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                                DISCOVERING THE FUTU​RE BY REVEALING THE PAST





Casper Metzger signed the Articles of Association, on 21 August 1775, with Colonel Arthur Erwin’s 2nd Battalion, Springfield Company, Bucks County, and was 1st class, 2nd Battalion of Militia in 1784, under Lt. Colonel Philip Bohm. Casper Metzger also signed his Oath of Allegiance to the Republic, on June 1, 1777, in Springfield Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. From an original record, it is recorded that during the month of December 1776, blankets were procured by the Associator companies of the various townships present at the Delaware River, Springfield is listed as procuring 6 blankets.

                                           BAEST / BEST            

                                             Nicholas Best

                                             b. 1720, Germany

                                                  Ship Winter Galley, Sept. 5, 1738

                                              d. 1778, Northampton County PA

   Juliana Elizabeth Best (Metzger)

                                               Elisabetha Catharina Schuch

                                               b. 1726


December 1776: Washington Crosses Delaware River

Pennsylvania Associators were a volunteer militia founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1747. Colonel Arthur Erwin’s Bucks County Associators, answered General Washington’s call from the banks of the Delaware River, on December 9, 1776. Although few Pennsylvania Associators were able to successfully cross the Delaware River, due to the ice build-ups along the river banks, the Associators participated in the second battle of Trenton, the battle of Princeton, and the destruction of Worth’s Mill. About 1200 Pennsylvania Associators were with Colonel John Cadwalader’s Philadelphia Associators, and about 800 Associators were with General James Ewing, during the crossing of the Delaware River on December 25, 1776. Many of the Associators were responsible for the guarding of the over 900 Hessian soldiers that surrendered during the first battle of Trenton. The first medical doctor for the town of Wind Gap, PA, is recorded to have been one of those captured Hessian soldiers.


Being driven from the battlefield, in November of 1776, George Washington led his army out of New York after a demoralizing defeat at Fort Washington. He then announced to Congress, on the first of December, his contemplated retreat across the Delaware, and asked that the Pennsylvania militia be ordered toward Trenton. General George Washington’s army crossed the ice-filled Delaware River on Christmas Day 1776 and, over the course of the next 10 days, won two crucial battles of the American Revolution. In the Battle of Trenton (December 26), Washington defeated a formidable garrison of Hessian mercenaries before withdrawing. A week later he returned to the second battle of Trenton to lure British forces south and then executed a daring night march to capture Princeton on January 3. The victories reasserted American control of much of New Jersey and greatly improved the morale and unity of the colonial army and militias.


