In 1776, during a howling nor-easter Colonel Johann Rall and his Hessian mercenaries repelled a bold American attack on Trenton that left Commander George Washington and many of his troops from the decimated Continental Army dead or dying in the freezing Delaware River on this bitterest of Christmas Days.
One-way trip across the Delaware RiverSince the heady days of the summer, Washington had lost ninety percent of his command and had already admitted both to his diary and in confidence to his colleagues that "I think the game is pretty near up".
And yet his successors would carry the germ of an idea that Washington had conceived on the eve of Battle. That concept was a breakthrough in organisational planning for irregular forces, that "a people unused to restraint must be led, they will not be drove". In effect, Washington had blended the best ideas of the American revolution with the War of Independence. His advocacy of open councils in a proletariat army was his gift to the future, a Union of Socialist Republics in America that would have been unimaginable to Washington as a member of the landed gentry.
Sharing his dead comrade's "full persuasion of the Justice of our cause" Thomas Paine returned to Great Britain after the so-called "black times of '76". The War of Independence might have ended in defeat, at least for now, but the Revolution had not, and Paine would ensure that it spread across the fertile ground of his homeland, Great Britain itself.