The Continental army had suffered a long string of losses at the hand of the British army and was reeling at the end of 1776. Washington had caught a break when the British decided not to pursue him further and decided to just set up camp for the winter. Washington knew that he needed to create some positive momentum to the war and in a hope that a victory would encourage his men to reenlist and get more enlistment from more men. So, Washington decided to go forward with a surprise attack that was scheduled for December 26 in hopes of catching the Hessian off guard. In order to accomplish this feat though he would have to pull off a surprise journey across the nearly frozen Delaware River during the middle of the night.
The event of Washington crossing the Delaware has become an iconic event of the Revolutionary War, with the painting depicting Washington standing bold in the boat in the front leading the charge across the river. However, this is not how the event took place secrecy was key to the whole battle plan nobody would have been standing in that manner trying to give away their actions. Washington had planned a 3-pronged attack with two smaller forces crossing below Trenton and his main force crossing above Trenton. The journey across the river was not an easy one because the river was full of ice chunks and in fact the two smaller forces was unable to even make it across because the ice was packing. The journey took Washington longer than he had expected because the crossing took longer, and they had to proceed through a blizzard. For this reason, the army had very little time to make the march to the Hessian encampment before dawn. The Hessian’s outpost fired on the Continental army but the commander at Trenton just thought it was more small patrols.
Washington had split his army in two and both arrived in time to lay a trap for the Hessian troops, Washington positioned his men to circle the enemy thus cutting off their attempts at retreating. The Hessian's tried to fight off the Americans in a very quick lopsided battle, however when their attempts at fending off the American attackers the Hessian's found most of their exits were cut off forcing the majority of the Hessian troops to surrender. Less than half of the Hessian were able to escape because of the two small forces were unable to make the crossing. The Americans only lost four lives during the battle and Washington wanted to march on to Princeton as planned but after learning that his other men were unable to make the crossing he called off the attack. This battle set the stage for the Battle of Princeton and brought a new wave of energy to the Revolution.