tv 1776 Battle of Trenton Myths CSPAN July 5, 2021 5:50pm-6:44pm EDT
national park service historian mark malloy talks about several myths surrounding the 1776 battle of including whether or not the german mercenary soldiers were really drunk during george washington's attack. the office of historic alexandria, in partnership with emerging revolutionary war, hosted this talk and provided the video. our next speaker is mark maloy. he is an historian, currently, working for the national park service in virginia. he is the author of "victory or death: the battle of trenton and princeton december 25th, 1776. january 3rd, 1777." one of the inaugural volumes in the emerging rev war book series. he holds an undergraduate degree in history from the college of william and mary and a graduate
degree in history from george mason university. he has worked at numerous public-history sites and archaeological digs for the past-15 years and is an avid revolutionary war reenactor. i am superlooking forward to drunk and other myths of the ten critical days and everyone get close to your computer because this is an interactive session. so watch out for some fun things to pop up on your screen. so, with that, i am going to pass it off to mark. >> all right. can you hear me, liz? >> yep, we're good. >> all right. excellent. well, thank you, everybody, for joining me here today. and yeah, like liz said, i figured, you know, well, hindsight is 2020. if only, we pushed this -- this symposium a few months back, we might actually have been able to do it in person. but that's fine because we are doing it virtually, i figure, this might actually be a great opportunity to get a little interaction between you, all,
and the audience and -- and myself. and, yeah, no, i -- i -- i wrote a book about battles of trenton and princeton. and when we were originally talking about highlighting myths of the -- the revolution. and as i started looking through many of the myths and stories of this critical campaign, you know, what i found amazing was looking through them is that many of the things that i considered myths. or, you know, fictions. they had kind of been brought up over the years were, in fact, actually facts. they were true. some of these things actually happened and we have, you know, written evidence from people from the time period writing about some of these -- some of these amazing deeds. and so, what i'm going to do today is i got -- i got 14 of these -- these myths and misconceptions. and what i am going to do is i am going to pose them to you, all, as questions as we get up to them. and -- and then, you are going
to have the opportunity to -- what we'll do is, when i ask a question, you should be able to see something pop up on your screen saying, with a question and then an either yes or no answer, as far as whether it's true or not. and then, the great thing about this is it's anonymous. so, you know, you don't have to feel like you don't know the right answer. you can just kind of say if whether you think it's a myth or whether you think it's a -- a -- a true event. and that actually helps me because i can kind of get a better understanding of, you know, what people think is true. and what people think isn't true. and i think it will be a little fun. so, but i'm going to go ahead and let me see if i can share my screen here. so, i'm -- hopefully, y'all can see this. so, yes. we are going to start off by talking about what i consider -- well, first of all, you know, we
are going to be talking about myths and legends, really. so, you will see the definitions here. a myth. a widely-held but false belief or idea. so these are things that have been kind of manufactured over the years. and then, legends, which are traditional stories. sometimes, popular regarded as historical but they're un -- unauthenticated. and so, these are -- you know, some of these things, we don't know the answers to. because trying to prove a negative can be, obviously, very difficult. and you see the image there, of course. you know, in -- on the blog post, specifically, about talking about myths and misconceptions. you know, the revolutionary war, the founding of america is kind of awash in all sorts of myths and misconceptions as we are seeing throughout the day today. and -- and the ten crucial days in trenton or princeton is -- is really no different. and i am going to start off by talking about, probably, the --
the biggest touchstone that anybody has to the campaigns of trenton and princeton and that is this image you see right here. washington crossing the delaware. you have probably seen this in history textbooks. it's on classroom walls. it's -- if you actually go up to the site where washington crossed the delaware river in pennsylvania and new jersey. you will see -- you will see, actually, an awful sculpture of it. you will see it on coffee mugs. driving through, you will see it on mailboxes. it's kind of one of the most famous and recognizable images, not just of the american revolution but, really, all of american history. and it -- it really is a -- an amazing painting. and that's going to go bring us to our very first myth or misconception. and that's the question of, is this a historically accurate representation of the event of crossing the delaware? so, you all should see a -- a
question just pop up. and we are going to give you about-ten seconds here. and go ahead and answer that question, and you can hit submit. and we'll just give it a couple seconds. and we'll see -- we'll see what the -- what the results pop up here, in just a moment once we get everybody's input. wow. okay. so we just got the results. 94% of you believe this is not an accurate representation. so only 6% do. very good. okay. so, you guys are, already, winning at this game. so, yes, this is not a very historically-accurate portrayal. and i will just point out some of the thing here. first of all, you see this closeup here. you see the sun rising. overcast die. of course, crossing the delaware happened in the middle of the night. it was snowing, sleeting, raining. it was terrible weather. and so, that was obviously
incorrect. you will look at the water here. and you'll see these mini icebergs floating down. this was actually painted by a german painter. actually, painted it over in germany and this actually probably resembles more of what the ice looked like. in fact, the width of the river in this image is -- is -- is more likely that with the ride. on the actual delaware, it's a little bit flatter ice. now, there was ice in the river, at that time. but probably, didn't look exactly like this. in the boat, you will see these gentlemen here. you will notice, right behind him, an african-american. now, there were actual african-americans that were -- took part in this campaign. but lloyta wanted to include an african-american. he was actually an abolitionist and wanted to show the many different types of people who came together in the -- the american cause. you also see this figure. who is somewhat androgenous.
