A 1776 Christmas Miracle: Washington Crosses the Delaware River

December 25, 2023

It’s really almost a miracle event, viewed by the population at the time. It looked as if the war was over … This victory is a huge morale confidence building victory that’s going to allow the war to continue.

Historian Clay Craighead explaining the significance of the Continental Army’s victory against British forces on December 26, 1776. The victory followed General George Washington’s decision to lead troops across the frigid Delaware River on Christmas night.

Important Context: In July 1776, the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, however, the British still maintained many high-profile victories amid the American Revolutionary War. By winter of 1776, Gen. Washington’s Continental Army is in retreat as troops dwindled in numbers and money ran low. Despite these challenges, Gen. Washington hatches a difficult plan to surprise British forces the day after Christmas.

Why It Matters: On Christmas night, the Continental Army takes more than 10 hours to cross the Delaware River in a freezing cold snowstorm. Gen. Washington surprises the British side the day after Christmas, winning the Battle of Trenton quickly. Washington’s victory changed the early course of the American Revolution – and, arguably, America’s fate.

Check out Jenna’s interview about the surprise attack with historian Clay Craighead:

Read More:

A Christmas Surprise! (U.S. Army)

Crossing of the Delaware (Mount Vernon)

General George Washington and the Crossing of the Delaware (America 250)

by Emily Hooker, based in Texas