New Book Review and Author Signing Event

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Hi All –

For anyone who may be interested, here’s some news concerning the latest arrow in my literary quiver, The Battle of Harlem Heights, 1776—not to (uh oh) equivercate in this matter.

Review Snippet

James Stacy wrote as follows in the Winter 2023 issue of The Journal of America’s Military Past:

“David Price presents in less than 200 pages a remarkably well-researched, readable, and informative book on what is arguably a little-known, but very important episode of the American Revolution, the Battle of Harlem Heights…. The Battle of Harlem Heights is another enjoyable and informative book in Westholme Publishing’s “Small Battles” series. This series spotlights small, often overlooked yet important episodes of the American Revolution.”

If you’d like to read the entire review, please email me at [email protected] and I’ll be glad to send it to you.


If you know anyone who might be keen on the subject and is in the area, I will be selling and signing copies of this and my other books during an author fair that is part of the twelfth Local Author Day at the Princeton Public Library, Princeton, NJ, This event will be on Saturday, April 29 from 1:30 – 4 pm in the library’s Community Room and first floor area.

Best regards,


58. Could We Have Lost the Revolution?

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The answer to the question posed above is “no.” At least according to historian Page Smith, writing in his magisterial work, A New Age Now Begins: A People’s History of the American Revolution (McGraw-Hill 1976). Smith’s analysis, in the final chapter of his second and concluding volume, echoes the thought expressed by John Adams many years after American independence was achieved: “But what do We mean by the American Revolution? Do We mean the American War? The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the Minds and Hearts of the People.” (Letter to Hezekiah Niles, February 13, 1818)

Here then is Mr. Smith (pp. 1823-1826):

Historians are great ‘if-ers,’ and the revolution offers them a field day…. One consequence of the work of the ‘if-ers’ is that the Revolution has commonly been treated as a ‘war’ rather than as a ‘revolution.’ This of course was the British mistake as well. In a war, especially in the eighteenth-century variety, when one side has absorbed a sufficient number of defeats, lost a sufficient number of soldiers, and surrendered a sufficient number of towns and cities, it adds up the profits and losses, finds that the debit column far outweighs the gains, and petitions for peace, or, more abjectly, surrenders. But a revolution is a different matter. A revolution is for keeps. A true revolution is not reversible; it cannot be ‘defeated’ in any conventional sense. The people can be decimated, starved, virtually destroyed, and in the right circumstances, by means of utter ruthlessness, the revolution can be suppressed. But ‘suppressed’ is different from ‘defeated.’

There must have been some reason why America was the graveyard of British military reputations; why no British general emerged with his laurels untarnished. After all, these were the same men, or at the very least the same type of men, who had administered a decisive drubbing to the French and Spanish during the Seven Years’ War. They made up the best military and naval force in the world. As we have seen, it never occurred to any but a handful of congenital optimists that they could be defeated by a ragtag citizen army of untrained levies. And properly speaking they weren’t. They ‘won’ almost every major engagement. From the ‘battle’ of Lexington and Concord, which wasn’t, properly speaking, a battle at all, to Yorktown, the British claimed an almost unbroken series of victories….

The American Revolution was, in modern parlance, the first ‘people’s liberation movement.’ In order to make any sense out of the question of whether Great Britain could have ‘won the war,’ we have to rephrase the question in a different form: Could Great Britain, after, let us say, the battle of Bunker Hill, and after, certainly the Declaration of Independence, have reduced the colonies to a ‘proper state of subordination’? Could they, in short, have turned off the revolution? Could they have restored the status quo ante bellum, as the military and diplomatic historians put it? And the answer, of course, is an emphatic no. It is quite literally impossible to imagine [Governor] Thomas Hutchinson returning to Massachusetts to guide its affairs and squabble with his council once again; or William Tryon back in North Carolina or New York [where he had served successively as royal governor], or, indeed, any other governor directing the affairs of this or that colony. In 1779, with the Carlisle Commission, Great Britain went as far as it could have possibly gone short of granting complete independence in meeting the American grievances that had brought on the ‘war’; and while Washington and Congress ‘feared it like the devil,’ it caused hardly a stir among the rank and file of patriots. No peace movement developed in the states to barter for a return to the parental fold, which had once appeared such a haven of security. It was indeed as Washington had said of the people crowding around him on the march from New York to Virginia [en route to Yorktown in 1781]: ‘We may be beaten by the English…but here is an army they will never conquer.’

