The German Hessian troops had occupied Trenton since December 14, 1776, while Gen. George Washington and the Continental Army encamped on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, following their retreat across New Jersey beginning in Fort Lee on November 20. On the morning after the famous Christmas night crossing of the Delaware River by Gen. Washington and his troops, the Americans surprised the Hessian Troops.
Gen. Washington's plan was to arrive in Trenton before dawn, under the cover of darkness, so as to surprise the Hessians. However, they had difficulties crossing the Delaware River through the snow and arrived late. Fortunately for Gen. Washington's army, the surprise had been maintained. The Hessians were caught off guard by the attack and defeated decisively.
The American victory cost only several American casualties but inflicted substantial casualties to the Hessians: 22 dead, 83 wounded, and approximately 900 taken as prisoners of war. Among the Hessian casualties was their Commanding Officer, Col. Johann Gottlieb Rall.
The victory at the first Battle of Trenton turned around the face of the war. After months of defeat and retreat for the American Army, this victory changed the morale of both the army and the country. It was followed up over the next ten days by additional victories at the Second Battle of Trenton and the Battle of Princeton.
Today, see the Trenton Battle Monument staue at the site where the American army was positioned, as it was the high ground and offered an excellent position for the cannons to fire down on the Hessian army. Stop by the Old Barracks Museum, which provides tours and interpretations of American colonial life with artifacts and weapons, and a gift shop.
Every December the commemorate these battles, the Trenton Downtown Association hosts Patriots Week held during the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve. It attracts thousands of visitors full of art, music, literature, and living history events. The week ends with the Battle of Trenton Reenactment, where you follow the troops through the streets and watch as they relive the events of these fateful battles.
* 2019 Patriots Week will take place December 26 - 31, 2019, featuring musket demonstrations, Colonial Ball (12/27), battle re-enactments (12/28), educational programming, puppet shows and more. Be sure to visit The Old Barracks Museum, which will be open for tours December 26-28 and 30-31 from 10 am - 5 pm to get an insider's look at Trenton's role in the American Revolutionary War.