the idea was to, also, show although we don't know of any women who actually participated in the actual campaign. he wanted to show that -- that women supported the american cause during this time period. in the background, you'll see horses and artillery on other boats. this is true. they did cross over 18 pieces of artillery and numerous horses to get over the river. you can imagine what that would have been like on a snowy night. and you actually see on the right some men walking on the ice, as well. and that is true, too. at one point, the river does get so frozen over that people would have been able to -- to cross over on foot. um, here, in the center of the painting, you have this -- the american flag flying. now, this version of the american flag wasn't actually adopted until the -- the following summer. and the man you see holding the flag there is supposed to
represent lieutenant james monroe, the future-fifth president of the united states. and you have washington there, in the center. and washington, you know, one of the big things. you know, he wouldn't stand up on a little rowboat going across the river and that might be true. but, you know, what kind of boats were they actually using? they probably weren't using many of these little, row boats. they would have large what they call durham boats. they would have been using those to transport many of these soldiers across and on those boats, actually, many of the people would be standing up. on those boats. because they were so large. and also, to squeeze as many guys in these boats as they could. one of the neat, little, accurate things. the sword, you see there, hanging off washington's side. that is an exact replica of the sword that washington carried later in the war. so, that's actually on display at the smithsonian. but the sword. he didn't actually get this until 1778. so, previously, at the actual crossing, he had a different
sword he was carrying. there is a great book called "the swords of george washington" that shows you that sword still exists, which is pretty amazing, although it is in private hands. so, yes. this painting you see is not an accurate -- historically-accurate representation of the crossing. now, that became, you know, other people are going to try and do images of washington crossing the delaware after the -- the extreme success that the painting had. even immediately. that was painted -- this was all painted -- that painting was painted 1850. so, you see the men crossing here. washington on horseback in this painting. recently, there was a version to try to get a more historically accurate version. here he is on a ferry barge. because he crossed at this place so he may have crossed over on that. fact is we don't have that much information on the actual
details of washington, himself, crossing. so, there is going to be artistic license in all of this. but i will say, although this is not historically accurate, i do think what it does sum up is the critical nature of this campaign. and he was painting this, this was after the revolution of -- the revolutions in europe in 1848 and he was trying to garner support and -- and use the american cause to show how these few men, you know, with the wind beading in their faces, pushed up against all odds and were able to -- to pull victory from the -- the jaws of defeat and that is accurate. this -- this campaign, battles of trenton and princeton is going to be a defining moment of the american revolution. and -- and -- and it was against all odds and washington and his band of men were -- were successful. and this was probably the lowest ebb of the -- the cause of the revolution and trenton and
princeton's going to kind of turn everything around. so, i do think it is, still, a very valuable representation. it's inspiring. and hopefully, gets people to want to learn more about this campaign. my biggest complaint is that this has become so famous that people often think of the crossing. and a lot of people don't know what he did, once he got to the other side of the river. and that there were, you know, three very important battles that had to be won. and -- and washington was successful in doing that. now, about this painting. here is another question for ya. okay? does the first version of this painting hang, today, in the metropolitan museum of art? now, you'll see this question pop up for you here. now, there are many, different copies of this painting that have -- have gone around. and like i said, you will see prints of this all over. there was actually -- i think,
it was mark twain who actually said that this painting became so universal, it was almost in every household across country in the 19th century. so here we go. all right. so we got our results. 20% of you believe it is. 80% of you believe it is not. all right. so, this is kind of a trick question. so, if you go to the met today. and i will see if i can switch it over, here. if you do go to the met today, you will see a painting and it was painted in 1851 and it is hanging there today. it's a massive painting. it's just steps away, actually, from gatsby's tavern's interior that is up there today. and this -- so this was an original by the one he painted right before this, actually, is hanging. and we have a photograph of it. no longer exists. this was the actual, original
one. and it was over in germany. it was damaged by a fire. and then, it was actually destroyed by allied bombing during world war ii. so -- so the original-original does not exist, anymore. but an original does hang there in the metropolitan museum of art. and there is a copy of it, the same size, that you will see onsite there at washington crossing park in pennsylvania. so here's another question. common misconception. did washington cross the delaware river to attack the hessians on christmas eve, 1776? seems like it should be a pretty no brainer. i don't know. what do you guys think? i will let you guys go ahead and answer that. we are going to be -- we are going to be getting close here to talking about drinking and hessians in just a second. but this is something i will often see in many books.