American independence was not a precarious issue, hanging always in the balance, resting on a victory here or there, on this alliance or that, on the preservation of Robert Howe’s army of the Southern Department, or Benjamin Lincoln’s army of the Southern Department, or Horatio Gates’s army of the Southern Department—each of which were successively obliterated—or even on the survival of Nathanael Greene’s army, or the Continental Army of George Washington himself. The Revolution was, quite simply, the first and one of the most powerful expressions of the determination of a people to be free.

Well, there you have it. For those wishing to take issue with any of the above, have at it. As they say, history is an argument without end.

What Now?

Dear Reader,

This feels like a good time for me to hit the “pause” button on creating new posts. After spending more than two and a half years in the blogosphere, I’ve reached a point where it feels more like a chore than an opportunity—and that suggests that, at least for the near future, I need to take a blatant blog break. (Try saying that three times fast.) This pivot won’t necessarily entail a total or permanent abstention from blogging, as I foresee wanting to share information or thoughts on a particular topic at various times or posting a link to something that I hope will be of interest to you (especially if it’s something to which yours truly has been or will be connected). I’ll always enjoy writing, so you can expect me to seek outlets for that impulse, that is, beyond compiling a really long and diversified grocery list.

To anyone who may be disappointed by this news, I offer my regrets and a reminder of the sage advice commonly attributed to P.T. Barnum: “Always leave them wanting more.” And to those who feel otherwise, I’m pleased to do you this favor.

Thank you very much for reading, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride. We’ll see where it goes from here. As Yogi Berra allegedly opined, “It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Best wishes,


57. Who Said What About the “Ten Crucial Days” (Again)

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I know I covered the subject in a prior post (no. 35—published Dec. 4, 2021—to be precise), but I wanted to provide a link to a greatly expanded version of this, which just appeared in the Journal of the American Revolution. The article features some fairly obscure quotes, including ones from both sides, in addition to those with which many or most Rev War aficionados would be familiar by virtue of their being frequently referenced in secondary sources.

Oh yeah, I left out the alleged quote from one Lawrence Peter Berra that was in the earlier post and which I thought was an apposite observation in regard to the lesson to be learned from the “Ten Crucial Days” winter campaign of 1776-1777, i.e., “It ain’t over till it’s over.” (And Howe.) It seemed somewhat indecorous to include a reference to Yogi in a JAR piece—off-base, you might say. (And I didn’t want to be the Berra of such tidings.)

56. After the Shouting (or Shooting) – Part II

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This post is intended to complement the recent one that outlined the fate of various Continental Army officers after the War of Independence ended. The focus here is on several key British and German (Hessian) army officers who played roles of varying importance in the conflict. As was the case in Part I, this list is quite arbitrary with regard to the selection of specific individuals.

Henry Clinton: Generally regarded as the most cerebral of His Majesty’s generals during her war against the American Rebellion (as the colonies’ quest for independence was known in England), Clinton, as the successor army commander-in-chief to William Howe from 1778 until relieved in 1782, was blamed for the loss of the American colonies. After the Revolution, he published a narrative account of the conflict in an effort to clear his name. Clinton become a full general in 1793 and was named Governor of Gibraltar the following year. However, he died in London at age 65 in 1795, before he could assume the post as governor.

Charles Cornwallis: The most aristocratic and aggressive of Great Britain’s generals serving in North America was unsuccessful in his efforts to destroy Washington’s army at Assunpink Creek in 1777 and to do the same to Nathanael Greene’s southern army in 1781. He recovered from his signal defeat against the combined American and French forces at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781 to become governor-general of India in 1786. Cornwallis was created a marquess (a rank of nobility above an earl and below a duke) for his services and later served as viceroy of Ireland. He was reappointed governor-general of India in 1805 and died in Ghazipur, India, at age 66 in 1805.

Carl von Donop: The Hessian colonel of aristocratic lineage had overall command of the German troops stationed in the Trenton-Bordentown-Burlington area of New Jersey in December 1776, prior to the “Ten Crucial Days” winter campaign. He was mortally wounded during an attack on Fort Mercer on the Delaware River below Philadelphia, known as the Battle of Red Bank, in October 1777. At the time of his death, he was age 45.

