 prisoners, 1,000 muskets and rifles, six cannons, six wagons, and 40 horses were captured. Colonel Rall lay mortally wounded, dying a day later. Not a single patriot was killed in the conflict.

The victory at Trenton was a strategic, as well as a military success. It also served to boost the morale of a dwindling and dispirited Continental Army and to galvanize the resolve of those Americans who still believed in America’s war for independence. The significance of the patriots’ victory at Trenton was not forgotten in the ensuing years. Three years after the battle, colonial secretary of state for King George III, Lord Germain, told Parliament “… all our hopes were blasted by that unhappy affair at Trenton.”

 
 

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2004
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: June 29, 2007

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