Trenton - New Jersey Historic Site
Battle of Trenton - New Jersey Historic Site

Battle of Trenton

Where is Trenton Battlefield?

The Battlefield is part of the Washington Crossing State Park in New Jersey at 355 Washington Crossing-Pennington Rd, Titusville, NJ 08560.

Trenton Battlefield Map

Did you know: Two detachments of General Washington’s Army never made it across the Delaware River due to bad weather and heavy ice flows.

THE BATTLE OF TRENTON

After some humiliating defeats at Quebec and Long Island, George Washington’s troops were undersupplied, feeling demoralized and underappreciated by the Continental Congress, which provided only limited support for their campaigns. Washington knew that with inadequate resources, his chances against a much larger and better equipped British Army were questionable at best. A writer came to his aid. After emigrating from England, Thomas Paine became editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine and very much interested in politics, which he’d dabbled in across the ocean in Great Britain. As the embers of revolution began burning, Paine shared the beliefs of many colonists who wanted independence from Great Britain and penned a pamphlet which stoked the flames even further. His book ‘Common Sense’ forcefully advocated independence from England and became so popular, it sold 100,000 copies in the first three months after its release in January 1776. The book compelled its readers to open their minds to new ideas of liberty and equality- and make a break with tradition. This one pamphlet is considered by many historians as among the most important reasons for the success of the American Revolution.

Paine followed up later in 1776 with his book ‘The American Crisis’, which argued for action despite the precarious situation the colonists found themselves in. As his men sat around their campfires on December 8, 1776 following a harried retreat across the Delaware from northern New Jersey, General Washington knew his case was desperate. Adding to his worries was the fact that he’d just lost 2,000 troops who’d left for home after their enlistment expired. The words Paine wrote were so moving, Washington had a copy of his book and ordered it read aloud to his troops. It begins:
“These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph…”

Across the river near Trenton stood General Cornwallis, his Army well-fed, well-equipped and confident. Washington’s troops were the opposite- many still dressed in light Summer clothing, hungry and without adequate shoes. The General understood the situation called for a dramatic move. On Christmas Day, December 25, 1776 he decided to launch a surprise attack against Hessian forces stationed near Trenton. His rationale was twofold: 1) the enemy would not be expecting an attack on such a holy day and 2) his Army would likely perish if he didn’t do something bold. With 2,400 men, he attacked the Hessians and quickly overwhelmed their positions, benefiting from surprise and a well organized assault on the town. It worked. The Hessians suffered 22 casualties to Washington’s four killed and eight wounded; his men took 918 prisoners. This event shocked the British and inspired Washington’s troops with newfound vigor and optimism, allowing them to score yet another important victory just one week later at the Battle of Princeton.

Today the Battle of Trenton is marked at the Washington Crossing State Park where you can walk the trails and stop at the visitor center museum and Johnson Ferry House.