This weekend the United States of America celebrates its 239th birthday. On July 4, 1776 the Continental Congress, representing the 13 original American Colonies, declared independence from Great Britain and the dictatorial rule of King George III. However, at the time the fate of the American colonies was far from determined, as they faced the most formidable army and navy in the world.
Amazingly, hostilities between the Royal Army and the Colonists had been going on since the Boston Massacre in 1770. The “shot heard ’round the world” had occurred a full year before the signing of the Declaration, at the Battle of Concord. The American militia had surprised the Royal Army at the Battle of Lexington, pushing them back to Boston, bloodied all along the path with over 1000 casualties. A short time later the Americans made a bold and brave stand at Bunker Hill, overlooking Boston, where another 1500 British casualties were inflicted. However, the Americans had run out of ammunition, losing their cannons and suffering over 400 casualties themselves.
It really is hard to image how General George Washington was able to keep the rag-tag Continental Army together, suffering loss after loss after loss in 1776. Despite the losses, Washington was almost always able to keep the bulk of the Army from being surrounded and forced to surrender. However, desertions were rampant, and the Americans almost never could sustain battle against the superior British. Add to that, the supposed supportive Congress was often late in payments to the soldiers and deliveries of arms, cannon, powder, and uniforms. Towards the end of 1776 Washington was facing a nearly complete disbandment of the Army, as the 1-year enlistments were due to expire and most soldiers were already talking of quitting.
In what most military strategists and historians have viewed as an almost impossible situation, Washington made the bold and implausible move to force march his Army (with only days left on enlistment) across the partially frozen Delaware River to attack a force of Hessian mercenaries encamped at Trenton, New Jersey. The Hessians were professional German soldiers, who were highly experienced in combat from the wars in Europe. Washington had received vital intelligence from the Culper spy ring identifying the movements of the Hessians to Trenton.
To add to this incredible feat, Washington had his Army march all Christmas day and night. In the very early morning hours of December 26, 1776, Washington’s Army completely surprised the Hessians who had already taken to winter quarters. It is said that many Hessians had become drunk celebrating Christmas and that one of their commanders could not even find his boots when the attack began.
The Battle of Trenton was a complete rout. The Americans captured, killed, or wounded nearly 80% of the Hessian force and only lost 5 wounded, and 2 dead (from exposure during the march). The estimated captures numbered nearly 1000. The battle was so decisive that the British High Command had to completely reinforce other areas, believing that Washington was going to continue to do the impossible by attacking during the winter!
That one battle likely saved the cause of America, as it swelled the independence movement, and support for Washington as general. It gave the Army confidence that they could defeat a European Army, and the victory kept many soldiers from ending their enlistments. The road ahead was still going to be tough, and 1777 was almost as disastrous as 1776, but the tiny American Continental Army and the State militias would not give up. Within a couple of years the British had abandoned Boston, given up on an invasion from Canada, and were retreating northward through the Carolinas.
Who could believe, that an Army that never even reached 1% of the population, could defeat the mightiest nation in the world. There is no doubt this could not have been accomplished in the time it had without the help of the French and even Spanish, but the weight of liberty was most heavily felt by the tiny American Continentals.
This weekend the BlueSheepDog Crew hopes you have a great time enjoying your family, you stay safe during what his always a hectic holiday for law enforcement, and can take time to celebrate the Founding Fathers who signed their names on the Declaration of Independence. In addition to the fun times, we hope you and your family remember the sacrifices that started this nation, built this nation, and sustain this nation even today!