by Newt Gingrich
Christmas Day, 1776, nearly all thought the Revolution was lost, except for a
valiant few who still believed in “The Cause.” We owe our liberty today to
those valiant few.
Led by George Washington, most of his army, dressed in rags and barefoot, faced a winter gale of rain, sleet, ice and snow. This band of patriots braved a midnight river crossing and a nine mile march over frozen roads to win a spectacular victory at Trenton, New Jersey, the following morning. Those were indeed times, as Thomas Paine would write, that “try men’s souls.”
In a season that has become too commercialized and -- worse yet -- had much of its religious meaning driven from the public square, Washington’s Christmas crossing is a story that should be remembered and celebrated, this Christmas and every Christmas.
Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ, to be with family and friends, and, I would add, to give thanks to God for those who endured so much on that Christmas night, 232 years ago.
Coming Next Year: Washington’s Crossing Told In Christmas Night
Historian Bill Forstchen and I have started another book which will attempt to give Washington and his men’s sacrifice that Christmas night its proper place in American history.
Bill and I have co-authored two “active history” series across the last six years: the “Gettysburg” trilogy which speculates as to what might have happened if General Robert E. Lee had triumphed at Gettysburg, and our “Pacific War,” series with two volumes out so far.
More than a decade ago Bill and I considered writing a novel about our American Revolution, but other projects led us away from that idea. This summer our editor with St. Martin’s Press, Pete Wolverton, urged us to consider the topic of our Revolution, and thus we have started on a two book project. The working title for the first book is Christmas Night, which will be published just before Christmas of next year.
A Heroic Moment in Our History and the Man Who Lived It
Bill has commented more than once that writing about Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Admirals Halsey and Yamamoto was of course challenging but writing about George Washington is something complete different and more than a little daunting.
Pulitzer Prize winning historian Joseph Ellis openly discusses this in his exceptional work, His Excellency George Washington. Our first president, Ellis writes, has always seemed somewhat remote and larger than life. It is hard to imagine him with shoes off, feet up on a bench by a fire, sharing a good joke, the way we can so easily picture Lincoln.
A Do or Die Mission on a Brutal Winter Night
Yet there is so much that is alive and dynamic about Washington. And if ever there is a truly epic, heroic moment in our national story, it is when he boarded a small boat, in the midst of a driving winter storm, and crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Night of 1776 with his exhausted, ragged army of little more than 2,000 men in a do or die mission.
Another Pulitzer winner, David Hackett Fischer, in his brilliant Washington’s Crossing, gives us one of the best traditional historical studies of this incredible moment in American history, a book that was truly worthy of a Pulitzer and one that both Bill and I highly recommend as a great Christmas read for this year.
Getting “Inside” the Mind of George Washington
Bill and I are both trained historians. But we love historical fiction. We both see historical fiction, such as the works of C. S. Forester, Kenneth Roberts and Steven Pressfield, as a fascinating way to get “inside” the lives and minds of those who shaped history.
Our forthcoming novels about the Revolution will of course face that daunting task of “getting inside” George Washington and we hope we can do him credit.
Hopefully, a year from now you will be interested in reading our book about that Christmas Night. And for our fans of the Pacific War series, we’re taking only a short break from the tale of Halsey and Yamamoto but will resume it as soon as our two books about Washington are completed.
When You Start to Feel You Have Nothing to Be Thankful For, Remember that Night in 1776
America is not without its problems this holiday season. Our economy has taken the worst battering in nearly eighty years and enemies abroad still seek our destruction. But when we start to feel like we have nothing to be thankful for, we should think back to the Christmas of 1776.
George Washington and those who crossed the Delaware with him had a clear vision of the future. They were willing to pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, on their actions that night.
As you and your family celebrate the holidays, please take a moment to reflect and offer a prayer of thanks for those who risked all for the freedoms we enjoy today. And as always, keep in your prayers those, who on Christmas night and during the celebration of Hanukkah, will stand silent vigil on distant fronts to insure our safety and freedom.
Mr. Gingrich is the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and author of "Winning the Future" (published by Regnery, a HUMAN EVENTS sister company). Click here to get his free Winning the Future e-mail newsletter.