There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. — Mark Twain

America First - Lawton Evans

Capturing the Hessians

It was a cold December night, and the little army of General Washington stood upon the banks of the Delaware River, getting ready to cross its icy waters. The men were cold and hungry, tired and discouraged. It seemed as if the war would be lost for lack of men and supplies. The whole country was downhearted.

Not so General Washington. He knew that one victory would raise the hope of the troops and the country, and he proposed to start winning it that night. Over at Trenton were a thousand hired Hessian soldiers, celebrating Christmas. Washington determined to be on hand at the celebration.

"Courage, my men," he cried. "Tomorrow will be a great day, if you can stand this night."

The men got into the boats, and took the oars. Blocks of ice floated by over the frozen river. The wind blew keen and cold. The men shivered and shook, as they steered their boat amid the perils that surrounded them.

At last they were over. What stamping of feet and blowing of hands to keep warm! Then came the long march of nine miles to Trenton, through a blinding snow-storm. Hour after hour passed, while the men stumbled and fell and got up and trudged on and on. No soldiers, except those fighting for home and country and freedom, could have endured through that march. But at last the almost exhausted army came to Trenton.

In the meantime, the hired soldiers of the King of England had been having a great time, drinking and feasting and boasting of what they would do to Washington's army when next they met. The Hessian Commander at Trenton was named Rall. He had made his headquarters in the house of a merchant, one Abraham Hunt. Rail was very fond of drinking and playing cards. On Christmas night, he and Hunt were in a warm room, before a big fire, with plenty to eat and drink at hand; a game of cards was in progress. Just at this moment Washington's army was crossing the Delaware, amid the snow and ice.

A servant came in and handed Rail a note. He thrust it into his pocket, saying, "I will read it later on." But it so happened that he forgot the note, and went on playing cards and drinking. Late in the night, he went to bed and slept, and all the while Washington was drawing closer and closer through the blinding snow!

The next day, Washington was before Trenton. The sun was shining, and his troops were eager and ready for battle. Bursting upon the unsuspecting Hessians, the great battle of Trenton began. It did not last long. All the Hessians, one thousand in number, surrendered, after a hundred had been killed. Washington lost four men, two frozen to death and two killed.

Rail was mortally wounded, and borne to a tavern nearby. It was then that he thought of the note in his pocket, and asked for it. When it was opened it was found to contain a warning of the plans of Washington, which had been sent by a Tory, and delivered to a servant in Hunt's house. What a difference in the history of our country, if the note had been read in time for the Hessians to have met Washington on his way to Trenton!

It was a great American victory, and brought a happy Christmas season to the Colonies when it became known.


Front Matter

Leif, the Lucky
Spaniards Conquer Mexico
Conquest of Peru
The Fountain of Youth
De Soto and the Mississippi
Sir Walter Raleigh
The Lost Colony
Adventures of John Smith
More about John Smith
Pilgrims and Puritans
Miles Standish
Building a Canoe
Roger Williams
Old Silver Leg
William Penn
The Charter Oak
Bloody Marsh
Saving of Hadley
Sir William Phips
Hannah Dustin
Israel Putnam
A Young Surveyor
Young Washington
Indians and Major Putnam
How Detroit was Saved
Blackbeard the Pirate
Daniel Boone
Sunday in the Colonies
The Salem Witches
Traveling by Stage-coach
King George and the Colonies
Patrick Henry
Paul Revere
Green Mountain Boys
Father of his Country
Nathan Hale
Elizabeth Zane
Capturing the Hessians
Lafayette Comes to America
Lydia Darrah
Captain Molly Pitcher
The Swamp Fox
Outwitting a Tory
Supporting the Colors
Nancy Hart
Mad Anthony
Execution of Major Andre
How Schuyler was Saved
An Indian Trick
Winning the Northwest
Benjamin Franklin
Nolichucky Jack
Eli Whitney
Thomas Jefferson
Burning of the Philadelphia
Lewis and Clark
Colter's Race for Life
Pike Explores Arkansas Valley
How Pumpkins Saved a Family
Old Ironsides
Star Spangled Banner
Traveling by Canal
Lafayette Returns
Osceola, Seminole Chief
Journey by Railroad
Old Hickory
Daniel Webster
Henry Clay
Plantation Christmas
John C. Calhoun
Heroes of the Alamo
Freedom for Texas
Electric Telegraph
Gold in California
Crossing Continent
The Pony Express
Boy Who Saved Village
Rescue of Jerry
Abraham Lincoln
Robert E. Lee
Stonewall Jackson
Stealing a Locomotive
Sam Davis
Escape from Prison
Running the Blockade
Heart of the South
Surrender of Lee
Laying the Atlantic Cable
The Telephone
Thomas A. Edison
Clara Barton
Hobson and the Merrimac
Dewey at Manila Bay
Conquering Yellow Fever
Sinking of Lusitania
Private Treptow
Frank Luke, Aviator
Sergeant York