William Erskine: The British quartermaster general to General Cornwallis, who unsuccessfully urged the latter to attack Washington’s army at Assunpink Creek without delay on the night of January 2, 1777, had been knighted for his military exploits prior to the American Rebellion. Known as “Woolly” by his fellow officers, he was promoted to brigadier general and then major general during the course of the war and saw action in the Philadelphia campaign in 1777 and at the Battle of Monmouth the following year. Erskine returned to England in 1779 and later commanded troops in Britain’s war against revolutionary France. He died at age 67 in 1795.

Johann Ewald: The Hessian captain, who came to America in 1776 and served under Colonel Carl von Donop during the “Ten Crucial Days,” participated in many of the war’s significant battles and was with Cornwallis’s army when it surrendered at Yorktown in 1781. He kept a diary that contained a comprehensive account of his experiences throughout the war and created numerous maps of the areas in which he fought, which included the placement of troops and fortifications. Ewald later served in the Danish army, rising to the rank of lieutenant general. He died in Kiel, in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, at age 69 in 1813.

James Grant: The Scottish-born major general served as the British commander in New Jersey during the “Ten Crucial Days” until General Cornwallis assumed command in the wake of the American victory at Trenton on December 26, 1776. Grant was probably the most contemptuous of all British generals in his attitude toward the rebels. He saw action in the Philadelphia campaign in 1777 and later commanded a small British force in the West Indies. A member of the British House of Commons before the war, Grant re-entered politics in England afterward but remained in the army until 1805. He died a year later at age 86.

William Howe: The British army’s commander in North America from 1775 to 1777 returned to England in 1778. In response to criticism of his military leadership, he demanded a parliamentary committee of inquiry in order to vindicate his conduct in America, but the committee of inquiry adjourned without reaching a conclusion. Howe assumed a significant role in supervising the defenses of England against Napoleon Bonaparte’s France and served in various governmental positions, including as a member of the Privy Council and as governor of Berwick-upon-Tweed and then Plymouth. He died in Plymouth, England, at age 85 in 1814.

Alexander Leslie: The brigadier general who commanded the British brigade that occupied Princeton when the “Ten Crucial Days” campaign began was stationed in Maidenhead with a reserve force on January 2, 1777, while the main body of Cornwallis’s army advanced on Trenton. His nephew, Captain William Leslie, was mortally wounded at the Battle of Princeton the next day. Leslie was promoted to major general in 1782 and continued to serve in the military after the war. He died in Edinburgh, Scotland, at age 63 in 1794.

Charles Mawhood: The colonel led a spirited resistance by outnumbered British troops against Washington’s army at the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777 and was highly regarded in England afterwards. He served in the Philadelphia campaign of 1777 and subsequently raised a new regiment that fought against the Spanish siege of British-held Gibraltar, where he died at age 50 in 1780 after suffering from a gallstone.

55. Giving History A Hand

Reminder: If you’re reading this in your email, you have to click on the link at the bottom or go to and click on the Speaking of Which tab in order to view the actual blog post with the featured image.

Also please note: I know I indicated in the last post that the next one would complement it by outlining the fate of various British and Hessian officers after the Revolutionary War. However, as you can see, I have taken the liberty (this is a Rev War blog, after all) of deferring the post on those officers until next time. Today’s offering is something that’s near and dear to my heart and—given the focus of my second book, The Road to Assunpink Creek—my keyboard.

Giving Revolutionary history a hand and then some is exactly what Thomas Black, a senior at Notre Dame High School in Lawrence Township, NJ—Maidenhead at the time of the War for Independence—recently did. For his Eagle Scout project, Thomas constructed a marker (seen above) to memorialize the delaying action waged by American skirmishers under Colonel Edward Hand against a far larger force of British and Hessian troops advancing from Princeton to Trenton on January 2, 1777—and especially the clash that occurred adjacent to the parking lot at Notre Dame.

The new marker is far more elaborate and informative than the preexisting tiny blue marker by Lawrenceville Road (Route 206) in front of the school. Thomas’s creation stands near Shabakunk Creek, which runs through the campus and was the scene of perhaps the most intense fighting between Hand’s men and His Majesty’s troops, the latter commanded by Lieutenant General Charles Earl Cornwallis. It is quite possible that the efforts of those unsung Patriot combatants saved George Washington’s army from destruction that day by preventing Cornwallis’s formidable column from arriving in Trenton until it was too dark to launch a full-scale assault on the rebel lines positioned behind Assunpink Creek on the southern edge of town.

