Barack Obama did not include President George Washington as one of the four “best” presidents in his 60 Minutes interview, but put himself in fourth place behind LBJ, FDR and Abraham Lincoln (a sign of this president’s stunning humility). In the video below, Newt Gingrich is remembering George Washington’s 1776 Christmas. The transcript also follows.
Christmas 1776: General Washington and his troops had been defeated in September, driven from Brooklyn to Manhattan; from Manhattan to north of New York City, around the Palisades, across New Jersey.
They declined from 30,000 troops in September, to 2500 effectives on Christmas Day. Of the 2500, one-third did not have boots. They were wearing burlap bags wrapped around their feet, and as they marched, they left a trail of blood.
General Washington knew that if he didn’t win a victory soon, the entire Army would disappear, and so he had to do something desperate.
He proposed to cross an icy river at night, in a snow storm, and then march nine miles in the dark to the city of Trenton, a village that had 800 German troops, professional Hessians, to surprise them and to capture them. It was a very dangerous plan.
Because it was harder to get there than they thought, they were four hours late, and yet as a sign of Divine Providence, there was an enormous snow storm coming from the north, from behind them, pushing them toward Trenton. A storm so enormous that the German troops said nobody could be out in this weather. So they didn’t post guards. They didn’t muster at dawn as they normally would, because it was impossible.
For Europeans it probably was impossible, but these were Americans. They were used to the American winter. They were used to deer hunting in the American winter. They were used to traveling in the winter. This was just a terrible winter. It wasn’t a reason to stop.
Washington’s troops surprised the Germans – captured 800 of them at the cost of one American and then ran for the river before the British Army could catch them. They went across the river with their prisoners. Within two weeks 15,000 volunteers showed up, and Washington began driving the British across New Jersey. The Revolution had been saved.
How big a gamble was it? That night as they began to get in the boats, they were told that the password for the evening was Victory or Death, and they meant it. They were prepared to give everything for freedom.
Surely, in the most successful country in history, we can do what is necessary. We can be in the spirit of General Washington and the Americans who fought for freedom.
We can go out, get the vote out, make the argument, stand up for freedom, and I believe we can have as big an impact in helping America remain free in our generation as they did in theirs.
Newt Gingrich Campaign: Christmas 1776 (video)