you know, all over. that washington crossed on christmas eve. so, almost 30% of you said he did. about 75% of you said he did not. and this is a myth. he did not cross on christmas eve. he crossed on christmas day. and this is, often, misattributed. and i think it goes to how we celebrate christmas, today. so, we often think christmas eve, the night before christmas, is when all the merriment and joy happens but washington actually crosses on the night of december 25th, 1776. so when he attacks the hessians, the next day, it's actually december 26th, 1776. so, common misconception. now, this is a good question. did the weather happen to align perfectly for the american cause during this campaign? you know, did it -- did it support his army, almost
perfectly? you know, in -- in finding a way to defeat the hessians. and then, you know, there is going to be a couple more battles against the british in just the few days after the battle of trenton. but did the weather somehow just magically happen? oh, interesting. we are evenly divided on this. 50-50. well, this is true. the weather almost happens perfectly for the american cause. now, i know what you are saying. they had to cross in a blizzard. it was snowing, sleeting, rainy. how does that help their cause at all? well, what happens is washington sets the time to attack. now, he was going to cross the delaware and they had to march nine miles down to actually attack trenton. he actually had two other divisions. they were also going to cross the river and attack the -- the hessians at trenton. those other two columns can't even get across the river because, down river, the ice
builds up so bad, they can't even get across. if those other divisions got across, they may have alerted the hessians too early and thrown the man off. so the weather just helps keeping getting washington's division across. the patrols that usually patrolled the area where washington's men were crossing. they came in so they weren't patrolling that night because of the weather. and washington is able to spring this surprise the day after christmas and totally surprises the hessians and was able to capture over 900 of them. that terrible weather helps washington that night. then, when the british find out about this, general cornwall's going to gather as many british troops as he can to march down and attack washington's guys at trenton. well, guess what? the weather gets so warm that all the -- the frozen roads and everything. they turn to mud. and as cornwall, his guys are trying to get down to trenton. you know, the artillery and the
men all sink down in this mud and they get bogged down so they come in too late to trenton. and when they had the second battle of trenton, also known as the battle of -- creek, you know, they run out of daylight. and so, cornwall says we'll bag the old fox in the morning. well, then what happens is the temperature plummets so, so deep that all those roads freeze over. and washington's able to maneuver all of his troops out of trenton. go around the british flank and attack his rear guard at princeson. princeton. so, it just so happened that the weather is gonna actually fall directly in place it's going to be able to support washington's troops and slow down the british or drive in their infantry. so really interesting. one of those, oh, it's got to be a myth. but no, that's actually -- that's actually helped the american cause. you know, it -- it's amazing how some of this -- this happens. you know? just pretty interesting.
all right. let's see. did many of the continental soldiers lack shoes during this campaign? now, this is a -- a -- a story that i see, constantly. they talk about, you know, barefoot continentals. you know, not being able -- you know, lacking proper footwear and all sorts of things but is this a myth? is this something that was made up to make the continentals look more brave than perhaps they actually were? or do you think this is a fact they were actually lacking shoes? you can see a monument at princeton showing one of the continentals lacking shoes. all right. so we got about 65% of you say they did and 35% of you say they did not. this is a fact. washington's men were terribly undersupplied. and you see it throughout journals, diaries, and all sorts of things of just how many guys were lacking shoes.
