Diary

Days 5 and 6 – December 29-30, 1776

General Washington faced two major problems when finally deciding to move his victorious Continentals back across the Delaware River from their temporary campsite in Newtown, Pennsylvania. Justifiably, he felt obligated to support the force of 1,500 Pennsylvania militiamen that Colonel John Cadwalader had finally gotten across the river on the 27th and was now searching for the retreating Hessians south of Trenton. Further, Washington knew he had to keep his own force active, even with little time to rest, largely because so many of his Continentals were ready to break camp and go home after their enlistments ended on January 1. Amid bitterly cold weather and up to six inches of fresh snow on the ground, the movement to re-cross the river into New Jersey largely took place on December 29 and 30. Once back in the Trenton area, Washington collected most of his bedraggled troops just below the town along the south side of Assunpink Creek on Mill Hill. His hope was that thoughts of again facing the hated British/Hessian enemy would animate his Continentals to extend their enlistments for six more weeks. Late on the 30th, Washington tried to rally a New England regiment to keep standing with the cause of liberty. Such intense persuading, virtual begging on his part, continued with other regiments, all the way to the New Year. More than half reluctantly accepted Washington’s pleas along with a promised bonus of ten dollars for extending their term of service. All told, Washington would have about 6,000 Continentals and militiamen in position to face combat with the enemy troops, now beginning to bivouac about ten miles to the north in Princeton, once the New Year 1777 began. The temperature remained below freezing both days. ~ James Kirby Martin, author of BENEDICT ARNOLD, REVOLUTIONARY HERO: An American Warrior Reconsidered.

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