A Christmas To Remember by Tom Reynolds
The July 4th 1776 Declaration of Independence from Great Britain had real world consequences for the signers. One of them, Benjamin Rush, recalled: “Do you recollect the pensive and awful silence which pervaded the house when we were called up, one after the other, to the table of the President of Congress, to subscribe what was believed by many at the time to be our own death warrants?”
While independence was being celebrated in Philadelphia, 23,000 British soldiers and 10,000 Hessian mercenaries were being unloaded from ships in NYC Harbor, where George Washington, by order of the Continental Congress, had to defend it. At some level, Washington must have known that the city was not defendable against the combined army and naval forces of Great Britain.
On August 26th, the first battle began on Long Island and the right wing of the American forces was about to be cut off and destroyed. But a group of Americans who were variously called “Washington’s Immortals” and the “Maryland 400” did not retreat. Instead, they made a suicidal charge which bought time and allowed the American army to survive. For their efforts, the Americans were bayoneted by the Hessians.
A large portion of the American army had retreated to Brooklyn with the East River at their backs. The British generals did not recognize the appalling state of the Americans and, more importantly, remembered their horrendous losses taking Bunker Hill. So, they laid siege and used the Royal Navy to attempt to cut off the East River from retreat.
Washington’s only chance was to cross the mile wide East River - with its treacherous tidal currents - to the temporary safety of Manhattan. Security was airtight and so secret that John Glover, the leader of the “Marblehead Regiment” of mariners that would ferry the army across, was not told of the purpose until it was time to man the boats. The boats were a combination of rowed and sailed boats. The crossing would be made in total darkness in a horrendous rain storm with the mariners depending on their experience to guide them to the other shore.
The tides and winds cooperated for the first two hours and multiple crossings went well. Then, the tides and winds shifted, and the mariners were unsuccessfully rowing against tides and wind, making it impossible to complete the retreat before sunrise and the British becoming aware of what was happening. Suddenly, the winds died and shortly thereafter shifted in the American’s favor.
When dawn arose, Americans were still in Brooklyn, but a thick fog covered the Brooklyn side, but not the Manhattan side. A fog was very unusual at that time of the year and it hid the Americans and allowed the complete evacuation. Only one boat and three men were captured by the British.
Eventually, the colonial army was completely driven out of New York and it retreated across New Jersey to a place in Pennsylvania called Valley Forge, where things became even more desperate.
The enlistments of the bulk of his army were due to expire in a few weeks and there was little hope of many reenlistments. Not just because of the devastating defeat in New York but the army was undersupplied in almost every area; many soldiers had no shoes and had been wearing the same clothes – now rags - for months. Food was scarce. Defeatism ran through the army.
There is no record of Washington contemplating giving up. Instead, Washington gained control over whatever negative emotions he had and formulated a plan, which led to the most important Christmas in American history.
On the early evening of December 25, 1776, with the temperature barely above freezing and in a freezing rainstorm that lasted all night, the Continental Army loaded onto boats and they crossed the ice clogged Delaware River in three groups. The crossing was so treacherous that one group did not make it across and a second group, that did make it across, turned around and went back. Only Washington’s group was able to march to the attack.
Hours behind schedule, with one-third strength, the army arrived at their target, Trenton New Jersey. Officers reported to Washington that the ice storm had soaked the muskets and many could not fire because of wet powder. These officers suggested that the attack be abandoned. Washington’s reply was the equivalent of “fix bayonets”.
While the enemy was yawning and waking up, what looked like the army-from-hell had come screaming from the depths to kill them; the Continental Army was in rags with long hair and matted beards coated in rain and mud. The battle was brief and the Hessians surrendered.
In what was the potential breaking point of the Revolutionary war, when all hope seemed to be lost, Washington did not lose hope. When his officers despaired, he never lost sight of his goal. He and his army persevered and they eventually won. They set an example that should live today; we’re Americans, we’d cross a frozen river on Christmas to kill our country’s enemies.
Of late, our forefathers have come under a lot of undeserved criticism. All but forgotten is the immense personal courage that it took to sign the Declaration of Independence and the physical courage for the “Maryland 400” to make a suicidal attack. As Americans, we have a lot to be thankful for at Christmas and those that risked their lives to gain us our freedom need to be honored, not denigrated.
Luck certainly played a part in the successful American Revolution: the unusual fog covering the retreat from Brooklyn, for instance. At times, God is on our side. Another reason to be thankful this Christmas.
Today, many are dejected and in a funk over the elections. Summoning the energy to continue the fight to preserve the Constitution seems beyond some people’s wills. To them it would be easier to, in a very real sense, surrender to the likes of Alexandria Octavio-Cortez and tell her, “You win. We give up. Do with the USA what you will.”
We need to remember that many of us took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That oath had no expiration date! If you didn’t take that oath, it’s not too late to commit yourself to that principle.
Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The sunshine soldier and the summer patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country…”
Are you a sunshine soldier and summer patriot that will find other excuses to occupy your time, in this modern crisis, and let the Constitution be shredded by the forces of Socialism? Do you believe our current situation is less winnable than it appeared on Christmas morning, 1776?
Paine also wrote, “Tyranny like hell is not easily conquered.”
When we were born in the USA, we won the lottery! It’s time to pay the price of that lottery ticket. Our forefathers were willing to pay that price and we need to join with them. Are you willing to stand up and fight for the USA: its Constitution; its traditions; its future; and your family? The choice is clear - get engaged or surrender.