George Washington and Christmas

On Christmas Day when you think to yourself “ah yes today is the anniversary of the beginning of the American sneak attack on the Hessians that led to the Battle of Trenton in 1776 and changed the course of the Revolutionary War”
(if there was one of those chance of winning graphs like they have for sporting events, before Trenton the odds of the British winning were pretty good, after Trenton those odds had been at least brought even again if not moved in favor of the Americans).
Here are some interesting details:
-The British and Hessian forces were settled down for the winter in New Jersey. Those forces were dispersed over a relatively wide area to conserve resources
-Around 2,000 Hessians were in Trenton, New Jersey (only a fraction of the total number of Hessians)
-The Hessians had worn out their welcome in New Jersey and Hessian (and British) patrols were at risk from snipers and so there were fewer patrols
-The British force that was providing the nearest back-up to Trenton was out-of-position
-The British knew that Washington knew that back-up force was out-of-position (18 miles away instead of 6)
-Despite efforts at secrecy the British and Hessians knew that Washington was considering such an attack
-They didn’t think the Americans would attack
-The crossing was supposed to be a surprise
-The crossing began late in the afternoon of the 25th with the army forming up around 4 in the afternoon
-Much to Washington’s anxiety the crossing ran late and the army was already hours behind their timetable before they had even crossed the river
-The Delaware River was about 800 feet wide at the crossing with ice floes floating in the river
-The crossing was done in the dark
-Most soldiers being transported across the river stood (sitting on the bottom of a leaky boat with ice-cold water oozing in would be very cold
-The crossing was a feat of engineering as 16 cannons were also hauled across.
-The cannons gave the Americans extra firepower. The Americans had 4x the number of cannons that a force that size would be expected to be using on the battlefield
-The cannons were extra important as the crossing and battle took place in the middle of a fierce Nor’easter with drenching amounts of rain, snow and ice falling from the sky
-Cannons could still be reliably fired in that sort of weather but flintlock muskets could not
-Glover’s Mariners from Massachusetts, and locals from New Jersey and Pennsylvania provided the naval power to cross the river
-After crossing the river it was still a 5 mile march over rough roads and hills (hauling cannons, in a storm) to Trenton
-Future president James Monroe was second-in-command of a group of about 100 troops that went ahead of the main force to detain civilians and prevent word of the approaching army from reaching Trenton
-Beginning a tradition that continued through D-day, American officers wore white on their hats and soldiers were instructed to follow their officers
-About halfway to Trenton the American army split to take two different roads with Greene leading the more hilly approach to town and Sullivan getting the downhill route
-Before splitting they synchronized watches so that they could attack Trenton simultaneously from two different directions
-A password was worked out so that if the two forces met in town they wouldn’t attack each other by mistake
-The two armies raced towards Trenton hoping to reach there before dawn….

The bones of Saint Nicholas

There is an interesting story in the Denver Post. I was worried the this story was about some Zombie Santa “Christmas movie” that was coming out. It is is not. It is about the grudge match that Turkey and Italy have over who has the bones of St. Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was buried in Turkey and in the 11th century some enterprising fellows stole him and took him to Bari, Italy and setup a pilgrimage site there. Turkey says they got the wrong bones…(I’m sure Turkey has made this claim before)

Obviously the author of this story has never read L. Frank Baum’s “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus”.  That story gives Santa a backstory separate from Saint Nicholas.