War on the Rocks
"In the winter of 1776, as Washington and his staff began to plan their next move, they realized a rare opportunity had presented itself. German Christmas celebrations traditionally include copious amounts of beer, and to the 1500-man garrison at Trenton, New Jersey the Christmas of 1776 was likely no exception. Since any mid-sized colonial town had plenty of beer available, Washington’s staff hypothesized that on Christmas night the garrison would be unready for combat, thanks to the ready availability of American beer, and the German propensity for drinking it. An unnamed officer on Washington’s staff is reported to have said,
They make a great deal of Christmas in Germany, and no doubt the Hessians will drink a great deal of beer and have a dance to-night. They will be sleepy to-morrow morning.
Confident they could overwhelm the thoroughly buzzed Hessians, Washington and his staff planned one of the most daring operations of the entire Revolutionary War. The Continental Army would stage on the Pennsylvania bank of the Delaware River on Christmas Day. Once night fell, the army would ferry across the river, march nine miles to Trenton, and ultimately conduct a pre-dawn assault on the town.
The operation was beleaguered from the outset. The crossing proved difficult, and the operation ran almost three hours behind schedule. The weather was also uncooperative. ...[Nevertheless, when the] Hessians attempted to form in battle order, but were quickly cut down by American cannon, which had a clear field of fire from the high ground. ... Before long, the Hessians were in a fighting retreat, under harassing fire from the Americans. The Hessian commander was mortally wounded, rendering the Hessians leaderless. Cornered in an orchard outside of town, the Germans surrendered to the ragtag Americans.
In the final accounting, The Americans suffered no KIA and only a handful of wounded. The Germans suffered around 100 killed and 200 wounded. Nearly 1000 Hessians were captured. The biggest surprise, however, came as the Continentals took stock of their captives.
The ragtag Americans had beaten the Hessians, some of the finest soldiers in the world, using surprise, mobility, and firepower at the decisive point. The rumored German propensity for beer never played a role in the fighting at all.
It’s a commonly accepted trope that alcohol increases one’s confidence. Usually, it’s the drinker’s confidence that is unduly increased, but in the Battle of Trenton, the opposite proved true. Washington’s confidence in the appeal of American beer gave him the impetus to launch his assault on Trenton. The battle had powerful repercussions for the momentum of the war, and restored the confidence of the Continental army.
If you’re looking to commemorate the Battle of Trenton, look no further than the Stone Fence, a staple of any tavern in colonial America, and rumored to have been a favorite of Ethan Allen:
2oz Dark Rum [I would use Goslings, if I were you, ed.]
Directions: Pour the rum into a pint glass, add 1 or 2 ice cubes, and fill with hard cider. Garnish with lemon twist, and enjoy!