Thomas’s effort was inspired by his history teacher John McQuarrie, who recently retired after more than two decades at Notre Dame. John (who BTW is a subscriber to this blog) was kind enough to share a link to additional information about this much-needed tribute to the heroic resistance by Edward Hand’s thousand-man detachment, who were outnumbered more than six-to-one by their adversary. Later that day—in the immediate aftermath of Hand’s fighting withdrawal—Washington’s troops held off the enemy thrust at the Battle of Assunpink Creek, or Second Battle of Trenton. The next morning, they counterattacked at Princeton in the capstone engagement of the “Ten Crucial Days” winter campaign of 1776-1777, which reversed the military momentum previously enjoyed by the Crown’s forces.

So kudos to Thomas and John. They deserve a hand and Hand deserves them. I hope what they’ve done is, well, a sign of the times. (Yes, I know, they worked hand in hand.)

And speaking of same, for anyone who may be interested, I will be discussing the significance of the events referenced above at the annual meeting of the Lawrence Historical Society on February 26 at the Lawrence Headquarters Branch of the Mercer County Library, 2751 Brunswick Pike, Lawrenceville, NJ (at the corner of Brunswick Pike and Darrah Lane). The talk will be based on The Road to Assunpink Creek. The meeting, which is open to members and nonmembers, is scheduled to begin at 1 pmAdmission is free but registration is requested—and here’s the link to register. (I hope to bring copies of my four books to the event.)

54. After the Shouting (or Shooting) – Part I

Dear Reader:

Happy New Year.

Please note: For those of you who are new subscribers (and those who aren’t), if you’re reading this in your email, you have to click on the link to my website and then on the Speaking of Which tab in order to view the actual blog post with the featured image.

This post and the next will outline the fate of various officers in the respective armies after the Revolutionary War. We’ll start with an admittedly arbitrary and very select list of Continental Army officers presented alphabetically below. The next post will attempt to do the same for several British officers who played leading roles in the conflict.

William Alexander (Lord Stirling): The brigadier general who commanded a Continental Army brigade during the “Ten Crucial Days” winter campaign of 1776-1777 was considered one of George Washington’s most loyal officers. He was too ill to participate in the battles at Assunpink Creek and Princeton but was promoted to major general early in 1777 and saw action at the battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. Known for eating and drinking to excess, he died from gout in Albany, New York, at age 56 in 1783.

John Cadwalader: The colonel of the Philadelphia Associators was appointed brigadier general of the Pennsylvania militia in 1777 but declined Continental Army appointments to brigadier general and to brigadier and commander of the cavalry. In 1778, he left military service and returned to his family’s estate in Shrewsbury, Maryland. That year, he fought a duel with Washington’s nemesis, Thomas Conway, over the latter’s alleged “cabal” among certain army officers against Washington’s leadership, inflicting a nonfatal wound on Conway. After the war, Cadwalader moved from Pennsylvania to Maryland and served in its House of Delegates. He died in Shrewsbury at age 44 in 1786.

John Glover: The colonel commanded the seafaring men of the 14th Massachusetts Continental Regiment from Marblehead, who played an indispensable role in the Delaware River crossing of December 25, 1776. He was left without a regiment after December 31, 1776 because of expired enlistments. Glover went home to attend to family and business matters after his regiment disbanded but returned to the army in 1777 and served for the remainder of the war. He died in Marblehead at age 64 in 1797.

Nathanael Greene: The major general who led one of Washington’s two divisions during the “Ten Crucial Days” subsequently became quartermaster general of the Continental Army. He later earned fame as the successful commander of the southern army against General Charles Earl Cornwallis, in which role he was credited with waging a brilliant military campaign against a superior foe. After the Revolution, Greene was awarded liberal grants of money by South Carolina and Georgia and settled on an estate near Savannah in 1785. He died there at age 43 in 1786.

