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Washington Refuses to be Beaten

 

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Each year, as Christmas is approaching, I think of a Christmas long ago in 1776.  The year in which we declared our independence from Great Britain was a year of military disaster for the United States.  Washington and his troops had been beaten time after time, and as the end of the year approached the Revolution seemed to be dying.  The British controlled New York, the largest city in the colonies and the major port.  New Jersey had been conquered.  The Continental Congress was in flight from Philadelphia, in expectation that the British would next move on that city.  Washington’s army had been reduced to around 5,000 ill-clad and ill-fed poorly trained troops, vastly outnumbered by their British adversaries and their Hessian mercenaries, all well-trained, well equipped, well clad and well fed.  Most of the enlistments of Washington’s troops would be up by the end of the year, and few of them seemed likely to re-enlist.  Defeat seemed all but inevitable to all but Washington.  In this hour of doom, he rallied his troops and launched the Trenton-Princeton campaign, which restored the morale of his Army, liberated much of New Jersey, and put new heart into American patriots everywhere.  Washington had worked a military miracle.

The feat is all the more impressive, in that privately Washington was well-aware of the odds against him, and feared that defeat was probably likely.  We see that in two letters he wrote on December 10 and 17, 1776, to his nephew Lund Washington, who ran Mount Vernon in his absence:

Dear Lund:

    * * * * *

    I wish to Heaven it was in my power to give you a more favorable account of our situation than it is. Our numbers, quite inadequate to the task of opposing that part of the army under the command of General Howe, being reduced by sickness desertion, and political deaths (on or before the first instant, and having no assistance from the militia), were obliged to retire before the enemy, who were perfectly well informed of our situation, till we came to this place, where I have no idea of being able to make a stand, as my numbers, till joined by the Philadelphia militia, did not exceed three thousand men fit for duty. Now we may be about five thousand to oppose Howe’s whole army, that part of it excepted which sailed under the command of Gen. Clinton. I tremble for Philadelphia. Nothing, in my opinion, but Gen. Lee’s speedy arrival, who has been long expected, though still at a distance (with about three thousand men), can save it. We have brought over and destroyed all the boats we could lay our hands on upon the Jersey shore for many miles above and below this place; but it is next to impossible to guard a shore for sixty miles, with less than half the enemy’s numbers; when by force or strategem they may suddenly attempt a passage in many different places. At present they are encamped or quartered along the other shore above and below us (rather this place, for we are obliged to keep a face towards them) for fifteen miles. ***

    December 17, ten miles above the Falls.

    *** I have since moved up to this place, to be more convenient to our great and extensive defences of this river. Hitherto, by our destruction of the boats, and vigilance in watching the fords of the river above the falls (which are now rather high), we have prevented them from crossing; but how long we shall be able to do it God only knows, as they are still hovering about the river. And if every thing else fails, will wait till the 1st of January, when there will be no other men to oppose them but militia, none of which but those from Philadelphia, mentioned in the first part of the letter, are yet come (although I am told some are expected from the back counties). When I say none but militia, I am to except the Virginia regiments and the shattered remains of Smallwood’s, which, by fatigue, want of clothes, &c., are reduced to nothing — Weedon’s, which was the strongest, not having more than between one hundred and thirty to one hundred and forty men fit for duty, the rest being in the hospitals. The unhappy policy of short enlistments and a dependence upon militia will, I fear, prove the downfall of our cause, though early pointed out with an almost prophetic spirit ! Our cause has also received a severe blow in the captivity of Gen. Lee. Unhappy man! Taken by his own imprudence, going three or four miles from his own camp, and within twenty of the enemy, notice of which by a rascally Tory was given a party of light horse seized him in the morning after travelling all night, and carried him off in high triumph and with every mark of indignity, not even suffering him to get his hat or surtout coat. The troops that were under his command are not yet come up with us, though they, I think, may be expected to-morrow. A large part of the Jerseys have given every proof of disaffection that they can do, and this part of Pennsylvania are equally inimical. In short, your imagination can scarce extend to a situation more distressing than mine. Our only dependence now is upon the speedy enlistment of a new army. If this fails, I think the game will be pretty well up, as, from disaffection and want of spirit and fortitude, the inhabitants, instead of resistance, are offering submission and taking protection from Gen. Howe in Jersey.

 

A lesser man would have wallowed in despair and led his Army and his Nation into defeat and capitulation.  Instead, Washington devised and carried out a long shot plan that led to short-term and long-term victory for his cause.  Few generals have faced as disheartening a military situation as Washington in December of 1776, and far fewer still have so successfully risen to the challenge.  Washington was the indispensable man in the founding of our nation, and never more so than 239 years ago.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

13 Comments

  1. It occurs, Sir, that Madeira is the proper wine for Americans to drink at Christmas.

    I kept a few bottles about up until a few years ago, out of deference to President Washington. That is a habit I think I shall revive.

