Trenton – It Turned the Tide

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Washington’s New Year’s Attack Kept the Revolution Alive

washington crossed the delaware

On January 3, 1777, the fields around Princeton, New Jersey, saw some of the fiercest fighting of the Revolutionary War.  During the battle, George Washington surprised and defeated British Regulars.  The battle came at the end of Washington’s brilliant crusade which saw the night-time crossing of the Delaware and the two battles in Trenton.  These were Washington’s first victories against British regulars.

Washington managed to defeat the British at Princeton thanks to a daring plan.  He left a small group of soldiers behind to keep camp fires goes, while moving his main army around the British flank and attacking Princeton.  After the battle, Washington regrouped his army, took all of the available supplies, and went into winter camp.  The winter of 1777 was a particularly harsh one, but Washington’s victories kept the revolutionary spirit alive and well.

American losses at Princeton were about 45.  British losses numbered 400, most taken prison, with about 40 killed.

The period of time from the Christmas crossing of the Delaware to the victory at Princeton is known as the Ten Crucial Days.  Many historians believe that without the victories at Trenton and Princeton, the Revolutionary War would have been dead in the water.

My Trenton Visit to the Hessian Barracks

As a history geek I knew the story about Washington’s attack on the Hessian Barracks in Trenton. But while walking up to Thomas Edison State University from my hotel (I was doing a project for them), I finally realized I was walking past those very same barracks! I don’t know why it took so long for the penny to drop.

I came back to Trenton weeks later with my niece and her friend, when we took the guided tour through the Barracks. Although I took several photos inside, it wasn’t until the end of the tour that the docent told me no one was supposed to photograph inside the barracks. So enjoy two of the photos I took! The first is of a reenactor, the second is a typical dinnerware setting for the officers.

In the small museum is a pane of window glass with a bullet hole in it, shot during the attack. Hard to imagine that it survived all of these years. Just wondering – were any of your ancestors at Trenton or Princeton with Washington?

hessian reenactor

hessian barracks trenton new jersey

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  1. My husband and I believe our ancestor (yes, both of us) may have been captured at the Battle of Trenton. He was reported to be a Hessian soldier. His name was Henry Hinesman (Heinsman, Hinzman, Heisman, and other spellings). We think he may have been sent to a German farm in Pennsylvania and there “saw the light” and joined the American forces. We know he served 3 terms and had enlisted and was discharged in Philadelphia. There is a span of 10 years where his location is unknown. He is next found in Harrison County, (W) Virginia where he married Charity Coon who had been born in New Jersey. Henry’s birth information is thought to be 12 April 1762, Hessecholdendorf, Germany. Charity was born about 1770 in Somerset County, New Jersey. They married in 1794. Henry died 24 Dec. 1827 and Charity died 13 Mar. 1872. Do you know if there is a record of those soldiers who were captured at Trenton, or which of them may have been Hessian soldiers? Any clues would be greatly appreciated.

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