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Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans by  Edward Eggleston

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WASHINGTON'S CHRISTMAS GIFT

[56] WASHINGTON was fighting to set this country free. But the army that the King of England sent to fight him was stronger than Washington's army. Washington was beaten and driven out of Brooklyn. Then he had to leave New York. After that, he marched away into New Jersey to save his army from being taken. At last he crossed the Delaware River. Here he was safe for a while.

Some of the Hessian soldiers that the king had hired to fight against the Americans came to Trenton. Trenton is on the Delaware River.

Washington and his men were on the other side of the Delaware River from the Hessians. Washington's men were discouraged. They had been driven back all the way from Brooklyn. It was winter, and they had no warm houses to stay in. They had not even warm clothes. They were dressed in old clothes that people had given them. Some of them were barefooted in this cold weather.

The Hessians and other soldiers of the king were waiting for the river to freeze over. Then they would march across on the ice. They meant to fight Washington once more, and break up his army.

[62] But Washington was thinking about something too.

He was waiting for Christmas. He knew that the Hessian soldiers on the other side of the river would eat and drink a great deal on Christmas Day.


[Illustration]

Marching to Trenton

The afternoon of Christmas came. The Hessians were singing and drinking in Trenton. But Washington was marching up the river bank. Some of his barefoot men left blood marks on the snow as they marched.

The men and cannons were put into flat boats. These boats were pushed across the river with poles. There were many great pieces of ice in the river. But all night long the flat boats were pushed across and then back again for more men.

[63] It was three o'clock on the morning after Christmas when the last Americans crossed the river. It was hailing and snowing, and it was very cold. Two or three of the soldiers were frozen to death.

It was eight o'clock in the morning when Washington got to Trenton. The Hessians were sleeping soundly. The sound of the American drums waked them. They jumped out of their beds. They ran into the streets. They tried to fight the Americans.

But it was too late. Washington had already taken their cannons. His men were firing these at the Hessians. The Hessians ran into the fields to get away. But the Americans caught them.

The battle was soon over. Washington had taken nine hundred prisoners.

This was called the battle of Trenton. It gave great joy to all the Americans. It was Washington's Christmas gift to the country.


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