Historical Fiction of Crossing the Delaware.
They shall be deep in slumber with drink and the festivities of the night before. God will be forgiving for the turmoil we suffer through on his son’s date of birth, for it is in his name that we fight and it will be in his name that we take back the Jerseys. It’s their location in Trenton that puts them at such a disadvantage. They rest in open plains, with little more than an outpost or two to keep them under cover from the wrath of our muskets.
December 25, 1776
We reside on the wrong side of the Delaware. I fear that this may soon be the end of the American colonies. The snow lies like a thick wool blanket across the landscape. It’s in a stark contrast with our dark uniforms. It’s a good thing that we’re arriving late within the night, for we’d be seen from miles away in daylight. I seriously doubt the thickets of sugar maples and paper birches would give us much cover from the rain of Hessian gunfire. The landscape is radiant white, barren. A desert of snow violated only by our infantry’s steps.
We’ve lost much of the front, retreating into Pennsylvania, I grow doubtful and weary hearted. I’ve seen many men lost in battle and heard of many more lost at Washington’s command. Maybe Washington isn’t the king of the frontier that I was once so sure he was. As he trudges through the snow, firing up steep mountainsides, his coy expression hints at a greater sense of purpose. We may lack confidence in ourselves, but Washington leaves no hints of discouragement.
We’ve lost all of Jersey, and Manhattan.
Even if we are finished serving on the first. We need a general that will make the most out of the time he is given. Especially when the future looks so bleak.
There’s fifty four hundred of us, give or take the few that have been left behind off the trailside. Many of us are walking with only rags to cover our feet. Many of us won’t make it to see 1777, but I must have trust in Washington.
I hope that on the day of Christ’s birth God is merciful to the American army. The cold claims another victim. The vacant expression on his face is only seen in glimpses as we pass. The American troops seem to diminish before we even taste the scorn of battle.
I’ve seen several men blue at the knees, walking with slivers of what was once their feet. Once they regain feeling they will ache. They will pray for death. I suspect many will never walk again. We split up, an attempt to flank the Hessian army, but now that we’ve reached the raging mouth of the Delaware, the three thousand or so soldiers that separated are nowhere to be seen. Maybe they’re cowards, or wise, and have abandoned their country with nothing in mind but their own survival.
I see another layer of earth scraped from the shore. The sand crumbling into nothing. It could sweep you away before you’ve realized you’ve left the ground. The clashing waves are reminiscent of ancient Trojan warriors colliding in battle. The sky is grey and the river looks daunting. No, the river is impossible. I no longer fear that the Hessian Mercenaries will have my scalp like the salvages. Trees erode away on the coast. They’re contorted and bowed, leaning away from the angry waters. They too fear the consequence of Nature’s temper. This river will be the death of me. As we proceed closer to the water, it fluctuates, reaching out of the rapids and threatening to swallow the battalion whole. I day-dream of our tattered bodies blue and bloated, floating down the river like the chunks of ice thrashing against jagged rock. Some claim to be able to walk across when the waters are calm, but the menacing blues allude to unknown depths. The deeper the water, the darker it appears. Hell must be an unsightly shade of black.
The first man who falls in this river won’t make it to see the last man cross. It’s the cold that we’re at war with, not the British, not the Hessians, but the whimpering heartbeat snuffed by Christmas frost. It’s unfortunate to think so, but maybe God isn’t on our side.
The boat is rickety at best. The paneling in the bottom of the dingy is warped and malformed. It seems we would have a better chance skipping across lily pads then taking our chances in these poorly constructed coffins. The current is treacherous and swallows men like the family at a thanksgiving feast. We arrive in Jersey at 3 A.m. Three hours after we were supposed to. General Washington rides up and down the lines encouraging us for battle, snot dribling down the horses nose and spit splattering our faces as he passes. If he really wanted to inspire us he’d get off of his horse and join us. He’d be bootless turning the snow shades of red with the blood from his frayed feet.
By the time we marched the nine miles from where we had crossed the Delaware (the boat crossing deviating from the intended course greatly) the sun had risen half an hour before. We couldn’t tell if the sky was pink with the rising sun, or the blood soon to come.
As we approach the Hessians we can see them in a thick haze. Many are still sleeping, leaning against the other soldiers in the snow, reeking of moonshine. The battleground is littered with low lying shrubs and rivulets from old farm fields.Strategically they were at a loss. They rested in the open. If we didn’t know better we would have thought that it was a band of drunks and bums celebrating Christ’s birth in the frigid snow. Cowering behind the few houses and their howitzers, there wasn’t much they could do.
While some lunged for their weapons, General Johann Rall screamed out to his men.The plumes of smoke emitted from the edge of each musket. It was sporadic, but with meaning like a meteor shower confused for shooting stars. I counted a total of six shots fired before we could see their white hankies tied to the end of some twigs they scrounged from their splintered cover. They were pel-mel, and destined for the end. There wasn’t much blood shed, but enough to keep the majority of the Hessians at bay. I could see one, too young for battle, wandering aimlessly around his fallen brothers. He knelt down to a Hessian, brushing the hair plastered to the Hessian’s face out of his eyes and in a moment he was shot down. He lays in the snow twitching, and moments later his corpse was still. Grown men cried for their mothers and waited for the silence of defeat. We wounded General Johann Rall and at the end of the day we suffered from few deaths. We left Trenton on our conquest with twelve hundred prisoners of war and we left the ones too wounded to walk to bear with the cold. If we only got our hands on an onslaught of red coats. We’d show them what a resistance really looks like.
Their accents were thick like cement yet to be mixed, complete with sedimentary surprises and untrained turns of phrase. Later we overheard one of the Hessians who said that Rall asked for reinforcements from General James Grant in broken English, but was rejected. The English never did think much of us, maybe now they’d take us a bit more seriously.