one of washington's aides actually writes that he could follow the -- the path of the continental army, from blood in the snow. from the men who lacked shoes. just shows you, like -- and, you know, when i was up, you know, researching this book up in that area in the winter. you know, anytime -- or anytime it snows, if you take your shoes off and walk around a little bit in snow. i mean, it boggles my mind to understand how these guys went through this. and really, also, what drove them to do this. you know? it really was a -- a belief in, you know, whatever their motivations were. it had to be pretty substantial, in order to go -- undergo these kind. one of my favorite stories is charles wilson peel, who actually painted many of the famous portraits of washington. he was actually a pennsylvania soldier. and his brother was in a maryland regiment. well, he is on the delaware
river and he is seeing washington's army come by. and this guy breaks out from the ranks. and he looks bedraggled. his his beard is overgrown. he has sores all over his face and he had no idea who this man was and it wasn't until the guy started talking to him that charles realized this is his actual brother talking to him. and he didn't even recognize him just based on -- on -- on how -- on how malnourished and underprovisioned he was. so, yeah. the privation of the common continental soldier is no myth. it is an actual fact and one that is just difficult to comprehend of how they were able to -- to -- to put up with that. okay. so let's talk about hessians. were the hessians blood-thirsty mercenaries? now, you see the -- the picture here. probably, one of the most famous hessians you probably may or may not know.
this is portraying the headless hessian from "sleepy hollow." but what is the -- the -- the fact? were these hessians these kind of monsters? 90% of you say no. only 10% say yes. and most of you yes are correct. these were not blood-thirsty mercenaries. actually, hessians isn't the best description for 'em because, usually, hessians comes from a region in germany where many of the soldiers came from. but there are many other, german troops that are going to come over to america to fight on the side of the crown forces. and in -- and hessians becomes a popular name for them. now, these men. you know, you will see the term mercenary used quite a bit. and they were -- they were paid-professional soldiers but a better description of them would be auxiliaries.
so they are fighting for their prince and their prince has been contracted out by the king of england to be sent over to america to fight in this war and this isn't the only war. these were professional soldiers. they kind of fought all over europe. and they were renowned as some of the best-disciplined, most-professional troops in the world. and they come to america, and you can imagine, already, i mean, just the cultural difference that these men were german. many of them didn't speak english. the -- now, all the troops at trenton in 1776 were actually hessians and many of them were -- were grenadiers. and if you ever go to a reenactment and see a trenton or see a hessian reenactor, you can see how intimidating they look. they were usually extremely tall men. and you can imagine with their repetition as fierce fighters. and there were cases of them
taking liberties. at the battle of new york, the hessians overrun some of the americans. in bayonet, many of the wounded men. and you actually -- their stories that they actually bayonetted some of the riflemen to trees and left their bodies hanging there. and -- and some of these things. yes, there were atrocities committed. but then, the stories kind of grow and grow and grow to where there are stories throughout newspapers talking about how the hessians, like i said, were blood thirsty. that they were -- they ate babies. that they were just these terrible. and the british even talk about the hessians for looting and they did do a lot of looting throughout new jersey. but they weren't these mercenaries that -- there are actually many germans on the american side, too. and we are going to get into -- into what happens.
