The day after Christmas we got out our replica Continental Army figures from Safari Ltd. to talk about the Battle of Trenton. Luckily, this year, it was cold and snowy (although not so windy as in 1776), which helped with envisioning what it was like for the soldiers.
I explained that at the end of the first year of the Revolutionary War, the American soldiers were worn-out. They did not have sufficient clothing or food. Some soldiers were lucky enough to have boots, but they were often full of holes. Many just wrapped their feet in rags. Their blankets, which sometimes doubled as both coats and hats, were full of holes.
The men were discouraged, cold, sick, and tired…they had been steadily losing battles…their diet consisted of dried beans and water…and the money they were being paid with was worthless. In a few days time, when their enlistments ended on January 1, many of them would be free to leave the army and return home.
I told my son that George Washington was able to rally his tired troops and convince them to spend hours in the middle of a wintry night crossing a river choked with ice. Then they still had to march the 9 miles to Trenton. After they rallied behind their commander to complete this dreary task, they won a battle on December 26, 1776. After following this up with another victory at Princeton, Continental soldiers took heart and reenlisted–Washington’s army was saved!
After hearing the story, we picked up the figure of General Washington. “Washington” then rallied his soldiers. Our next task was to use blocks as boats for the soldiers to use in our crossing reenactment, and pretended to cross a river full of ice in the sleet and wind.
We bandaged some of the American soldier’s feet, and I explained that many of the soldiers had rags wrapped around their feet, because they either didn’t have boots, or their boots had holes. The soldiers marched that day over the ice covered roads, leaving red trails behind them as their feet bled into the snow.
My son knows that the Revolutionary War was fought against the British, but he hadn’t heard of the Hessians (mercenaries hired by the British to fight in America). We don’t have Hessian replicas, but we do have British Revolutionary War replicas. (Ours are the Safari Ltd. historical figures set).
We marched to the Hessians, who were taken by surprise, some still asleep. The Hesians surrendered after a short battle.
The victory at the Battle of Trenton gave the American soldiers hope, and made them believe they could actually win the war. It energized the soldiers, many of whom re-enlisted, and persuaded additional citizens to join in the fight.
He didn’t understand the Paine quote, but I explained that it meant that it was very hard fighting for something, even something you believe in, when you are cold, hungry, sick, and constantly beaten. It would have been easy for any of the Continental soldiers to quit. But that those brave soldiers who stayed on and fought should be thanked, even still, today.