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This Week in American Military History

in Military Stories and Humor in Uniform Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:41 am
by Greasy Paws | 111 Posts

From Washington’s Crossing to Lincoln’s Gift
by W. Thomas Smith Jr.

This Week in American Military History:

Dec. 21, 1861: The congressionally conceived "Medal of Honor" is signed into law authorizing such medals be awarded to enlisted sailors and Marines who "distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities." The Army version of the medal is signed into law the following summer.

Dec. 22, 1864: Following his “March to the Sea” and just before his “March through the Carolinas,” Union Army Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman presents the captured city of Savannah (Ga.) to Pres. Lincoln as a “Christmas gift.”

Dec. 24, 1814: The Treaty of Ghent is signed ending the War of 1812.

Dec. 25, 1776: Continental Army Gen. George Washington conducts his famous crossing of the Delaware River from the icy Pennsylvania shoreline to the equally frozen banks of New Jersey. It will be followed by an eight-mile march to the town of Trenton where he will meet and defeat the Hessians (German soldiers allied to the British).

Speed of movement, surprise, maneuver, violence of action, and the plan’s simplicity are all key. Fortunately, the elements will all come together.

The factors in Washington’s favor are clear: The weather is so bad that no one believes the Continentals will attempt a river crossing, much less a forced march at night. The Continentals are numerically – and perceived to be qualitatively – inferior to the British Army. The Hessians, mercenaries allied to the British and who are garrisoned in Trenton, have a battlefield reputation that far exceeds their actual combat prowess. And no one believes the weary Americans will want to attempt anything with anyone on Christmas.

Hours before kickoff, Washington has his officers read to the men excerpts of Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis.

By 4:00 p.m. the force of just under 2,500 men gathers at McKonkey's Ferry, the launching point for the mission. The watchword, “Victory or death,” is given. As darkness sets in, the men climb into the boats and begin easing out into the black river.

Washington's crossing and subsequent raid has been dubbed "America's first special operation" in some military circles: Though there were many small-unit actions, raids, and Ranger operations during the Colonial Wars, and there was a special Marine landing in Nassau in the early months of the American Revolution. Still no special operation in American military history has been more heralded than that which took place on Christmas night exactly 234 years ago, this week.

"My ardent desire is, and my aim has been ... to comply strictly with all our engagements foreign and domestic; but to keep the United States free from political connections with every other country. To see that they may be independent of all, and under the influence of none. In a word, I want an American character, that the powers of Europe may be convinced we act for ourselves and not for others; this, in my judgment, is the only way to be respected abroad and happy at home." --George Washington, letter to Partick Henry, 1775

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RE: This Week in American Military History

in Military Stories and Humor in Uniform Thu Dec 23, 2010 5:51 am
by LLE | 101 Posts

I thank GP for the reminder of that Christmas Day operation that had its start at Washington Crossing, PA, so long ago. It was my good fortune in the mid-70's, to work out of an office at Washington Crossing, a neat little PA village close by the shores of the Delaware river. Many times, for lunch break, I would stroll down to the shore, sit on a bench and try to re-create a picture in my head as to how it all happened. I would always come away with the same question--"What manner of men had the Almighty given us, to pull off such a decisive action against our enemy"? And as we approach Christmas Day, 2010, I have a message for our major enemy--- I say to you, our goal is "peace on earth, good will toward all people. We know what your goal is--- worldwide jihad, the subjugation of all whom you consider infidels. If you believe WE have lost the grit and determination we had in Washington's time, or in Pershing's time, or in Eisenhower's time, your jihad has already begun to fail. Little by little, day after day, we are gaining more and more knowledge of 'where you live', even though you are a stateless cave of snakes. My guess is, in about two more years from January 20th, you all are going to begin to find out just what 'terrible swift sword' really means. In the meantime, please know that it does not have to be that way---BUT also know that we are not naive or weak. We know about "taqquia"; we know about your Koranic wartime model built upon the "treaty of Huddibya"; and we know about the coded message inside your declaration that you offer the "peace of Saladin". Once again, we are withstanding another long, harsh Valley Forge kind of "winter" you are thrusting upon us, and we are coming for may be assured that your fate will not include a virginal paradise." Amen.

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RE: This Week in American Military History

in Military Stories and Humor in Uniform Thu Dec 23, 2010 8:57 am
by samD | 534 Posts

Great story LLE, thanks for the reminder.

لن أستسلم لموتُ لالاس "I will not submit.Death to Islam!"

The Socialists told us long ago that since they could not beat us with force, that they would destroy us slowly from within. So far it is working pretty well. MOLON LABE

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RE: This Week in American Military History

in Military Stories and Humor in Uniform Thu Dec 23, 2010 9:20 am
by LLE | 101 Posts

Thanks Sammy, and a wonderful, healthy Christmas to you and your family, and everyone here at Molon Labe.

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