but it's interesting, after the battle of trenton washington captured over 900 of these men. and it -- it -- it's an amazing thing, because after what happened to some of the men who were killed after they surrendered up in new york. you would think the americans could take out their vengeance on these men and -- and put them to death or commit atrocities, themselves. but washington orders no reprisals against these men. and he actually -- he sends them to philadelphia where he has them march through the streets. and people come out to see them because they've heard all these stories about how terrible these guys are. they wanted to see, for themselves, what these hessians look like and many of them end up in prisoner-of-war camps in pennsylvania, maryland, and virginia. where -- where -- where they'll sit out waiting for -- for exchange. let's go to another one. let's see. oh. here's -- here's a more accurate representation of the hessians. not the headless hessian that
became so famous after washington's irving story. so, leading up to the battle of trenton. this is a story that's around -- been around for a while and that's was there a spy who infiltrated the hessians at trenton and reported all their dispositions to general washington? so, just see if you think that's -- that's true or not. you may have heard lots about washington and spies. any of you watched turn, it becomes a very popular narrative that washington used many spies. but this particular story, you can see there was a plaque to him there actually in new jersey. of -- for his work as a spy. but was this true? did this actually happen? all right. so, about 70% of you say yes. about 30% say no. so this is a tough one. we don't know, for sure. and that's because, now, people -- proponents of this
story, the john honeyman, the story is that he was a local tori. that he infiltrated -- but he -- his actual heart was with the patriots. he infiltrated the hessians. then, he pretended to be captured by the americans. was brought to washington. washington interviews him, at night, alone. and then, washington leaves him imprisoned with a guard. but the guy -- honeyman was able to escape. make it back to trenton. tell the hessians all about his terrible ordeal. and then say don't worry about washington. his guys are dying across the river and they are not going to be able to attack you. spreads all this misinformation and then -- and then -- and then, of course, the battle of trenton happens and they're all captured. now, we don't have any evidence from the time period that this actually happened. now, john honeyman was a real person. and -- and he was known as a
torrey. now, was he a spy or not? descendants and family tradition says he was and that's one of the reasons why, after the war, he is not one of these that's kicked out of the state or his property's confiscated. and he actually does pretty well after. he was a spy. he helped washington. and -- and -- and so, he was -- he was rewarded for that. but there is no documentation to back this up. washington was known as a spy master. he did use many spies to spread misinformation. and to gather intelligence. so, it very well could be true. this is one of those traditions. unauthenticated. there is no way we can really prove whether it's true, or not. but, you know, it's really up to who you believe. and whether you think that this was such a -- a -- a secret operation that they were able to keep it secret. even 250 years later. but it makes for a great story, for sure.
all right. the big question. were the hessians drunk on the morning after christmas? this is -- you know, we have all heard the stories. hessians were enjoying probably rum and having a good time. totally unprepared when the americans hit. they are totally disorganized, hungover and drunk. stumbling around. easy prey for the americans and they are able to -- you know, my favorite meme is washington crossing the delaware. it says americans, we will cross the delaware and kill you in your sleep while you're drunk. we've done it before. but is this true or not? all right. so we got third of you believe that this is true. two-thirds of you believe it is not true. now, if you looked at the title of this, it was "drunk hessians and other myths." this is a myth. this was not true. the hessians were actually quite the opposite. again, they were professional soldiers. they were under constant attacks
from different militia forces. and nearly, always on -- always on -- ready for an -- an attack. the night of christmas, actually, like i said, the snow forced them into their -- forced their pickets in. but they are going to sleep that night with their uniforms on. their muskets ready to go. now, their officer, you know, he was known to have been celebrating that night at the home of loyalist abraham hunt. and it's likely he had a few drinks that night. but was he drunk or hung over the next day? no. were they taken by surprise? yes. there is actually an american who writes that he swears, afterwards, that not a single hessian was drunk that morning. so where does this story come from? well, right after this embarrassing defeat for the crown forces, many of the british are the first to say they were a bunch of drunkards.
they couldn't handle it. so story starts spreading, almost immediately after the fact. there were hessians. like i said, known for looting and there were some i think down at mt. holly that were actually drinking that night. but -- but at trenton, no, they were -- they were prepared and ready. but rahl, you know, like i said. they were -- they were not drunk, though. and then, it kind of grows from there. to where it's become a common myth about the battle. um, let's see. what's the next one? was colonel rall warned the night before that an attack was coming? now, you might have heard this story. there's a story that actually, while washington's men are crossing the delaware, a loyalist from pennsylvania makes it over to trenton. gets a note to rall. rall has a good hand of cards so he puts the note in his pocket. doesn't pay attention. next morning, he's killed in the
battle. and as he's dying, he reaches in his pocket, finds the note. only he read it, he could have prevented this whole disaster. well, is that true or not? all right. we are about evenly divided here. 60% of you say yes. 40% say no. so, this is kind of a -- a -- a -- you know, was he warned? yes, he was warned. there was his superiors were telling him to fortify trenton. they were telling him to get ready for an attack. rall, who, you know, who had performed very ably at the battle of new york actually doesn't build any fortifications. he says that he -- you know, he is very overconfident. says these are a bunch of country clowns. let them come at me. we'll give them the bayonet. but as far as the story from the note, this story actually doesn't appear until almost over-100 years after the event. one of the first real, what we would consider, history of this event was written by a man named
william striker in the 19th century and he published things like the fact that they were drunk and other traditions that had been passed down orally. and includes this story. so, maybe, it was true. but one of the things is rall didn't speak english. so unless this -- this -- this farmer, you know, was german and was able to write it down in german and pass it. that's the only way he would actually be able to read it and that's really the first-documented time that he had this note. but, you know, again, it's one of those things. do you believe it or not? it's up to who you -- who you want to believe from history. did the crown forces outnumber the americans in this campaign? now, this is something, you know, i think, vanessa was talking about the movie "the patriot." we've all seen it. thousands and thousands of red coats and hessians coming at
you. did they outnumber the americans in this campaign, though? you know, this is something, you know, like i said, that small band of guys going up against the -- across the river to attack the larger force. is, in fact, that the case? were they outnumbered? all right. so we got two-thirds of you think they were outnumbered. only a third think they were not. now, this is interesting. because actually, the americans outnumber the british at almost-every engagement during this campaign. now, washington did suffer a massive defeat at the battle of new york just before this campaign. his army, in august of 1776, was about 23, 24,000 men. as he is retreating across new jersey, that winter, he says he can only count about 3,000 men left. now, he had about -- by the time he gets across the river and -- and, you know, including sick and people who -- who weren't able to -- to fight.
