Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. V (1776-1777)
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. V (1776-1777) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. V (1776-1777).
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters,Newtown, 27 December, 1776.
I have the pleasure of congratulating you upon the success of an enterprise, which I had formed against a detachment of the enemy lying in Trenton, and which was executed yesterday morning. The evening of the 25th I ordered the troops intended for this service to parade back of McKonkey’s Ferry,2 that they might begin to pass as soon as it grew dark, imagining we should be able to throw them all over, with the necessary artillery, by twelve o’clock, and that we might easily arrive at Trenton by five in the morning, the distance being about nine miles. But the quantity of ice, made that night, impeded the passage of the boats so much, that it was three o’clock before the artillery could all be got over; and near four, before the troops took up their line of march. This made me despair of surprising the town, as I well knew we could not reach it before the day was fairly broke. But as I was certain there was no making a retreat without being discovered and harassed on repassing the river, I determined to push on at all events. I formed my detachment into two divisions, one to march by the lower or river road, the other by the upper or Pennington road. As the divisions had nearly the same distance to march, I ordered each of them, immediately upon forcing the out-guards, to push directly into the town, that they might charge the enemy before they had time to form.
The upper division arrived at the enemy’s advanced posts exactly at eight o’clock; and in three minutes after, I found, from the fire on the lower road, that the division had also got up. The out-guards made but small opposition, though, for their numbers, they behaved very well, keeping up a constant retreating fire from behind houses. We presently saw their main body formed; but, from their motions, they seemed undetermined how to act. Being hard pressed by our troops, who had already got possession of their artillery, they attempted to file off by a road on their right, leading to Princeton. But, perceiving their intention, I threw a body of troops in their way, which immediately checked them. Finding from our disposition, that they were surrounded, and that they must inevitably be cut to pieces if they made any further resistance, they agreed to lay down their arms. The number that submitted in this manner was twenty-three officers and eight hundred and eighty-six men. Colonel Rahl, the commanding officer, and seven others were found wounded in the town. I do not exactly know how many were killed; but I fancy not above twenty or thirty, as they never made any regular stand. Our loss is very trifling indeed, only two officers and one or two privates wounded.
I find that the detachment of the enemy consisted of the three Hessian regiments of Anspach, Kniphausen, and Rahl, amounting to about fifteen hundred men, and a troop of British light-horse; but, immediately upon the beginning of the attack, all those, who were not killed or taken, pushed directly down the road towards Bordentown. These would likewise have fallen into our hands, could my plan have been completely carried into execution. General Ewing was to have crossed before day at Trenton Ferry, and taken possession of the bridge leading out of town; but the quantity of ice was so great, that, though he did every thing in his power to effect it, he could not get over. This difficulty also hindered General Cadwalader from crossing with the Pennsylvania militia from Bristol. He got part of his foot over; but, finding it impossible to embark his artillery, he was obliged to desist. I am fully confident, that, could the troops under Generals Ewing and Cadwalader have passed the river, I should have been able with their assistance to drive the enemy from all their posts below Trenton. But the numbers I had with me being inferior to theirs below me, and a strong battalion of light infantry being at Princeton above me, I thought it most prudent to return the same evening with the prisoners and the artillery we had taken. We found no stores of any consequence in the town.1
In justice to the officers and men, I must add, that their behavior upon this occasion reflects the highest honor upon them. The difficulty of passing the river in a very severe night, and their march through a violent storm of snow and hail, did not in the least abate their ardor; but, when they came to the charge, each seemed to vie with the other in pressing forward; and were I to give a preference to any particular corps, I should do great injustice to the others. Colonel Baylor, my first aid-de-camp, will have the honor of delivering this to you; and from him you may be made acquainted with many other particulars. His spirited behavior upon every occasion requires me to recommend him to your particular notice. I have the honor to be, &c.1
P. S. Inclosed you have a particular list of the Prisoners, Artillery and other stores.2
[2 ]Now Taylorsville. It was also known as the Eight-Mile Ferry.
[1 ]“I should have most certainly pursued those that retreated had it not been for the distressed situation of my troops (about three or four and twenty hundred in number) who had experienced the greatest fatigue in breaking a passage through the ice, and all the severities of rain and storm. This with the apprehension that we could receive no succors, and that the difficulty of passing and repassing the river might become greater, led us to conclude our return eligible. The officers and men who were engaged in the enterprise behaved with great firmness, perseverance, and bravery, and such as did them the highest honor.
[1 ]“General Greene and Colonel Knox would have persuaded the commander in chief to have pushed on and improved the alarm given the enemy, to which he was inclined; but the generality of the officers were against it, and his Excellency did not then think he could answer going contrary to the judgment of the majority of the council of war. He has since regretted his not seizing the golden opportunity.”—Gordon, History, ii., 396.
[2 ]Read in Congress December 31st.