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Trenton | Second Battle | Jan 2, 1777

Trenton, NJ

After the stunning victory at Trenton on December 26, Washington expected a British counterattack and withdrew back to the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. With many of the state militia enlistments set to expire, Washington pleaded with his men to stand with him for just a little while longer. The call largely fell on deaf ears until the money that Robert Morris was able to scrape together reached the fighting men. This kept at least a portion of those ready to leave the army within its ranks for a little while longer. What remained of Washington’s army took up a position along Assunpink Creek in Trenton. 

Washington, knowing the British must use the main highway as their route of advance, placed a delaying force halfway between Trenton and Princeton under the command of General Matthias Alexis Roche de Fermoy. De Fermoy, however, returned to Trenton drunk and his command fell to the veteran rifleman Col. Edward Hand. Hand’s riflemen opened fire, on the British-Hessian force initiating a running battle along the Trenton-Princeton Road.

By 3 p.m., Cornwallis had pushed the Continentals back to the outskirts of Trenton. A pitched fight erupted, with Hand’s men firing from the houses in the area. Hand’s men slowly gave way, falling back through Trenton towards the Assunpink Creek Bridge. Washington, to bolster his troop’s morale, stood his horse beside the southern approach to the bridge. As his men fell back across the bridge, and with muskets and cannon thundering to cover the retreat, Washington did not flinch, sitting calmly until his men were safely across.

As the light faded on January 2, Cornwallis had a critical decision to make, either attempt to storm the bridge or wait until the next day to attack the Americans. Cornwallis attacked the bridge at least three times and was repulsed with heavy losses. Washington had again stunned the British, winning another unlikely victory. Still, the Continental Army was trapped between the Delaware River and the British army. Confident that he would finish the “Old Fox” the next day, Cornwallis spent the night in a restful slumber, while Washington rolled the dice once more and slipped away in the night right under nose of the King’s men.

Related Battles

New Jersey | December 26, 1776
Result: American Victory
Estimated Casualties
910
American
5
British
905