Alexander Hamilton: The young artillery captain early in the war became an aide-de-camp to Washington with the rank of lieutenant-colonel in 1777 and proved to be of inestimable value in his services to the commander-in-chief. He attained battlefield glory by leading the assault on British redoubt number 10 at Yorktown in 1781, then returned to New York City where he practiced law and entered politics. Hamilton supervised and co-authored The Federalist Papers with James Madison and John Jay in 1787 in support of the proposed federal constitution. As Washington’s secretary of the treasury from 1789 to 1795, he played an essential role in shaping young America’s national government and facilitating the development of its capitalist economy, while emerging as the leading spokesperson for the political faction known as the Federalists. He died in New York City in 1804, at the age of 49, from a mortal wound sustained in a duel with his bitter political rival, Aaron Burr.

Edward Hand: The colonel of the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment, who was promoted to brigadier general in 1777 and became the Continental Army’s last adjutant general, returned to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, at war’s end and later built Rock Ford, a Georgian-style brick mansion on several hundred acres of land. He lived there from 1794 until his death. Hand practiced medicine, served as a member of the Congress of Confederation (1784-1785) and the Pennsylvania Assembly (1785-1786), and later as a delegate to the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention (1790). Tradition has it that he played host to Washington during the latter’s visit to Lancaster as president in 1791. He died in Lancaster at age 57 in 1802.

Henry Knox: The Continental Army’s artillery commander and brigadier general for most of the war was promoted to major general in 1782 and succeeded Washington as the army’s commander-in-chief in 1783, serving briefly in that position. Having been at Washington’s side during every battle, Knox became the nation’s first secretary of war under President Washington and then retired to his estate in Maine in 1795. He died there at age 56 in 1806 as the result of an infection from a chicken bone that lodged in his throat.

Charles Lee: The major general who was Washington’s second in command when captured by the British in December 1776 was returned in a prisoner exchange in the spring of 1778. He led the Continental Army’s vanguard against the enemy at the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778, when he was humiliated in a battlefield confrontation with Washington. A court-martial that Lee requested to clear his name found him guilty of insubordination, and he was dismissed from the army in 1780. He lived as a recluse in retirement, first on his Virginia estate and then in Philadelphia, where he died alone in a tavern at age 51 in 1782.

Thomas Mifflin: The general persuaded the soldiers of a New England regiment to remain with the Continental Army when their enlistments expired on December 31, 1776, by offering each a financial bonus for agreeing to serve another six weeks, and thereby inspired Washington to do the same when appealing to other units. Mifflin had been a Philadelphia merchant and politician who served as a delegate to the Continental Congress before joining the army. He rose through the ranks to become a major general but experienced tensions with Washington over Mifflin’s handling of his duties as the army’s first quartermaster general. After his military service ended, he again served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and subsequently as a delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention. He became the first governor of Pennsylvania in 1790 and served for nine years. Mifflin died in Lancaster at age 56 in 1800.

James Monroe: The lieutenant who was wounded at the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776 saw further military service and after the war returned to his native Virginia. He went on to enjoy an illustrious political career, becoming a United States senator, governor of Virginia, ambassador to France, secretary of state and war, and finally the fifth president of the United States (1817-1825). He is best known for asserting, in his annual message to Congress in 1823, the “Monroe Doctrine” that declared opposition to European intervention in the Western Hemisphere, which became a cornerstone of American foreign policy. He died in New York City at age 73 in 1831.

Joseph Reed: The lawyer and colonel who served as the Continental Army’s adjutant general (chief administrative officer) during the “Ten Crucial Days” was offered both a position as brigadier general and as chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1777, but he turned both down because he had been elected to the Continental Congress. In 1778, he was elected president of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania (equivalent to the position of governor) and in that position oversaw the enactment of a 1780 law providing for the abolition of slavery in Pennsylvania. Reed died in Philadelphia at age 43 in 1785.

Arthur St. Clair: The Continental Army brigadier general may have been the first officer to suggest to Washington the idea of an overnight march from Trenton to Princeton on January 2-3, 1777. He was promoted to major general in 1777 and later fought in the southern theater. St. Clair left the army in 1783 and became a delegate to the Continental Congress. He served as governor of the Northwest Territory from 1787 to 1802 and, during a brief return to military duty, suffered a severe defeat against Native American tribes at the 1791 Battle of the Wabash. He died in Pennsylvania at age 82 in 1818.

John Sullivan: The major general who led one of Washington’s two divisions during the “Ten Crucial Days” commanded American troops fighting against the Native American tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy and their Loyalist allies later in the war. After the Revolution, the New Hampshire-born attorney served as attorney general and governor of his state and as a federal district judge. He died in Durham, New Hampshire, at age 54 in 1795.

