Thursday, December 24, 2015
Our future can be found in our History...
On Christmas day in 1776, a heavy snowstorm began to lash the East Coast from North Carolina to New York. This storm is well known because it impacted General Washington’s Continental Army as it crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night, en route to Trenton, New Jersey, to attack the Hessian forces that occupied the city. The storm dumped about two feet of snow from Central Virginia to Central Maryland in a twenty-four hour period. However, farther to the northeast in New Jersey, much less snow fell due to a changeover to sleet and freezing rain.
The storm was in full fury on Christmas night when Washington’s army crossed the Delaware River. At the time of the crossing, the snow was in the process of changing to sleet. For the rest of the night, the precipitation alternated between snow, sleet and freezing rain. A diary of a member of Washington’s staff briefly describes General Washington and the Delaware crossing:
“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.”
After crossing the Delaware, the American soldiers marched nine miles to Trenton. This march is often described in history books because some of the soldiers did not have shoes and had wrapped rags around their feet. As the soldiers marched, there were trails of bloody footprints in the snow. A strong northeast wind made the march even more difficult as it whipped the freezing precipitation into the marching soldiers.
Upon reaching Trenton, Washington’s army circled the town and engaged the Hessian soldiers. The heavy precipitation quickly rendered all flintlock rifles useless. The battle proceeded with bayonet, sword and artillery. Washington’s artillery was able to maintain dry powder during the storm. The Americans prevailed during the battle and captured 900 soldiers, hundreds of muskets, and six pieces of artillery. Although the number of soldiers and weapons captured at Trenton was not significant, the impact on the morale of both the British and American armies was huge. The effort for American independence had been revitalized.
The precipitation in Northern Virginia and Central Maryland was mainly snow, with a total snowfall accumulation of 24 to 30 inches. In Central Virginia, Thomas Jefferson measured 21 inches of snow at Monticello. Closer to the coast, the precipitation was mixed with sleet and freezing rain and accumulations were reduced. Almost 12 inches of snow and sleet fell near Trenton, New Jersey. To the south, 4 inches of snow fell in central North Carolina.
Merry Christmas, Patriots.
Posted by K at 9:20 PM