  2. Taking time to thank God for our reluctant first President of the United States. Unanimously voted into that office. Thanks go to you as well Mr. McClarey for perspective.
    Keeping alive the spirit of hope in times that seem unmanageable. Washington called upon Almighty God numerous times and this God Almighty was none other than the Trinity.

    No. All religions are not equal. All religions will not guarantee life everlasting. God help America.

  3. Bar none, George Washington is the greatest man in American History.
    .
    The British believed that 1777 would be “the year of the hangman.” The Continental army had suffered disastrous after disastrous defeat in New York from August though December 1776 and was on the verge of collapse. God Almighty and His servant George Washington held it together. If it hadn’t been for Washington’s brilliant moves against Trenton and Princeton, it may have been all over.
    .
    Truly, “First in war; first in peace; first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
    .
    On a humorous note: the kids were too young to understand when I used to tell them, “George Washington is the father of our country. Boy, did he get around!”
    .
    Philip, Truth. In fact, some religions are banned. Think the Aztec religion of human sacrifice. That is not protected under the First Amendment. Similarly, Islam and the Koran promote (go read it) hatred and violence against non-Muslims. The fact that a predatory belief system is countenanced by the failed regime and the effete, corrupt elites tells us more about them than it does about Islam.

  4. T. Shaw.
    I believe what you write.
    Why do the elites want chaos?
    Is it power grabs and disturbance that creates division and within the division opportunity?

    The Koran and history of Islam is a feature we study at our Holy League gathering’s. The conclusions we arrive at is that we have a serious threat to the liberties we’ve taken for granted for so long. The cry from progressives is that anyone who tries to teach others of the threat, and to prepare themselves is in their minds a group of fear monger’s. Uncaring in the plight of refugees.
    Not true. The vetting process is hindered.
    We do care for innocent life, however we care also of the possible loss of our families lives do to terrorist infiltration.

  5. Philip,
    .
    It’s beyond Orwellian.
    .
    Americans are afraid because the regime not only refuses to defend them, it feverishly works to kill more Americans. Obama is bringing (and the taxpayer is paying for it) in tens of thousands more covert mass murderers while acting to confiscate our means of defense. Why? Obama hates us.
    .
    Me. I’m very fearful that my enlarged prostate will have me running to the latrine before I can get some. I don’t need no stinking government employee to keep me safe.
    .
    Obama and progressive elites hate America, Americans, and the uses we make of our property an freedoms equally as much as do devout Muslims.
    .
    Muslims (often funded by Sunni Wahhabi petrodollars and the American taxpayer) divide the World between them and us; dar al-Islam against dar al-harb. It’s motivated almost 14 centuries of desultory invasions, mass murders, and wars. Muslims are expected to bring Allah’s word and will to all of humanity, by force if necessary, and attempts by dar al-harb (the house of war) to resist back must be met with fatal force.
    .
    There are three classes of citizens in dar al-Islam: First Class – Muslim men; Second Class (treated like chattel) – Muslim women; Third Class (treated like dirt) everyone else.

  6. UN resolution 2117 dusted!
    In a 53 – 46 Senate Vote the UN arms trade treaty was voted down….thanks be to God.
    This resolution had 21 points.
    Number 11 calls for Member States to support collection of weapons and disarmament in all UN countries.

    46 out of 100 US Senator’s were willing to give away our Constitutional rights to a foreign power. Forty six. Disgraceful!

  7. That is good news, Philip. It means one fewer unconstitutional gun restriction of which I will be in violation.
    .
    Re: the idiot progressives’ (I repeat myself, again) asinine gun laws, after the Sandy Hook massacre (It wasn’t me!) CT and NY passed laws requiring registration, or turn in, of so-called assault weapons and high capacity magazines. In CT, approximately 50,000, of an estimated 400,000, were registered, or whatever. CT did nothing. What could it do? In NY, many county sheriffs publicly stated they would not enforce the law. And, guess what: the NY S.A.F.E. law prohibits public reporting of compliance. It’s beneath Orwellian. So much for the idiots’ common sense gun control laws.
    .
    The idiocracy near approaches: 46 senators need to go.
    .

  8. 46 Senators need to go

    Only 46? Seems to me we ought to turn out the whole lot of ’em, just to be sure.

  9. 46 senators need to go.
    –T. Shaw

    They don’t feel the need. I’m curious, please reveal what you will do to make even one of them feel the need.

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