Trenton, 26 December 1776: The winter of 1776 was the bleakest of what had become a War for Independence, a time that indeed "tried men's souls." The victorious British had driven General George Washington and his army of Continentals and militia from New York. Confident that the ill-clad and ill-fed Americans would fade away when enlistments expired at the year's end, General Sir William Howe withdrew a major portion of his force from New Jersey to the comforts of Manhattan Island. Washington realized his army's only chance of survival lay in a victory over the remaining scattered garrisons of the British and their Hessian mercenaries.
On Christmas evening Washington's ragged American army left its encampment and crossed the Delaware River in a driving sleet and snow storm. At dawn, 26 December 26, 1776, the near-frozen Continentals surged into Trenton catching the Hessians, weary from the previous night's celebration, by surprise. (Center of Military History,
"Soldiers of the American Rvolution" art series.)