Year
1776
Month Day
December 25

George Washington crosses the Delaware

During the American Revolution, Patriot General George Washington crosses the Delaware River with 5,400 troops, hoping to surprise a Hessian force celebrating Christmas at their winter quarters in Trenton, New Jersey. The unconventional attack came after several months of substantial defeats for Washington’s army that had resulted in the loss of New York City and other strategic points in the region.

At about 11 p.m. on Christmas, Washington’s army commenced its crossing of the half-frozen river at three locations. The 2,400 soldiers led by Washington successfully braved the icy and freezing river and reached the New Jersey side of the Delaware just before dawn. The other two divisions, made up of some 3,000 men and crucial artillery, failed to reach the meeting point at the appointed time.

READ MORE: Valley Forge: George Washington's Most Dismal Christmas

At approximately 8 a.m. on the morning of December 26, Washington’s remaining force, separated into two columns, reached the outskirts of Trenton and descended on the unsuspecting Hessians. Trenton’s 1,400 Hessian defenders were groggy from the previous evening’s festivities and underestimated the Patriot threat after months of decisive British victories throughout New York. Washington’s men quickly overwhelmed the Germans’ defenses, and by 9:30 a.m. the town was surrounded. Although several hundred Hessians escaped, nearly 1,000 were captured at the cost of only four American lives. However, because most of Washington’s army had failed to cross the Delaware, he was without adequate artillery or men and was forced to withdraw from the town.

The victory was not particularly significant from a strategic point of view, but news of Washington’s initiative raised the spirits of the American colonists, who previously feared that the Continental Army was incapable of victory.

READ MORE: 6 Unsung Heroes of the American Revolution

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Layne Hall is born; will become oldest licensed driver in United States

On December 25 1880, Layne Hall is born in Mississippi. Some records indicate that he was actually born in 1884; either way, when he died in November 1990, Hall was the oldest licensed driver in the United States. In 1916, Hall moved north to Silvercreek, New York, just west of ...read more

Bing Crosby introduces “White Christmas” to the world

“White Christmas,” written by the formidable composer and lyricist Irving Berlin receives its world premiere on December 26, 1941 on Bing Crosby’s weekly NBC radio program, The Kraft Music Hall. It went on to become one of the most commercially successful singles of all time, and ...read more

Christ is born?

Although most Christians celebrate December 25 as the birthday of Jesus Christ, few in the first two Christian centuries claimed any knowledge of the exact day or year in which he was born. The oldest existing record of a Christmas celebration is found in a Roman almanac that ...read more

The Christmas Truce

Just after midnight on Christmas morning, the majority of German troops engaged in World War I cease firing their guns and artillery and commence to sing Christmas carols. At certain points along the eastern and western fronts, the soldiers of Russia, France, and Britain even ...read more

Katie Hnida is first woman to play in Division I football game

On December 25, 2002, the University of New Mexico junior place-kicker Katie Hnida attempts to kick an extra point in a game against UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl. Though her kick was blocked by UCLA, Hnida became the first woman to play in a Division I football game. Hnida was the ...read more

John Wesley Hardin kills over a card game

Angered over a card game dispute, 16-year-old John Wesley Hardin reveals a singular lack of Christmas spirit by shooting James Bradley dead in the street. Although less famous than Billy the Kid, Jesse James, or Wyatt Earp, John Wesley Hardin is believed to hold the gunslinger’s ...read more

“To Kill a Mockingbird” opens in theaters

On December 25, 1962, To Kill a Mockingbird, a film based on the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Harper Lee, opens in theaters. The Great Depression-era story of racial injustice and the loss of childhood innocence is told from the perspective of a young ...read more

Six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey is murdered

Six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey is killed in her Boulder, Colorado, home. John and Patsy Ramsey, her parents, called police at 5:52 the following morning to report that their daughter was missing. Although police found a ransom note demanding $118,000, the money would never be ...read more

Gorbachev resigns as president of the USSR

Mikhail Gorbachev announces that he is resigning as president of the Soviet Union. In truth, there was not much of a Soviet Union from which to resign—just four days earlier, 11 of the former Soviet republics had established the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), ...read more