Why did George Washington make the risky move of crossing the Delaware River on Christmas night?

1 Answer

Washington desperately needed a victory to maintain morale in his army.


The American army had suffered a series of defeats starting with the battles on Long Island and New York City.

The morale of the American army was very low. A number of soldiers were about to leave the army as their enlistments were expiring. Without a victory the army might dissolve ending the revolution.

Washington decided to risk everything on either victory or defeat.
If Washington lost this battle the revolution was over. However if he didn't try the revolution was probably over without a victory.

By crossing the Delaware River on a winter Christmas night Washington was able to launch a surprise attack on the Hessian forces on the other side of the River.

The Hessians were not prepared for an attack. First the Hessians had celebrated Christmas Eve and were not mentally prepared to fight. Second with the ice on the river and the difficulty of moving troops across the Hessians felt safe from an attack.

The crossing was successful and the surprise attack won a needed victory for Washington and the American army. This victory prolonged the American revolution resulting in victory years later.