The Poets

July 03, 2010

The Battle of Trenton - A Soldier's Poem

After the crossing of the Delaware on December 25th, 1776, Washington devised a plan to retake Trenton from the hands of the British and their auxiliary regiments, the Hessians. If this attack failed, the Revolution would have certainly fallen.

After having reached the east bank, Washington would have his soldiers- more than 2,400- march alongside the river and divide into two sections at Birmingham- those led by Sullivan would continue south up River Road, and those led by Greene would break left and flank Trenton from the north.*

The weather was unforgiving, ruthless: a terrible mixture of ice cold snow and heavy sleet that not only took the lives of two soldiers, but soaked the vitally needed gunpowder the Colonial troops needed for the coming conflict. Washington ordered bayonets.

When the troops reached their destination, though exhausted, they utterly crushed the opposing armies. The revolution to independence, thankfully, continued.

Below is a poem written by an anonymous soldier who was there; a soldier who crossed that Delaware with Washington and trudged through the slush and sleet and snow; a soldier who was there to help retake Trenton (possibly under Sullivan's command); a soldier who was directly involved in securing the possibility of American's independence ... a soldier who left an account of these events in the form of a poem.

These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Thomas Paine

Battle of Trenton

On Christmas-day in seventy-six,
Our ragged troops with bayonets fixed,
For Trenton marched away.
The Delaware see! the boats below!
The light obscured by hail and snow!
But no signs of dismay.

Our object was the Hessian band,
That dared invade fair freedom's land,
And quarter in that place.
Great Washington he led us on,
Whose streaming flag, in storm or sun,
Had never known disgrace.

In silent march we passed the night,
Each soldier panting for the fight,
Though quite benumbed with frost,
Greene, on the left, at six began,
The right was led by Sullivan,
Who ne’er a moment lost.

The pickets stormed, the alarm was spread,
The rebels risen from the dead
Were marching into town.
Some scampered here, some scampered there,
And some for action did prepare;
But soon their arms laid down.

Twelve hundred servile miscreants,
With all their colors, guns, and tents,
were trophies of the day.
The frolic o'er, the bright canteen
In centre, front, and rear was seen
Driving fatigue away.

Now brothers of the patriot bands,
Let's sing deliverance from the hands
Of arbitrary sway.
And as our life is but a span,
Let's touch the tankard while we can,
In memory of that day.

*click to see map of the crossing and attack plan


John W. May said...

From what I’ve come to learn, Washington gave the command to attach bayonets to Sullivan’s company … so it’s most likely that the author of this poem was under Sullivan's command- for he writes:

Our ragged troops with bayonets fixed,
For Trenton marched away

Da other Part of 'Zo said...

What's up man? I was searching the internet for inspiration for my Rhyme Royal piece and I came across your blog. After reading it, I must say that I respect your ode to poetry. If you don't mind, I'm going to follow you on here. Check out my blog as well. Feedback from different perspectives is refreshing and desirable. Salaam.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I am including it in my list of a-poem-a-week as my high chool students go through the Patriot's US History textbook. It is perfect.

As of April 9th, 2010