Here’s tonight’s movie:
IMDB mean rating: [7.7/10]
IMDB median rating: [8/10]
The drama is about George Washington crossing the Delaware River and the Battle of Trenton during the American Revolutionary War. The film opens with the retreat of the Continental Army across New Jersey after repeated losses and defeats during the campaign of 1776.
After the army narrowly escapes across the river to the Pennsylvania shore, Washington, realizing that something must be done or the Revolution will collapse, conceives a plan to cross the river and conduct a surprise attack on the Hessian garrison at Trenton.
Despite their own fatigue and the winter weather, Washington manages to lift his weary soldiers’ spirits, allowing the army to cross the river on Christmas night. The crossing is done in one night, allowing the troops to attack Trenton at eight o’ clock on December 26, 1776.
I own the DVD of this movie.
If anyone reading this blog wants to understand the true character of America, a very good thing to do is to read the book “1776” by David McCullough. It covers all of the events leading up to the crucial turning point of the American Revolution: the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776. I really recommend the audio version of the book. David McCullough also wrote the famous biography of John Adams which was shown on HBO, then turned into a DVD series.
Here’s a quick history of the American Revolution preceding the Battle of Trenton:
September 1774: Delegates from each colony met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in order to form the First Continental Congress. It was designed to discuss colonial grievances.
April 1775: Battles of Lexington and Concord: An organized Massachusetts militia (“Minutemen”) defended colonial munitions and forced British regulars to retreat back to Boston. Mother England was stunned.
May 1775: The Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
June 1775: The Continental Congress appointed George Washington as commander-in-chief of its newly established Continental Army. Soon after, British troops achieved victory at the Battle of Bunker (Breed’s) Hill but suffered severe casualties during three assaults against the determined colonial troops.
March 1776: Washington commanded the American siege that eventually forced the British to evacuate Boston. The British departed by sea for Halifax.
April 1776: The Continental Army left Boston and moved south to take a defensive position in New York anticipating a British landing. Washington had hoped to keep the British from occupying this locale. New York was a familiar base of operations from the French and Indian War. The colony of New York also had a strong Loyalist population. Additionally, the force which occupied New York would be centrally located and therefore able to keep New England cut off from the south.
July 1776: The Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Second Continental Congress, officially severed American ties to Great Britain.
Summer of 1776: Though the American were successful at making a worthy stand at Lexington and Concord as well as in Boston, they soon discovered that this was only the beginning as 30,000 British troops (including their Hessians allies) arrived in New York harbor. The next few months were filled with disastrous defeats and demoralizing retreats.
August 27-30 1776: The British win the Battle of Long Island (Battle of Brooklyn)
September 15, 1776: The British occupy New York City
September 16, 1776: The British win the Battle of Harlem Heights
October 28, 1776: The American army retreats at the Battle of White Plains
November 16, 1776: The British capture Fort Washington, NY
November 20, 1776: Fort Lee, NJ falls to the British
December 1, 1776: Washington’s troops retreated past New Brunswick, New Jersey and headed toward Princeton with the British following closely behind.
December 7-8, 1776: Washington’s army crossed into Pennsylvania from Trenton. They were deployed to guard the River for a 25 miles stretch. All boats remained with Washington’s army, making it impossible for the British to follow.
December 9, 1776: “All shops ordered to be shut; the militia to march into the Jerseys; all in hurry and confusion; news that General Howe is on his march….” Washington ordered, “Spare no pains or expense to get intelligence about the enemy’s motions and intentions.”
December 12, 1776: The Continental Congress abandons Philadelphia as they fear the British approaching.
December 13, 1776: Washington received the news that General Charles Lee was taken prisoner by the British at White’s Tavern in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Lee’s troops were slowly marching to meet Washington when Lee made a personal side trip which caused his capture. With the loss of Lee, some assumed that America would be forced into complete surrender as he was considered a highly valuable soldier.
[British commander] Howe announced that his campaigning season was over and he intended to winter in New York. Cornwallis intended to return to England for the winter, and, like Howe, he departed from the troops.
December 14, 1776: Col. Johann Rall’s (known as the Hessian Lion) regiment was left in Trenton as one of a loosely connected string of outposts which was to guard the king’s subjects in New Jersey and keep watch against an American raid. 1500 troops were stationed at this location while the bulk of the British army wintered in New York.
December 19, 1776: “The American Crisis” was published in Philadelphia. Thomas Paine wrote… 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 his country; but he that stands it NOW deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
This essay rekindled the American people’s desire for independence and renewed the spirit of the troops.
December 20-22, 1776: Taking Lee’s place as commander, General John Sullivan delivered Lee’s remaining troops to Washington in Pennsylvania.
December 21, 1776: The Hessians thought little of the Americans, but they thought even less of their strategic position in Trenton. Thought criticized for not constructing defensive works, Rall felt Trenton was next to impossible to defend. He stated his concerns about his position as well as his troops fatigue to his British Commanders.
Rall’s regiment remained alert and concerned as to their tenuous position. They intended not to remain in Trenton but rather wait for the Delaware River to freeze allowing the Hessian troops to march across the frozen river and directly toward Philadelphia.
As you can see from the timeline, Washington has been losing battle after battle leading up to Christmas of 1776. His troops are tired, ill-equipped, sick and they must be released at the beginning of 1777 when their contract is up. Many have deserted already. What will George Washington do? Is this the end of the American Revolution? Watch the movie, and find out. Then read David McCullough’s book!
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