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Original Document
Excerpts from the diary of Colonel John Fitzgerald on Washington's Crossing of the Delaware, December 25-26, 1776.

"Christmas, 6 P.M….It is fearfully cold and raw and a snow-storm setting in. The wind is northeast and beats in the faces of the men. It will be a terrible night for the soldiers who have no shoes. Some of them have tied old rags around their feet, but I have not heard a man complain….I have never seen Washington so determined as he is now….He stands on the bank of the stream, wrapped in his cloak, superintending the landing of his troops. He is calm and collected, but very determined. The storm is changing to sleet and cuts like a knife….

[3 A.M.] I am writing in the ferry house. The troops are all over, and the boats have gone back for the artillery. We are three hours behind the set time…[the fishermen directing the boats] have had a hard time to force the boats through the floating ice with the snow drifting in their faces….

…it was broad daylight when we came to a house where a man was chopping wood. He was very much surprised when he saw us. 'Can you tell me where the Hessian picket is?' Washington asked. The man hesitated, but I said, 'You need not be frightened, it is General Washington who asks the question.' His face brightened, and he pointed toward the house of Mr. Howell.

It was just eight o'clock. Looking down the road I saw a Hessian running out from the house. He yelled in Dutch and swung his arms. Three or four others came out with their guns. Two of them fired at us, but the bullets whistled over our heads. Some of General Stephen's men rushed forward and captured two. The others took to their heels, running toward Mr. Calhoun's house, where the picket guard was stationed, about twenty men under Captain Altenbrockum. They came running out of the house. The captain flourished his sword and tried to form his men. Some of them fired at us, others ran toward the village.

The next moment we heard drums beat and a bugle sound, and then from the west came the boom of cannon. General Washington's face lighted up instantly, for he knew that it was one of [General John] Sullivan's guns.

…We could see a great commotion down toward the meetinghouse, men running here and there, officers swinging their swords, artillerymen harnessing their horses. Captain Forrest unlimbered his guns. Washington gave the order to advance, and we rushed on to the junction of King and Queen streets. Forrest wheeled six of his cannon into position to sweep both streets. The riflemen under Colonel Hand and Scott's and Lawson's battalions went upon the run through the fields on the left to gain possession of the Princeton Road. The Hessians were just ready to open fire with two of their cannon when Captain [William] Washington and Lieutenant [James] Monroe with their men rushed forward and captured them.

We saw [Colonel Johann] Rall [commander of the Hessians] riding up the street from his headquarters, which were at Stacy Potts' house. We could hear him shouting in Dutch, 'My brave soldiers, advance.'

His men were frightened and confused, for our men were firing upon them from fences and houses and they were falling fast. Instead of advancing they ran into an apple orchard. The officers tried to rally them, but our men kept advancing and picking off the officers. It was not long before Rall tumbled from his horse and his soldiers threw down their guns and gave themselves up as prisoners….

[9 P.M.] …I have just been with General Washington and [Nathanael] Greene to see Rall. He will not live through the night. He asked that his men might be kindly treated. Washington promised that he would see they were well cared for."


Credit: Edward S. Gifford, Jr., The American Revolution in the Delaware Valley (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution, 1976), 40-43.
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