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General Washington responds to Colonel Reed

December 23, 2011

23 December, 1776

Dear Sir:

The bearer is sent down to know whether your plan was attempted last night and if not to inform you, that Christmas-day at night, one hour before day is the time fixed upon for our attempt on Trenton. For Heaven’s sake keep this to yourself, as the discovery of it may prove fatal to us, our numbers, sorry am I to say, being less than I had any conception of: but necessity, dire necessity, will, nay must, justify an attempt. Prepare, and, in concert with Griffin, attack as many of their posts as you possibly can with a prospect of success: the more we can attack at the same instant, the more confusion we shall spread and greater good will result from it. If I had not been fully convinced before of the enemy’s designs, I have now ample testimony of their intentions to attack Philadelphia, so soon as the ice will afford the means of conveyance.

As the Colonels of the Continental Regiments might kick up some dust about command, unless Cadwalader is considered by them in the light of a brigadier, which I wish him to be, I desired General Gates, who is unwell, and applied for leave to go to Philadelphia, to endeavour, if his health would permit him, to call and stay two or three days at Bristol in his way.  I shall not be particular: we could not ripen matters for our attack before the time mentioned in the first part of this letter: so much out of sorts and so much in want of everything are the troops under Sullivan&c. Let me know by a careful express the plan you are to pursue. The letter herewith sent, forward on to Philadelphia: I could wish it to be in time for the Southern post’s departure, which will be I believe by eleven o’clock tomorrow.

I am, dear Sir, Your most obedient servant

Go. Washington

P.S. — I have ordered our men to be provided with three days’ provisions ready cooked, with which and their blankets they are to march: for if we are successful, which Heaven grant and the circumstances favor, we may push on. I shall direct every ferry and ford to be well guarded, and not a soul suffered to pass without an officer’s going down with the permit. Do the same with you

To Joseph Reed, Esq. — or in his absence to Jno. Cadwalader Esq. only at Bristol

Visit for a listing of activities December 27 – 31 commemorating Trenton’s role in turning the tide of America’s War for Independence.

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