The Ten Crucial Days

The period surrounding the crossing that turned the tide of the Revolutionary War is often called The Ten Crucial Days. 

From the crossing on December 25, 1776, through the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777, Washington and the Continental Army achieved three vital victories, ensuring the continuation of the Revolutionary War.

The Prelude: December 14-25, 1776

Following a series of military defeats in New York and New Jersey, General Washington leads the Continental Army in a retreat across New Jersey. They arrive in Pennsylvania in December 1776. Washington knows he must plan the army’s next move before many of his soldiers’ enlistments expire at the end of the month.


Day One: December 25, 1776

Photo by Jimmy Kastner

A Continental Army force of more than 2,000 soldiers crosses the Delaware River into New Jersey at McConkey’s Ferry. Once on the other side, they march ten miles to Trenton in a blizzard to assault the 1,500 Hessian troops occupying the town.


Day Two: December 26, 1776

Photo by Jeff Stewart

In the First Battle of Trenton, the Continental Army defeats the Hessians at Trenton, winning its first significant victory of the Revolutionary War to date. The army then returns to Pennsylvania with prisoners and captured goods.


Day Three: December 27, 1776

Washington and his generals cross the Delaware River into New Jersey and discover the enemy has withdrawn from the Trenton area.


Day Four: December 28, 1776

After convening a council of war, Washington and his generals plan to defend Trenton from Cornwallis.


Day Five: December 29, 1776

The Continental Army crosses the Delaware River at several ferry crossings and returns to Trenton.


Day Six: December 30, 1776

Washington persuades a slim majority of his soldiers to remain with the Continental Army for another six weeks by promising to pay each soldier $10 in hard coin. Washington’s force of 6,000 men prepares a defense on high ground south of Assunpink Creek in Trenton.


Day Seven: December 31, 1776

The Continental Army advances from Trenton toward Princeton, which is occupied by enemy forces.


Day Eight: January 1, 1777

The Continental Army skirmishes with British and Hessian troops in Princeton on New Year’s Day.


Day Nine: January 2, 1777

In the Second Battle of Trenton, the Continental Army fights 8,000 British and Hessian troops under General Cornwallis. The army repelled Cornwallis’s attacks along Assunpink Creek until dusk. Cornwallis noted that he planned to “bag the fox in the morning.”


Day Ten: January 3, 1777

Photo by Drifting Focus Photography

Overnight, Washington and his troops withdraw from Trenton and begin to march to Princeton, where they defeat the British and Hessian forces. This victory in the Battle of Princeton is their third and final triumph, thus ending the military campaign associated with the Ten Crucial Days.


Epilogue: January 3-6, 1777

The Continental Army makes its way from Princeton to Morristown, New Jersey, where it establishes its winter quarters.