George Washington: The Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army resigned his commission when the war ended in 1783 and returned to his estate at Mount Vernon in Virginia, but was later recalled to public service. He presided over the 1787 convention in Philadelphia that adopted the federal constitution and became the first President of the United States in 1789. In that role, he forged the federal government’s executive branch, established a set of enduring precedents that would guide his successors—perhaps most importantly creating a tradition of presidential term limits by refusing to serve for a third term—and spearheaded the effort to convert the promise of constitutional democracy into a living reality. Washington retired from public life in 1797, returning once again to Mount Vernon. In what is known as his farewell address to the American people upon leaving the presidency, he exhorted his fellow countrymen to assume a greater sense of national identity in their capacity as citizens of the United States. Washington died at Mount Vernon at age 67 in 1799.

William Washington: The captain and distant cousin of George Washington was wounded at the first Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776 and earned a promotion to major and then colonel. He distinguished himself as a cavalry officer in the southern theater and received a silver medal from Congress, one of only 11 awarded during the war, for his role at the Battle of Cowpens in 1781. After the Revolution, Washington settled in South Carolina and served in the state legislature. He died at age 58 in 1810.

52. The Enduring Durhams

The image above is that of a replica Durham boat housed in the boat barn at Washington Crossing Historic Park (WCHP) along the Pennsylvania banks of the Delaware River. None of the Durhams that plied the Delaware and Lehigh rivers in the eighteenth century—some fifteen to twenty of which were used to transport George Washington’s infantry across the Delaware on Christmas night 1776—exist today, at least not on dry land. However, the four seaworthy (or river-worthy, to be precise) replica craft at WCHP are used in the re-enactment of that nautical enterprise undertaken twice each December, once on the second Sunday of the month (December 11 this year) and the other on Christmas afternoon. This ritual became routinized in 1953 and has been ongoing ever since.

The Boats

At Washington’s command, the Durham boats that were to be used in the crossing on the night of December 25-26, 1776 were collected from the upper Delaware and Lehigh rivers. Daniel Bray, Jacob Gearhart, and Thomas Jones, all captains in the Hunterdon County militia, engineered this effort and reportedly concealed the boats behind Malta Island below Coryell’s Ferry (today New Hope) on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware, several miles above the site at McConkey’s Ferry where the main Continental force would cross. (Malta Island cannot be discerned today because of topographical changes to the area.) In addition to the Durhams, the militia gathered other boats over a forty-mile stretch of the Delaware and moored them in various creeks and behind wooded islands along the river’s west bank, intending to deprive the enemy of these craft while keeping them ready for the Americans’ use.

The Durham boats, which were constructed at the Durham Ironworks or Durham Furnace near Easton, Pennsylvania, typically ranged from thirty to sixty feet in length and were about eight feet wide in the beam. It is estimated that each of these boats carried between thirty and forty soldiers, in addition to a crew of several rowers and a captain. The latter functioned as a pilot by steering the boat with a “sweep” oar, about twenty-five feet long and weighing some ninety pounds, which protruded from the stern (rear). The crew used oars that were about eighteen feet long and weighed some thirty-five pounds; two men were required to operate each oar, and there were two to four oars on each side depending on the length of the boat. The soldiers would have been required to stand on the Durhams, as these vessels had no seats since they were not built to hold passengers but rather to transport heavy cargo such as iron ore, pig iron, produce, and timber downriver to Philadelphia.

The River

The float ice on the Delaware that night—and there were copious amounts of it—posed a particular impediment to the Durhams. The swift current combined with the ice, bitterly cold winds, freezing precipitation, and swollen river to make the army’s endeavor especially challenging. Moreover, the full-blown northeaster that descended on the area by 11 p.m. compounded the difficulty of carrying out Washington’s battle plan. As a result, it took between nine and ten hours for the entire 2,400-man force to make its way to the New Jersey side. By the time those troops did so, it was 3:00 a.m., and it would be another hour before their march to Trenton commenced.