he had, you know, 6 or 7,000 guys on the -- on -- on the southern side of the delaware river. now, the british outnumbered them, you know, in the battle of new york. but then, what the british do is they leave all these little outposts all across new jersey. and only leaves about 1,500 hessians under rall there at trenton. the only guys who get across the river and attack trenton is 2,400 men. so he is actually going to outnumber the hessians. he has 2,400 and they have only about 1,500. and washington brings pieces of artillery which massively outnumbers the hessians as well. so in this case, he actually has more numbers. at the second battle of trenton, he has almost even numbers. and then, at the battle of princeton, he vastly outnumbers the british. he has about 6 or 7,000 guys and the british only have about 1,500 men.
so, in each of these events, washington was able to basically set it up so that he -- his men are in a numerically superior advantage. now, most of his men don't have as much experience or they're not as good soldiers, often, as the -- the -- the well-disciplined, trained hessians or british. so that's going to affect, you know, how these battles could have played out. but washington always is trying to be at a numerically-superior advantage. now, during this first battle, did the continental army suffer zero deaths in the battle of trenton? now, this has been -- you know, if you watched the movie -- if you watch the movie "crossing." it's a good movie. tv movie. lots of inaccuracies but still shows the crossing and the battle of trenton. at the end of the movie, says did we lose anybody? he says, no, we didn't lose a single person. and i said, is that possible in this battle that took place at
trenton? that -- that nobody on the continental side died? all right. so we got 70% of you say no. 30% say yes. and this is -- this is true. nobody -- nobody on the continental army died in the battle of trenton. they suffered zero deaths. there were about four or five men wounded. one of which you can see on the right side, that's lieutenant james monroe. wounded in the shoulder. nearly died until an artery was clamped and he was saved but -- but nobody was actually killed. two men, we believe, actually froze to death on the march there. so, if you wanted to count those, you could say a couple guys died in the campaign on the way there. now, the hessians, they are going to lose about 20 men killed outright. about 80 are wounded and like i said, over 900 are captured. so huge disparity and a huge victory for the american cause. now, what happened to these
hessians? i mention how they were through philadelphia and ended up in prisoner of war camps. after the war was over, you know, we think of expeditionary forces. you know, the united states sends to other places. majority of the men that you are going to send overseas or whatever are going to be coming back except those who are killed or -- but -- but what about the hessians? you know, what -- were -- were they -- were they eager to head back home to germany? or do you think some of them stayed over here? so, no. most of you got this right. so 90% of you say no. 10% of you say yes. no. most of them are going to return. so about 60% of them go back. but a large percentage of them are going to end up staying here in the united states. i mention there were germans here in america. many of them actually like it here. and they are going to basically meld into the population. so a lot of people actually have
hessian ancestors they don't even know. actually, i think there was a tv show about rob lowe, who actually one of his ancestors is one of the hessians at -- at trenton, which is kind of interesting. we are getting close to the end here. did george washington ride up in front of the american troops come within 30 yards of the british soldiers and survive unscathed? now, this is a story, i think, i read in a kid's book when i was a kid that like i thought was awesome. this statue you see here stands in washington, d.c. at washington circle. and it's supposed to show this moment but was this true? did washington actually ride up that close to british soldiers and -- and survive? i'd be interested to see what you guys think. if you think this is part of washington lore, a myth? or is this, in fact, true? did he actually do this?
