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History's Happenings for December 26

Battle of Trenton

After his surprising victory at Harlem Heights, near New York City, on September 16th, General George Washington had led the Continental Army on a long retreat across New Jersey, hotly pursued by the Redcoats under British General Howe. December found them on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, with Howe setting up his defensive perimeter from Trenton to Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

At Trenton Howe stationed a few British regulars reinforced with German Hessian soldiers. They felt secure enough against the ragtag American army they had just chased across the colony to enjoy a proper Christmas.

If this seems a low point for the fortunes of American Independence, what happened next rings through history. On a cold, wet Christmas Night, 1776, Washington mustered out his men and, taking great risks in a bold stroke, crossed the ice-choked Delaware in small boats with 2400 Continentals. Through the night they marched in several columns, slogging through icy mud with horse and cannon in an attempt to achieve surprise.

As dawn broke, the Americans surprised the Hessian garrison in Trenton, blasting the enemy with cannon and small arms as they tumbled, confused and hung over, out into the street. The stirring victory chewed off Howe's southern anchor and, understandably, bolstered American spirits.

Buoyed by success, Washington's army marched north and, a week later, reprised the victory at the Battle of Princeton.

Wilson Takes Over Railroads

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Churchill Addresses Congress

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101st Airborne Relieved at Bastogne

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Tsunami Ravishes Southern Asia

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Boxing Day (British Commonwealth)

Traditionally in Britain, Canada and many other members of the old British Empire, the day after Christmas was a time to remember the servants, tradespeople and others that made life worth living for the better-off. Gifts, mainly of money, were presented in what came to be known as "Christmas boxes", thus the name.

In the less aristocratic modern environment, it's a good time to remember anyone less well-off than ourselves, and doing so is as Christian as Christmas.

Got a favorite (and relevant) historical event?   Let us know!

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