The Trenton Commanders: Johann Gottlieb Rall and George Washington, as noted in Hessian Diaries


In the closing days of 1776, the future looked gloomy for the American colonists; their Revolution was in dire straits. The remnants of the American army in Pennsylvania, led by General George Washington, were fading away. Across the Delaware River, the English forces had gone into winter quarters and were awaiting the start of a final campaign in the spring of the coming year, when they would crush any remaining American force. A brigade of Hessian hirelings was stationed at the most exposed English outpost at Trenton; their commander was Hessian colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall, hero of White Plains and Fort Washington. On 26 December, however, the course of history took a sharp and sudden change when the two commanders, Washington and Rall, clashed. Washington’s army of 6,000 men crossed the Delaware River in a blinding winter storm and attacked Rall’s brigade. In the fighting which followed, the Americans had only a handful of casualties, while Hessian casualties amounted to about 900. The Hessian soldiers kept numerous diaries in which they recorded their impressions of America and Americans, as well as their daily military activity. Here, Mr. Burgoyne has translated some of these documents to provide descriptions and opinions of the senior commanders at Trenton.

These pages are packed with fascinating description and insight concerning these two men. Researchers and history buffs alike will love this chance to “get to know” the men behind the history. You’ll find that neither Washington nor Rall was quite what we were taught in school.

Mr. Burgoyne is a recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Revolution Roundtable of Philadelphia.

Bruce E. Burgoyne

(1996), 2012, 5½x8½, paper, 16 pp.

ISBN: 9780788406614