I recently read this amazing story about the battle for independence fought by our forefathers. I thought it would be a fitting story for this 4th of July week. The story also speaks of the need to be prepared and ready to engage the enemy in battle.
In December 1776, the fate of America hung by the slimmest of threads. General George Washington’s makeshift army had suffered a series of humiliating and costly battlefield defeats... His forces shrunk from17,000 to a mere 3,000 exhausted and underfed men, some without coats or shoes to protect them from the harsh winter. From his camp near the Falls of Trenton, a dispirited General Washington wrote his brother John, “I think the game is pretty near up.”
Washington needed a victory. One more battlefield loss and his army would be disbanded. His last hope - and America’s - lay across the Delaware River in the sleepy town of Trenton, New Jersey.
The town was guarded by Hessian mercenaries – soldiers imported from Germany to fight for the British. The Hessians were commanded by Colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall, a vile, hard-drinking man without conscience or honor. During the battle in New York, Colonel Rall had ordered his soldiers to slaughter surrendering Americans.
General Washington gambled that the poorly disciplined Hessians would be so hung-over after celebrating Christmas that Trenton would fall into his hands like an overripe plum. On Christmas day, Washington divided his meager forces into three units. As Washington and his men marched toward McKonkey’s Ferry, some wore rags in the place of boots. Their footsteps left a trail of blood.
The crossing of the river began at two in the afternoon. It took 14 hours to move all of Washington’s men, horses and light cannons across the Delaware. A heavy sleet storm and large ice floes made the passage treacherous and miserable. It was well after 3 A.M. when the entire force was finally after on the New Jersey side.
A British loyalist spotted Washington’s army and sent a handwritten warning by messenger to the Hessians. The messenger hurried to Trenton and delivered the message to Colonel Rall. The colonel, who was playing cards with his aides, tucked the message into his pocket without reading it.
Washington’s army reached Trenton at 8A.M., catching the Hessian guards drunk and sleeping at their posts. Riding out in the front of his troops, General Washington shouted, “March on, my brave fellows! After me!” And he turned his horse and led his men into the thick of battle.
Hearing shouts and gunfire, an astonished Colonel Rall staggered out into the streets. “What is this?” he shouted in German. Moments later, he was felled by a gunshot. His men carried him into the Queen Street Methodist Church, where he died. One of his men noticed the corner of a note sticking out of the colonel’s pocket. The man opened the note and it read, The American army is marching on Trenton.
The Hessians took heavy loses – more than 200 dead and wounded – and quickly surrendered. The Americans suffered only 4 casualties and took nearly1,000 Hessians prisoners. The course of the war was completely changed that day, and America exists as a free nation because of George Washington’s daring gambit at Trenton.
I can’t help but wonder if we as believes are prepared for the enemy’s attacks. Do we have our armor on? (see Ephesians 6:10-18). Are we ready, like Washington, to take advantage of strategic opportunities? Perhaps most important, should our Commander in Chief, blow the trumpet and break through the Eastern sky, would we be prepared to join in the battle? Let’s be prepared. Maranatha! (Come, oh Lord!)
Have a great week!