Freedom: A Historical Perspective Under Washington Within the Context of The American War

By: Fred Jankilevich – Attorney At Law

(Federico DaFranca)

All Rights Reserved. May 2019

The bridge looked red as blood, with their killed and wonded, and their red coats.” (Sargeant White J.: Princeton: 1883).

The above-cited depiction is the start of a commanding officer’s narration at the Battle of Assunpink between the British and the American troops in New Jersey. A further narration describes: “The Hessian officer believed that such an approach would force Washington to abandon Trenton and argued that it would put the American leader in an ‘unfavourable and precarious situation…’” As a result, its possible to infer from the above citation that there was a high trade-off as a result from the battle: The destruction of Washington’s army in itself. (Ewald: New Haven: 1777).

The outcome of the battle nonetheless, is radically different. A continuation from the first citation illustrates: “…Americans came forward to the bridge. Among them were two soldiers, Hugh Coppell and William Hutchinson, who remembered that they “passed over the ground which they had occupied during the battle and their attacks on us. Their dead bodies lay thicker and closer together for a space than I ever beheld sheaves of wheat lying in a field which the reapers just passed.” The second battle of Trenton, therefore, was not a general engagement or all-out assault, but a series f probing attacks driven home with high courage to bring American troops a great victory. Reminiscing upon Coronel Rall’s preceding battle in the same geography, “it was a model of brilliantly managed defensive battle in the same town.” (Greene C.F.: Papers: 1777)

The last two citations allude to the materialisation of double transformation in the context of victory: First, the affirmation by British commanders that they were very close to ending the rebellion becoming reversed. Second, the disruption of British spirits by American troops towards the belief that defeat would ensue. From the aforementioned, its possible to infer that double transformation was a turning point in the war (Howe: NYHS: 1885). Thus, the strategic choices of General Washington and his officers during the American Campaign can be summarised as people rendering choices and choices generating a change in the world.

Furthermore, in the light of double transformation its important to evaluate Thomas Paine’s “American Crisis:” The depth of the crisis itself led to the Congressional organization of war efforts in a new way, so that states redoubled their efforts and Americans rallied to a common cause. The result was an increase in the size of Washington’s army, facilitating small attacks by land and water. It can be inferred as a result, that the Congressional initiative was a significant contributor towards the exhaustion of the Hessian garrison at Trenton (Ibid.).

The subsequent decisions to the victory at Trenton can be interpreted thus also as a result of double transformation. In practice, the Congressional implementation of Paine’s ideology facilitated strategic officer decisions at Assunpink Creek and Princeton in January 3rd, 1777. They can be in turn be also viewed, as significantly influential during the winter campaign. “American spirits soared; British and Hessian moral plummeted. The Loyalists of New Jersey suffered severely after the British retreat.”

In conclusion, double transformation may be established as a root element of victory throughout the American war. It is a symbol in favour of Freedom, contested from the people, by the people for the people. Its impact extended to the extent of “raising questions of competency and legitimacy about the old regime.” (Homer: New Brunswick: 1992)   

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