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Chapter Eleven. The Crossing: The Trenton and Princeton Campaign of 1776–1777

Stuart Leibiger

Subject History » Military History

Place Americas » Northern America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics American War of Independence

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444331035.2012.00013.x


The December 1776 crossing of the Delaware River is perhaps the best known moment in Washington's long public career. Since Emmanuel Leutze immortalized it in his famous painting in 1851, the Crossing has been depicted on innumerable objects, including, for example, on embroidery in the nineteenth century, on trivets in the twentieth century, and on New Jersey State quarter dollars on the eve of the twenty-first century. Thanks to Leutze, the Crossing is one of the most commemorated scenes in American iconography. Despite its notoriety, however, the larger context in which Washington crossed the Delaware is largely unknown or forgotten. This momentous event can only be understood by situating it within the context of the Revolutionary War campaign of late 1776, especially Washington's need to recruit a new army for the 1777 fighting season, and his need to reverse the British pacification of New Jersey. After capturing Fort Washington, an American stronghold on Manhattan Island, late in November, 1776, British Commander-in-Chief Sir William Howe set his sights across the Hudson River, on Fort Lee in New Jersey. Rather than suffer another humiliating defeat and lose hundreds more soldiers, Washington abandoned the fort and fled south. After suffering the loss of several regiments whose enlistments expired on the march, and failing to receive hoped-for militia reinforcements, His ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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