okay. about 60% of you say yes and 40% of you say no. this is, in fact, true. washington, who is renowned for his ability to expose himself in danger. at the battle of princeton on the battlefield there, the americans were being overrun. they're being driven back. couple of artillery pieces are holding off the 17th regimen afoot. and it looks, for a moment, like this whole campaign's going to break down when who rides in? washington on his horse. he rides up right into the men, says parade with us, my brave fellows. there is but a handful of the enemy and we will have them directly. he rides out and starts leading the men forward. orders a fire. then, rides up in between the british and the american lines. and we know this is true, actually, alexandrian colonel
john fitzgerald, who was with washington at this time, told this story to washington's adopted grandson, george washington park. he says washington rode up in between the lines and gave another order to fire. and at this moment, the british leveled their muskets. so both sides opened fire. fitzgerald puts a hat over his eyes so he doesn't see washington cut down in front of him. he lifts his hat up. the smoke clears and there's washington, unscathed, riding up and down the lines. and this was -- this was repeated throughout the army. there is actually a great letter from a pennsylvania soldier who wrote to his wife just a few days after and says, when i saw him brave all the dangers of the field. his important life, hanging as it were by a single hair with a thousand deaths flying around him. believe me, i thought not of myself. and the americans are able to level their bayonets, charge forward, and drive the british from the field. and this moment was so important, in the washington
story, that, you know, he almost becomes a hero overnight. and it solidified a bond between washington and his men there at princeton. that he was willing to do anything for this cause. and they were willing to follow him, anywhere. all right. and so, last question for you. was this the most significant military campaign in the war? now, this is partly a -- this is partly an opinion piece. i would really hope that you all get a chance and get a copy of my book "victory or death." and if you actually go with the -- our publisher, you can get 20% off if you order it through them for attending this -- this symposium today. but this is, ultimately, the crux. how important were these battles? did this -- was this the turning point? was this the most significant campaign? all right. and so, most of you are my friends here.
60% of you say yes. 40% of you say no. i am, of course, biased. i believe this is the most significant event. like i said, this is the lowest ebb of the american cause. everything looks like it could be over. if washington is defeated here. if he loses one of these battles. if his army is crushed. if his men desert. there is no george washington. i am a strong believer. there is no united states of america. he is going to prove invaluable in the rest of the war of independence. he is going to prove invaluable in the creation of this nation. and this was -- was really a crucial moment for him and a crucial moment for the whole country. of course, you know, we don't know what would have happened if these did not happen. but i can say in my book, you know, you look at historians throughout the 19th, throughout the 20th, and throughout the 21st century. they constantly are talking about how significant this is. james mcpherson, the civil war
historian, even says this is the most significant campaign in american history. and i think it is best summed up by a british historian who said it can be doubted whether so-few men, in such a short span of time, had more lasting or longer effects on the history of the world. and i truly believe that. i think that that's why, you know, if you get a chance. one of the things about the book is that it really focuses on the places you can go see today. the parks, the battlefields, the city, the footprints of heroes. if you have never been up there, you are in luck. we are doing a tour in november of these battlefields. check out emerging revolutionary war.org. you can sign up, buy a ticket for that. be led by yours truly. and rob to go actually see some of those events. so, just a really great place and i -- you know, i encourage everybody to look more into this campaign because it's -- it's
fascinating history, to be sure. so, at that, i will go ahead and stop sharing my screen. and if we have any questions, i want to make sure everybody gets their full-lunch break so we got five minutes. i will turn it over to liz. >> thank you so much, mark, for that really great presentation. i really appreciate it. the polls and, um, that was superfun, too, to play with on the back end. >> yeah. >> we have some nice -- nice comments in the chat about some experiences touring the washington crossing. one participant said he likes to ask tourists why washington didn't use the bridge. he likes to see the reactions from those folks. and then, perhaps, this will be a conversation for the panel or next year's symposium. but a presentation about the weather and just the impact of
the weather throughout -- throughout the war. >> yeah. no. that's spot on because just at new york, washington's army's almost crushed at brooklyn and it just so happens that a fog descends over the east river that, you know, hides his men shuttling across the east river. yeah. weather, you know, it's amazing and you really see where many of the men who participated in this, including washington, attribute some of their victories to divine providence and it's hard reading the actual events. and seeing that. and saying in -- in arguing against that. and i think it was stonewall jackson who said in a different war, he who does not see the hand of god in this is truly blind. and you see something similar to that with the -- with the revolution. because -- because, yeah, how did this happen? that it just so happens that it falls directly in place and helps the american cause along the way. it's hard to argue against divine providence. >> and we -- another note.
