In the Battle of New York the Patriots suffered heavy losses. Many men were killed or wounded and a lot of equipment was destroyed. British General William Howe had a very large army that was supported by the British Navy that controlled the seacoasts up and down the colonies.
After the Battle of New York, General George Washington and his army of only 500 men fled to the Pennsylvania countryside to get away from the British troops. They were cold and hungry. They needed new uniforms, weapons and equipment. Worse yet, they did not feel victorious. Washington desperately need to win a battle to keep his men's morales up.
On Christmas night of 1776, when General Washington and his men camped by the Delaware River, he figured out a plan he thought would bring victory to his men. They would cross the Delaware River and go into Trenton, New Jersey. Washington knew British General Howe had sent his forces away from Trenton and Trenton was now being protected by Colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall.
Colonel Rall and his men were German and were being paid by the King George III to fight for the British cause in the colonies. Colonel Rall and his troops were called Hessians. They didn't care who won the War as long as they got paid. they didn't always fight as hard as they could have.
General Washington guessed that the Hessians would probably be celebrating Christmas. The weather was very cold and there was sleet, hail, and ice. The Delaware River was frozen in many places. He thought the Hessians wouldn't expect the weak Continental Army to attack in this kind of weather. He thought the Hessians probably felt protected by the frozen River.
Three groups of soldiers crossed the Delaware in boats during different times through the night. When they reached the other side, early in the morning on December 26, 1776, the Continental Army led by Washington joined together and attacked the Hessians, who were still sleeping and drunk from their celebrations.
The Continental Army by using surprise as their greatest weapon captured between 900 and 1,000 prisoners and took over Trenton. Only four Patriots were wounded and their wounds were not severe.
Feeling victorious, the Continental Army continued later that night towards Princeton, New Jersey and again took their enemy by surprise.
These two victories gave the soldiers the courage and hope to go on and they were able to take from their captives ammunition, food and other equipment that would help them survive the winter of 1777.
By the time British General Howe heard of the British defeats at Trenton and Princeton, General Washington and his men had left.