The Result

With the aid of the Durhams and the sailor-soldiers of the 14th Massachusetts Continental Regiment known as the Marblehead Regiment, who with other units rowed the Durhams (accompanied by ferry boats that conveyed the army’s horses, artillery, and wagons), Washington’s troops succeeded in traversing the ice-laden river. Remarkably, they did so without losing a single soldier, cannon, horse, wagon, or boat and later that morning defeated the brigade of German soldiers, known to us as “Hessians,” occupying the town of Trenton. The victorious rebel troops made further use of the Durhams on the night of December 26-27, when they returned to Pennsylvania with some nine hundred prisoners, and again between the 29th and New Year’s Eve as they crossed the river once more—the fourth time that month—back to New Jersey. From there, the Patriot forces went on to win two more battles, at Trenton on January 2 and Princeton the next day, to complete their remarkable “Ten Crucial Days” campaign and reverse the momentum of the war.

The sturdy Durhams accomplished what Washington envisioned when he ordered that they be rounded up for the army’s use. In fact, you might say those boats kept the Revolution afloat (in a manner of speaking).

Season’s Greetings! 

I’ll be taking a break from blogging until 2023. In the meantime, my best wishes to all for a joyful holiday season and a healthy and happy new year.

51. To SAR with Love

It would obviously be gratifying to learn that my literary and educational activity relating to the “Ten Crucial Days” of the Revolution is viewed favorably in any quarter but especially so when the judgment is rendered by a group whose members are passionately committed to preserving the legacy of that pivotal moment in American history and those who made it possible.

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Washington Crossing Chapter of the Pennsylvania Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) during their dinner meeting at the Continental Tavern in Yardley, PA. The subject was John Haslet’s World, the third volume in this scribbler’s trilogy about the “Ten Crucial Days,” and I left with a full stomach (if you’re in the area, try the salmon – it’s really good) and the SAR Bronze Good Citizenship Medal.

The accompanying citation was presented by chapter president William B. Hampton and reads as follows (cue the gauche display of immodesty):

The Washington Crossing Chapter of the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the American
Revolution is honored to present the SAR Bronze Good Citizenship Medal and certificate to
David Price for his work promoting the historical and accurate story of the Crossing and the
succeeding 10 days of the American Revolution. Without this Crossing, the American
Revolution may well have failed. This Crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Night
of 1776, envisioned and led by General George Washington, successfully initiated the “Ten
Crucial Days” of the American Revolution. David has authored 3 books with inspiring
stories about the events during this period. His historical research has illuminated the stories
of this pivotal time. Through his authorship, affiliations with local and national
organizations relating to the Revolutionary War, and his work as an historical interpreter
and outreach educator for 8 years for the Friends of Washington Crossing Park and 4 years
at Princeton Battlefield, David has been instrumental in furthering our SAR Chapter’s
primary goal: that of the careful perpetuation and accurate teaching of Washington’s
Crossing. In addition, he has been a featured speaker for our chapter twice and for other
SAR chapters. We are grateful for his service to perpetuate the memory of Revolutionary
War Patriots through his historical research, and education, 2 purposes of the SAR.

To be honest, I’ve had it up to here with such comments (let the record reflect that I’m pointing to my ankle). That said, if this exercise in whistle tooting offends anyone’s reverence for humility, I apologize. (Actually, humility is what slaps you in the face when you’re speaking to an audience of eleven people in an auditorium that seats about 250 and one of them starts snoring during your talk, to which I can attest.) Apparently seven years of literary exertion with little to show for it in the way of tangible recognition on the order of the referenced encomium—and who’s to say that isn’t for good reason—has reduced me to this shameless state. Hence I stand guilty of exploiting this one post to revel in a few kind words from fellow history geeks. Begging your indulgence, I promise to provide something more illuminating next time.

50. John Cadwalader

The above image of John Cadwalader and his wife Anne and eldest daughter Elizabeth was painted in 1772 by one of the most noteworthy artists of that era, Charles Willson Peale. According to one writer, Cadwalader was “respected as a man of energy, of strong convictions, and of the highest integrity.” (Nicholas B. Wainwright, Colonial Grandeur in Philadelphia: The House and Furniture of General John Cadwalader, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1964) Washington described him as “a military genius, of a decisive and independent spirit, properly impressed with the necessity of order and discipline and of sufficient vigor to enforce it.” (John C. Fitzpatrick, The Writings of George Washington, 1932, Vol. 37, 548)

A Privileged Revolutionary

In 1776, Cadwalader was a thirty-four-year-old merchant and prominent member of the Philadelphia gentry who had served on the city’s Committee of Safety and risen to command the volunteer militia known as the Philadelphia Associators, first organized in 1747 by Benjamin Franklin and then mustered anew in 1776. The Associators represented a cross-section of the population in Philadelphia—then the largest city in America with some forty thousand inhabitants—as well as volunteers from rural Pennsylvania counties, and among their officers was the artist Peale.