i believe maybe spy john honeywell, his house still is around in grigstown, new jersey, so i don't know if that is in your book or not. >> it's not in the book but, yeah, no, i'm familiar with that so it's great. >> cool. so we have -- we have a question and feel -- feel free, again, to drop questions in the chat. that's also where a link to mark's book is and the code to use, if you would like to purchase it online. it is a signed copy. so, make sure you -- you buy that online with your 20% off. so, our question is, is it true that the american soldiers got into the hessian rum supply and were the ones who may have been drunk? >> that is fantastic. and, yes, that is true. so, yeah, the americans -- yeah -- do break into the -- the rum supply. and, yeah, there are -- there are reported events from the time period that, yeah, some of the american soldiers were getting drunk. and, yeah, i mean, you can
imagine having -- you know, not slept all night. crossed an ice-choked delaware river. marched nine miles in a blizzard. fought a battle that they were well entitled to a celebration. but at this moment, this was when washington, also, makes the decision to march his army and all the hessians back nine miles and cross the delaware river, later that day, and get back. because he didn't want his men to -- his entire army to get drunk and basically be sitting ducks for the -- the british and the other british and hessian soldiers there in the area. so, yeah, it is kind of interesting that it's almost on top of its head as to who was drinking that christmas of 1776. >> well, i don't see any more questions in the chat. i know we had someone raise their hand. but if you -- if you type in your question in your chat bar, then we'll certainly pass that along. oh. a good-trivia question. how many times washington crossed the delaware?
>> yeah. yeah. and that's something -- yeah -- washington -- yeah. he crosses the delaware to go attack. he crosses the delaware, back. and then, spends a few days in pennsylvania. and then, yeah, is going to cross, again, back over to -- to set up. and of course, he crosses -- so, yeah, he is going back and forth, all the time. and yeah, you can imagine, yeah, in that -- that -- that weather in the middle of december would have been pretty amazing. and then, yeah. if you go up to the area, today, you will also see up nearby are other ferries that washington's going to cross, you know, in later campaigns when they're going from valley forge to attack the british at the battle of monmouth more than a year later. so, you know, washington crossing -- washington crosses many, many rivers but it's -- it's that crossing on christmas day that becomes the -- the most important because of the events that followed in the battle of trenton and princeton. >> well, i think one of the
questions for our panel in the afternoon that we'll have to drop for robin phil would be, you and vanessa can -- can do a fight club over is the southern campaign or trenton and princeton the most important parts of the revolutionary war? so, i look forward to seeing the -- that banter back and forth between what potentially the answer to that question would be. >> yeah. and i got a foot in both things because i am actually working on a book, right now, about charleston, south carolina and the revolution. so i do not discount the importance. well, we'll wait until the panel. but -- >> for the afternoon fun. so unless there's any, other questions from our participants out there on the zoom, then if you can think of one. you can always, certainly, e-mail me. and then, we can pass that along to mark, as well, to get that answer. but in the meantime, i think we'll -- we'll end here.
it was proposed, more than one year ago, by our late and beloved president, john f. kennedy. it received the bipartisan support of more than two-thirds of the members of, both, the house and the senate. an overwhelming majority of republicans, as well as democrats, voted for it. it has received the thoughtful support of tens of thousands of civic and religious leaders in all parts of this nation. and it is supported by the great majority of the american people. the purpose of this law is simple. it does not restrict the freedom of any american, so long as he respects the rights of others. it does not give special treatment to any citizen.
it does say, the only limit to a man's hope for happiness and for the future of his children shall be his own ability. it does say that there are those, who are equal before god, shall now, also, be equal in the polling booths and the classrooms, in the factories, and in hotels and restaurants and movie theaters. and other places that provide service to the public. i am taking steps to implement the law, under my constitutional obligation. to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. >> follow us on social media at c-span history for more this day in history clips and posts. coming up next. lonnie bunch, secretary of the smithsonian institution and documentary filmmaker, ken burns, discuss the complex challenge of tng