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Happy New Year, U.S.A.

As reported in a previous post, Washington's counterinvasion of New Jersey, and his surprise capture of Trenton and its  (qualitatively) equal force to his own, made it a war again. Somewhat against their custom, some of the British decided to come out of winter quarters to seek revenge.

The leader of this effort was one Lord Charles Cornwallis, actually one of Britain's more capable generals. (Given this fact, one wonders about the competence of the others.) He marched across New Jersey with 6,000 men, leaving a rear guard of 1,000 at Princeton, and forced marched the remaining 5,000 to the Delaware, where he "caught" Washington's 3,300 militia, at 5 p.m. on January 2, 1777, a week after Trenton.

"We'll bag the fox in the morning," thought Cornwallis. But that was not be. Leaving his campfires burning (and a bunch of drunken revellers who had joined him), Washington led his army by back roads away on ANOTHER night march. By morning, he was in Princeton, where his 3,300 faced another 1,000 British. (Sound familiar?)

This time it really was a fair fight, as the 1,000 well-prepared British drove back Washington's advance guard in panic. Delaware's General Hugh Mercer received twenty-some bayonet wounds from Redcoats exulting in a coming victory. For a moment, it looked like the main American army would scatter, and lose the war, thereby vindicating Cornwallis after all. That's the danger of a militia army, the tendency to panic at the first shock of battle.

Washington saved the day PERSONALLY. He rode up to the head of his army, in front of his reinforcements, and dared the British to fire at (maximum range). A direct shot might have gotten him, but British sergeants stupidly directed the fire of their whole army at him, including men who were firing from an angle (and were therefore out of range). Luckily, Britain's "whole army" MISSED.

This gave the confused Americans time to regroup, reload, and fire, straight, with better effect, and at numerical odds of 3 to 1. As these raw troops rallied around their commander, they congealed into a fighting force. Now they could not be shocked into submission, the only way to beat them was to overpower them.

This, even veteran British could not do when outnumbered 3- to -1. They launched several savage bayonet charges which failed to break the bayonetless Americans, who used their muskets as clubs in self defense.  There were comparable physical casualties (about 100 killed and wounded) on each side (the numerically stronger side wins when this happens). And when the Americans counterattacked, the British stranded 200 prisoners, while leaving the field to the Americans.

Buoyed by their second victory in a week, the handful of Americans had become veterans, and would form the core of a larger army. The new year had indeed started off well for the Americans, with the second of "thirty" victories they needed to win the war.