From George Washington’s Crossing to Victory in Princeton

From George Washington’s Crossing to Victory in Princeton
David Hackett Fischer
Brandeis University
May 10, 2013

In summer of 1776, George Washington suffered many crushing defeats and lost 90 percent of the army under his command. British and Hessian forces had recovered much of  New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island. By late November, thousands of Americans took an oath of allegiance to George III. Leaders on both sides believed that the American cause had failed. On Christmas night in 1776, Washington and a contingent the Continental Army made a last desperate effort. They crossed the Delaware River in a howling nor’easter and captured the Hessian garrison at Trenton. In the winter campaign that followed they defeated British troops in many small engagements, revived the fortunes of the Revolution, rallied Americans to the Patriot Cause and attracted others to its support. Frederick the Great called their victory “the most brilliant of any recorded in the annals of military achievement.” The great question is how they did it. How did George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River change the course of the war? David Hackett Fischer suggests an answer, building on his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Washington’s Crossing.


About the Speaker

David Hackett Fischer is a professor of history at Brandeis University. Dr. Fisher is the author of Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought (1970), Paul Revere’s Ride (1994) and Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas (2005). The subject of this lecture, Washington’s Crossing (2004), won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2005.


Emanuel Leutze’sWashington Crossing the Delaware is an iconic image of the Revolutionary War. Explore this painting and other works in Ten Great American Revolution Paintings, 1790-1860.