Christmas in America - then and now

Joseph Finlay
The first Christmas in the new nation began almost as precariously as the very first Christmas in Bethlehem. The early results of the American war effort by Christmas 1776 had been under whelming , and gave little indication that men who had pledged their lives and sacred honor would one day live to be free.

The icy Delaware River may not have been the Red Sea, but the need for Divine Providence and Deliverance to a besieged people was likely inescapable to any American soldier who trod the frozen ground that winter. Like the Israelites of old, this miraculous water crossing in the birth of a nation serves as a historical anchor point to remind future generations of Americans that, indeed, "God shed His grace on thee ." :

During the night of December 25, Washington led his troops across the ice-swollen Delaware about 9 miles north of Trenton. The weather was horrendous and the river treacherous. Raging winds combined with snow, sleet and rain to produce almost impossible conditions. To add to the difficulties, a significant number of Washington's force marched through the snow without shoes.

The next morning they attacked to the south, taking the Hessian garrison by surprise and over-running the town. After fierce fighting, and the loss of their commander, the Hessians surrendered.


Washington's victory was complete but his situation precarious. The violent weather continued - making a strike towards Princeton problematic. Washington and his commanding officers decided to retrace their steps across the Delaware taking their Hessian prisoners with them.


The news of the American victory spread rapidly through the colonies reinvigorating the failing spirit of the Revolution. The battle's outcome also gave Washington and his officers the confidence to mount another campaign. On December 30 they again crossed the Delaware, attacked and won another victory at Trenton on January 2, and then pushed on to Princeton defeating the British there on January 3.


Although not apparent at the time, these battles were a decisive turning point in the Revolution. The victories pulled the languishing Revolution out of the depths of despair, galvanized colonial support, shocked the British and convinced potential allies such as France, Holland and Spain, that the Continental Army was a force to be reckoned with.


What manner of men were these who forged ahead through the ice and darkness that the hopes of a new nation would not perish? :

Two future Presidents of the United States crossed the river that faithful night, James Madison and James Monroe. Also along with the army were a future Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Marshall, and famous rivals Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.

As 2009 draws to a close with leaders of much lesser character betraying the spirit of that night and expanding a collectivist death grip on America, we might ask ourselves what our forebears on Christmas night 1776 were fighting for? Were they fighting only that they and their posterity might secure the blessings of liberty to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness free from a King or any future governing body infringing upon these rights to live, worship, and enjoy the fruits of their individual labors? If so, this was their hope and change.

Or were they fighting that the government might one day have the power to regulate even adverse weather or provide nationalized healthcare?
The first Christmas in the new nation began almost as precariously as the very first Christmas in Bethlehem. The early results of the American war effort by Christmas 1776 had been under whelming , and gave little indication that men who had pledged their lives and sacred honor would one day live to be free.

The icy Delaware River may not have been the Red Sea, but the need for Divine Providence and Deliverance to a besieged people was likely inescapable to any American soldier who trod the frozen ground that winter. Like the Israelites of old, this miraculous water crossing in the birth of a nation serves as a historical anchor point to remind future generations of Americans that, indeed, "God shed His grace on thee ." :

During the night of December 25, Washington led his troops across the ice-swollen Delaware about 9 miles north of Trenton. The weather was horrendous and the river treacherous. Raging winds combined with snow, sleet and rain to produce almost impossible conditions. To add to the difficulties, a significant number of Washington's force marched through the snow without shoes.

The next morning they attacked to the south, taking the Hessian garrison by surprise and over-running the town. After fierce fighting, and the loss of their commander, the Hessians surrendered.


Washington's victory was complete but his situation precarious. The violent weather continued - making a strike towards Princeton problematic. Washington and his commanding officers decided to retrace their steps across the Delaware taking their Hessian prisoners with them.


The news of the American victory spread rapidly through the colonies reinvigorating the failing spirit of the Revolution. The battle's outcome also gave Washington and his officers the confidence to mount another campaign. On December 30 they again crossed the Delaware, attacked and won another victory at Trenton on January 2, and then pushed on to Princeton defeating the British there on January 3.


Although not apparent at the time, these battles were a decisive turning point in the Revolution. The victories pulled the languishing Revolution out of the depths of despair, galvanized colonial support, shocked the British and convinced potential allies such as France, Holland and Spain, that the Continental Army was a force to be reckoned with.


What manner of men were these who forged ahead through the ice and darkness that the hopes of a new nation would not perish? :

Two future Presidents of the United States crossed the river that faithful night, James Madison and James Monroe. Also along with the army were a future Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Marshall, and famous rivals Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.

As 2009 draws to a close with leaders of much lesser character betraying the spirit of that night and expanding a collectivist death grip on America, we might ask ourselves what our forebears on Christmas night 1776 were fighting for? Were they fighting only that they and their posterity might secure the blessings of liberty to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness free from a King or any future governing body infringing upon these rights to live, worship, and enjoy the fruits of their individual labors? If so, this was their hope and change.

Or were they fighting that the government might one day have the power to regulate even adverse weather or provide nationalized healthcare?