Cadwalader was taken prisoner when Fort Washington fell to General William Howe’s British and Hessian army on November 16, 1776 but was immediately released in consideration of favorable treatment received by a British prisoner at the hands of the colonel’s father in Philadelphia. He led over a thousand men of the Philadelphia Associators when they joined up with the Continental Army in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in December 1776, although these troops brought no actual combat experience with them. They were supposed to cross the Delaware River from Bristol on Christmas night to support Washington’s attack against the Hessian brigade in Trenton, but were stymied in their efforts to do so by the buildup of ice on the river that was more severe in the area below where the main rebel force crossed. However, Cadwalader’s men urged him to undertake an unplanned crossing on December 27 and thereby created the catalyst for a critical sequence of events, without which Cadwalader inferred that the raid on the Hessians at Trenton would have limited significance.

A Key Role in the “Ten Crucial Days” Campaign

Washington’s troops had returned to Pennsylvania after their raid on Trenton, but the deliberations of the commander-in-chief and his generals at their December 27 council of war were informed by the knowledge that Cadwalader’s 1,500 men—comprising about 1,100 Philadelphia Associators and a brigade of about 350 New England Continentals under Colonel Daniel Hitchcock of Rhode Island—had crossed the river to New Jersey that morning in its second attempt to do so. The colonel reported this unexpected development in a dispatch that arrived at army headquarters just before the council of war convened, in which he advised that the enemy was fleeing in panic and that the way was open to drive them from the western half of New Jersey. With Cadwalader’s dispatch in hand, Washington realized he had a golden opportunity to follow-up the attack on December 26 with a broader offensive that could change the whole dynamic of the contest. Orders were issued for the army to cross the river back to New Jersey, which it did over the next three days.

Once Washington returned to Trenton, he received intelligence from Cadwalader about the disposition of British troops in Princeton. The latter had met with a “very intelligent young gentleman” who was detained overnight by the redcoats but released on the morning of December 30. This youthful Patriot, whose identity is unknown, informed Cadwalader of the buildup of enemy troops and described in great detail how they were positioned. Based on this report, Cadwalader drew a crude map of the town indicating the strengths and weaknesses of the British alignment. From this sketch, Washington discerned an opportunity to make a successful move against his adversary. The British in Princeton were establishing strong defenses that included artillery and breastworks to guard against a possible American incursion from the north, west, or south. But they had neglected to fortify the eastern side of the town, which lay open to attack. Cadwalader’s map included a route from Trenton by which Washington’s army could approach Princeton from the east, where the enemy was most vulnerable.

Armed with this information, Washington held another council of war on the evening of January 1. He and his officers needed to consider how to respond to the large enemy force gathering in Princeton. It was decided to bring Cadwalader’s contingent from its encampment at Crosswicks to Trenton in order to strengthen the army’s position in the coming battle. Cadwalader’s militia reinforced the Continental regulars when the British attacked at the Second Battle of Trenton (or the Battle of Assunpink Creek) on January 2, 1777. The Americans held off the enemy and that night marched to Princeton under the cover of darkness, where they won the capstone victory of their pivotal “Ten Crucial Days” campaign the next day. Cadwalader’s brigade assisted in the final attack that drove the heavily outnumbered British from the field.


The colonel of the Philadelphia Associators was appointed brigadier general of the Pennsylvania militia in 1777 but declined Continental Army appointments to brigadier general and to brigadier and commander of the cavalry. In 1778, he left military service and returned to his family’s estate in Shrewsbury, Maryland. That year, he fought a duel with Washington’s nemesis, Thomas Conway, over the latter’s alleged “cabal” among certain army officers against Washington’s leadership, inflicting a nonfatal wound on Conway. After the war, Cadwalader moved from Pennsylvania to Maryland and served in its House of Delegates. He died in Shrewsbury at age forty-four in 1786.

Want More?

If you’re interested, you can dig deeper into Cadwalader by way of two recent articles in the Journal of the American Revolution:

John Cadwalader, Twice Refuses to be a General, September 13, 2022, by Jeff Dacus

The Significance of John Cadwalader, September 22, 2022, by yours truly

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