The boats were collected on the west side of the river. About the same time, Washington sent forward Colonel Hampton to collect all the boats and other craft along the Delaware, and General Putnam was ordered to construct rafts from the lumber at Trenton landing, while another party was sent up the river to collect all the boards and scantling on or near the river banks. The arms of non-Associators were collected to prevent them from being used against the Americans. The militia was ordered to reinforce Washington, and their numbers were quickly growing in force. The battle was now on the Pennsylvania border, and militia units and Associators from Pennsylvania showed up to fight. Thomas Mifflin, later the Governor of Pennsylvania, was one of the Pennsylvania commanders. He wrote to Washington, “Pennsylvania is at length roused and coming forward to your Excellency’s aid.”  Mifflin commanded nearly 1,500 men from numerous militia regiments and companies. At the same time Colonel John Cadwalader, commander of Pennsylvania’s Philadelphia Associators, led 1,200 Associators from the Philadelphia area to join Washington, and Brigadier General James Ewing, a Pennsylvania Associator veteran of the Braddock expedition at Fort Duquesne and under the command of then Colonel George Washington, brought in a third Pennsylvania militia brigade of 800 men. Washington, with the main body of the army, reached Trenton on the 3rd of December, and the heavy stores and baggage were immediately removed to the Pennsylvania side. He crossed over with the rear guard on Sunday morning the 8th, and took quarters at the home of Berkley, about a mile from the river, while the troops were stationed opposite the crossings. The enemy came marching down the river about eleven o’clock the same morning expecting to cross but was much disappointed when they found the boats had been removed to the west bank. They made demonstrations to cross above and below, including a night march to Coryell’s ferry, but their attempts failed. The hostile armies now lay facing each other across the Delaware River, and the cause of Independence was saved. Washington’s next care was to guard the fords and crossings of the river to prevent the passage of the enemy. On the morning of December 9th, he sent four brigades of various Continental and militia up the river. Washington assigned the ferry crossing at Trenton and Yardley Ferries to Ewing and his 800 Pennsylvania militia. His instructions were clear, “Guard the river and collect intelligence. Spare no pains, nor cost to gain information of the enemy’s movements, and designs.”  Their mission was to seize and hold the bridge across Assunpink Creek and block the only exit from the town to the southeast. Ewing and other independent militia commanders executed small operations on priority targets inside their own areas of operations, almost at will, Ewing raided Trenton each night, gaining knowledge of the Hessian garrison’s defense, and then faded away into the countryside. Washington ordered Colonel Cadwalader, with his 1,200 Philadelphia Associators and 600 New England regulars to cross the river 12 miles below Trenton at Bristol. His mission was to occupy the attention of the Hessians in Trenton and larger British reinforcing forces to the south. Washington ordered. “If you can do nothing real, at least create as great a diversion as possible.”  Each detachment was supplied with artillery. The general instructions to the troops were if driven from their positions to retreat to the strong ground near Germantown. While the enemy, in their comfortable quarters on the east bank of the Delaware River, was waiting for the river to freeze so that they might cross over, the colonials were shivering on the west bank. Some of the troops were actually in a suffering condition. Major Ennion Williams, of the First Pennsylvania Rifles, stationed at Thompson’s mill in Solebury, wrote on the 13th that his men were barefooted. General Sullivan, with Lee’s division in a destitute condition, joined Washington on the 20th of December, and the same day General Gates came in with the remnant of four New England regiments, five hundred strong, which raised the strength of the army to about six thousand men, although a large portion of them was unfit for service. During the month, the Reverend John Rosbrugh of Northampton County, PA, raised a battalion and marched at its head to join the Continental army. He requested to have a military man placed in command, as he wished to act as chaplain. A few days after the battle of Trenton he was surprised by the enemy at a house near Pennington and cruelly murdered. The headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief and his most trusted lieutenants were at farmhouses in the vicinity of their troops, where they could be in easy communication with each other. Washington occupied the dwelling of William Keith. A two-story, pointed stone house, twenty-four by twenty-eight feet, and built by Keith in 1763. The pine door, in two folds, set in a solid oaken frame, was garnished with a wooden lock fourteen by eight inches which locked out intruders when Washington occupied the house. Green occupied the first floor of Robert Merrick’s twenty feet square, stone dwelling a few hundred yards away across the fields and meadows. The general had the walls of the room he occupied to be tastefully painted, with a picture of the rising sun over the fireplace. Sullivan was at Hayhurst’s and Hamilton at Dr. Chapman’s, over the Jericho hill to the north. Lieutenant James Monroe of the artillery, afterward President of the United States, and Dr. Ryker was at William Neeley’s in Solebury. The main body of the army was encamped in sheltered places along or near the streams, not far from the river. No doubt this position for headquarters was selected with an object: its sheltered situation, nearness to the river, and its proximity to Jericho hill, from the top of which signals could be seen a long way up and down the river when the trees were bare of leaves. Here Washington was near the upper fords of the Delaware, at which it was supposed the enemy would attempt to cross, and within a half hour’s ride of the depot at Newton. At what time Washington first conceived the plan of re-crossing the river to attack the Hessians is not known. All the preparations were quietly made; the troops were selected and put in readiness, and a few days before Christmas, boats were collected at Knowles’ cove. Bancroft says that Washington wrote the watchword, “Victory or death,” on the 23rd and he writes to Colonel Reed about that time, “Christmas day, at night, one hour before day, is the time fixed upon for our attack on Trenton."  The troops selected were those of New England, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and among the officers chosen to accompany him were Greene, Mercer, Stirling, Stephen, Sullivan, Knox, Hand, Monroe, and Hamilton, all trusted leaders. Brigadier General James Ewing and 700 Pennsylvania Associator militia were to cross at Trenton and seize the bridge over Assunpink Creek to prevent enemy troops from escaping. General Cadwalader was to co-operate below Bristol, by crossing and attacking the enemy’s post at Mount Holly. The men were provided with three days’ cooked rations and forty rounds of ammunition. Six days before, the first number of Paine’s “American Crisis” was read to every regiment in Washington’s army, which greatly aroused the spirits of the troops. Washington rode over to Merrick’s, and took supper with Greene, on the evening of December 24th, and no doubt Knox, Stirling, and Sullivan were there. The Merrick family was sent across the fields to spend the night at neighbors, so there would be no listeners to the council of war that destroyed British empire in America.

