Hangover History (Myth): Battle of Trenton

November 08, 2011


Hopefully you can recall at least SOME of your high school social studies lessons, and you might remember that the Americans were getting their behinds handed to them early in the American Revolution. After some early excitement at Lexington and Concord, the Americans got kicked out of New York, and had to retreat all the way across New Jersey.

General George Washington, who truly was a great military strategist and tactician, launched a plan to attack Trenton, NJ on Christmas morning by crossing the icy Delaware River at dawn. Trenton was being held by the Hessians, who were hired by the British to augment their forces. The mythology around the battle is that the German Hessians were hopelessly drunk and hungover in the morning, but alas, for the sake of the story, that was not true at all.

A wicked snow storm disguised the Americans' approach, and a series of fortuitous decisions by George Washington & Co, and missteps by the Germans lead to an overwhelming American victory, and a turning point in the war. But it would have been a better story if the Hessians' floors were littered with empty growlers when the Americans arrived.

For more, see the gripping and Pulitzer-prize winning Washington's Crossing, by David Hackett Fischer.