Two Hundred and Thirty One years ago yesterday, a barefoot, ill-clad army of 2,000 men crossed the ice choked Delaware River to surprise the Hessians at Trenton, giving George Washington his most important victory in the cause of American independence.
The story of how that victory came about is instructive to the cause of Fred Thompson’s campaign for the presidency and the reason for this blogburst today. Not because Fred resembles George Washington in any way or that a Thompson presidency would be as significant an event in history as the American revolution. But because when the chips were down and the cause all but lost, a very small group of Americans helped make the difference between victory and defeat.
Consider if you will the circumstances. Washington had been pushed out of New York by the British in a series of battles during the summer and fall where the Continentals had suffered one humiliating defeat after another. The Americans were levered out of New Jersey and forced to cross the Delaware to the Pennsylvania side of the river. There they waited grimly for the British to attempt a crossing and finish them off.
Patriots in New York and New Jersey began to lose heart, giving their oaths of allegiance to the King so they could trade and buy food for their families. The Congress fled Philadelphia for Baltimore which made Washington not only head of the military but titular head of the government as well. There was no food, no clothing, little in the way of arms and powder, no money, and no credit.
And to make matters worse, Washington’s army was set to disband after the first of the year. A last minute appeal to patriotism by Washington (as pitiful a missive ever written by the Great Man) salvaged the situation with a little more than half the army agreeing to re-up.
In short, things couldn’t get any worse for the patriot cause. Both friend and foe believed that American independence was a lost cause. But then two events were to occur that changed the fortunes of the war and turned the tide inevitably toward success.
The first fortunate happenstance occurred on December 23, 1776 when the first of Tom Paine’s “Crisis” essays hit the streets of America. “These are the times that try men’s souls…” had an electric effect on the citizens and the army. The second event was Washington’s audacious attack on Trenton, as unlikely and impossible a victory as has ever been recorded.
Washington devised a complex plan involving three separate columns crossing the river at three points and converging on Trenton by dawn on Christmas day. One of the columns failed to cross but the other two made it safely through the ice floes and stinging sleet and arrived on the New Jersey side of the Delaware – late but intact. It was madness crossing the river in the middle of an ice storm. But Washington had the perfect bunch to attempt the impossible; the seafaring men of the 14th Continental Regiment.
Better known to us as “The Marblehead Regiment,” these were the hard cases of the American army – a group of swaggering, swearing, spitting fishermen and common seamen led by a remarkable Brigadier by the name of John Glover. Under the guns of the British on Long Island, they ferried 10,000 men and horses across the East River in one night and part of a morning (aided by a heavy fog that obscured the retreat from prying British eyes). This movement forever earned them the gratitude of Washington who liked the spirit and pluck of the sailors as well as their fighting abilities; they held off the British singlehandedly at Pelham, New York in October once again aiding the escape of the bulk of the army.
But that Christmas night in 1776, they truly earned their spurs as they tirelessly rowed time and again across the river and back again, making their way through the ice choked waters in the worst conditions imaginable. Rain mixed with sleet and ice later turning to snow, the waves on the Delaware crashing over the bow covering the rowers with a sheet of clinging ice, the gunwales sometimes perilously close to tipping into the water and capsizing the boats – a certain death in a matter of minutes given the temperature of the water.
The fate of American independence rested with those 400 hardy souls who manned the oars that blustery night. And herein lies the reason for my little historical digression and an illustration of why, if you support Fred Thompson for President, this is the time to get the hell off the sidelines and start rowing the damn boat.
To be brutally frank in appraising the situation realistically, Fred Thompson’s chances of winning the nomination are not good. I will not attempt to snow you, gentle readers, with the idea that the Thompson campaign is anything but a hope and a prayer at this point. But where there is a will to fight, so there is a will to win. It doesn’t matter how many pundits, pollsters, and assorted “experts” have written off Fred Thompson. What matters is that there is still a chance, still life in the campaign, and still a belief that the race can be won. Your support is absolutely crucial to propel the campaign forward, to build on the momentum generated by Thompson’s bus tour through Iowa by giving as much as you possibly can.
The campaign has set a goal of raising $248,000 by sundown on Friday so that they can run a new ad in Iowa. This ad could make the difference and allow Thompson to make a surprise showing in the Iowa Caucuses a week from tomorrow. Exceeding expectations is the game now and this media buy could very well put Fred in a very strong position coming out of Iowa.
So climb aboard and grab an oar. Join the Marbleheaders for Fred and contribute as much as you possibly can to make this Blogburst a big success. Use the widget below or go directly to the contributions page here.