It may be doubted whether so small a number of men ever employed so short a space of time with greater and more lasting results upon the history of the world.” British historian George Trevelyan’s powerful comment succinctly captures the importance of the battle of Trenton.
The surprise attack at Trenton, New Jersey, on December 26, 1776, brilliantly conceived by George Washington, reinvigorated a flagging Continental Army, forced the British to reevaluate their foe, and secured additional enlistments for the American cause. Despite being one of the most important victories of the American Revolution, there are many aspects of the battle that have yet to be fully explored.
In Trenton: George Washington’s Surprise Attack, historian Phillip Tucker examines the tactical influences which shaped Washington’s risky plan, from the Scottish experience against British armies to frontier warfare of the French and Indian War, and in the process demonstrates how Washington changed from a conventional eighteenth-century military commander whose decisions depended upon a large number of trained troops at his disposal to one who began to understand the strengths and potential of smaller unit tactics.
Other aspects of the battle investigated by the author include the fratricidal conflict between the Hessian garrison at Trenton and the German soldiers in Washington’s Army, the contributions of the Irish and Scotch-Irish troops which composed a far larger percentage of the army than has been previously recognized, and the role of African American soldiers.
Tucker also reviews the leaders outside of the highest levels of command: Washington’s talented corps of the brigade and regimental commanders, such as Edward Hand, Hugh Mercer, John Haslet, and Adam Stephen. Throughout, the author traces the course of the battle at the ground level, noting the crucial contributions of the Continental artillery and its officers to the victory. Illustrated with tactical maps, this study of Washington’s most dramatic victory will provide readers with a greater appreciation for both Washington the tactician and Washington the leader of soldiers