DECEMBER 25, 1776

General Washington crossed the river with his main force about 10 miles upstream from Trenton. Elisha Bostwick, a Continental soldier crossing with Washington’s troops recounts the crossing in his diary, “Our whole army was then set in motion and toward evening began to cross the Delaware but by obstructions of ice in the river did not all get across till quite late in the evening, and all the time a constant fall of snow with some rain, and finally our march began with the torches of our field pieces stuck in the exalters. [They] sparkled and blazed in the storm all night and about daylight, a halt was made at which time his Excellency (General Washington) and aids came near to the front on the side of the path where soldiers stood. I heard his Excellency as he was coming on speaking to and encouraging the soldiers. The words he spoke as he passed by where I stood and in my hearing were these: “Soldiers, keep by your officers, for God’s sake, keep by your officers!” Spoke in a deep solemn voice."

Trenton was a significant loss for the British Army. Two thousand four hundred colonials fought 1,500 Hessians in a two-hour battle that had lasting effects and an impact far beyond the scale of the battle. The surprise engagement cost the Hessians 918 men - 22 killed, 83 wounded and 896 captured. Colonial casualties were almost nonexistent. Two soldiers froze to death along the line of march and four were wounded in the engagement. This relatively small event had incredible importance on the world stage and pumped new vigor into the men who fought for Washington and the leaders who led them.


On January 2, 1777, was the second battle of Trenton. Following the defeat of the Hessians, General Cornwallis joined Howe at Princeton and from here was ordered by Howe to find the rebel army and destroy it. Cornwallis quickly led 8,000 men out of Princeton. Small units of colonial riflemen delayed and harassed the British forces moving on the route toward Trenton. Simultaneously, Washington spent his time positioning his fighting elements in Trenton expecting a full-scale British assault. As the British and Hessians moved into Trenton, the colonial regulars fought a delaying action through the streets of Trenton and finally crossed over Assunpink Creek and occupied the high ground south of the creek. The Continental line regulars guarded the bridge and the two key fords. Washington then interspersed militia units between the regulars with the Virginia regulars, reinforced with numerous artillery pieces, assigned to the bridge crossing. To their left Washington posted Ewing’s Pennsylvania militia, on the right, he posted the New Jersey militia under Newcomb. Cadwalader’s Philadelphia Associators were on the right of the line posted on the main road to prevent a flank attack from surprising the line of battle. As the British used repeated frontal attacks on the crossing points, Washington ordered Cadwalader’s Associators, to reinforce the main line of battle near the bridge. The allocation of forces worked in repelling the numerous British assaults and the British were sent in retreat.

This second battle of Trenton also ended on favorable terms for the colonials. The British lost an estimated 365 men. The colonial losses were to be about 50. Cornwallis led this attack personally, which also increased the political and moral impact of the loss for the British.


After the British attempts to force a crossing at Assunpink Creek on the evening of 2 January, General Washington held a council of war. His scouts determined that Cornwallis was moving some of his forces to the east and concentrating them in a wooded area with the intent of flanking the colonial right the following morning. A mounted reconnaissance had also determined that the road network was clear to Princeton and Brunswick. The council agreed on a plan for a nighttime withdrawal from current positions and a night march to Princeton with the intent of striking the British forces remaining there. As the force neared Princeton, Washington stopped the column and reorganized his forces for the attack. After crossing Stony Brook Bridge, Washington split his force into two columns for the final advance on Princeton. Each of the columns had Continental troops and militia units.

Nathaniel Greene commanded the left column, his primary mission was to destroy the bridge at Worth’s Mill west of Princeton. Destruction of the bridge would prevent British reinforcements from returning to Princeton from Trenton. General John Sullivan commanded the other column of the force with General Washington in accompaniment. This force was the main effort for the attack and included Pennsylvania Associators integrated with the Pennsylvania Brigade of Continentals commanded by Thomas Mifflin. While Washington closed his force on Princeton, the British there were

already moving out to join Cornwallis in Trenton. As Greene’s column moved along the creek towards Worth’s Mill, it encountered British forces already forming in line of battle. Greene ordered his lead element of regulars to attack the British and broke the British attack. As the Associators moved forward, the lead regiment of Continentals began to scatter. The sight of the Continental Regulars in flight caused the Associators to break and run as well. Several of the leaders of the Associators rallied their men and began reforming. As Washington watched the initial engagement from Sullivan’s position he immediately diverted elements from Sullivan’s force to reinforce Greene. Washington arrived at the fight with elements of Sullivan’s column, joined the Associators, and personally led them in the assault, driving the British back to Princeton where they were defeated. As word of the American victories spread through Europe, even Frederick the Great commented that the Christmas campaign was “the most brilliant of any recorded in the annals of military achievement.” 

Thanks for stopping by - Jon Sinatra

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