As Christmas Eve approaches, it's good to count our blessings and pause to recognize the sacrifices made on behalf of our freedoms.
In 1776, just six months after signing the Declaration of Independence, the united American colonies were on the verge of military defeat. In November, Gen. George Washington's citizen soldiers were defeated on Long Island and forced to retreat. By December, the Americans managed to retreat safely across the Delaware River to Pennsylvania, but this Christmas would not bring peace and tranquility.
So begins Lynn Cheney's excellent new children's book, "When Washington Crossed the Delaware."
Lynn Cheney's book is the perfect children's story about our nation's founding, the spirit and sacrifices of 1776, and our country's first Christmas. Indeed, all 15 Kemp grandchildren will have seen this book beautifully illustrated by Peter Fiore.
Christmas is the holiday of hope and gratitude - hope in the spirit of mankind; hope that old grudges and seemingly intractable disputes will give way to reconciliation and peace; and gratitude to God for blessings and redemption.
During the Christmas of 1776, hope, or what little of it that may have remained from those heady days in Philadelphia, was all but lost. Washington's army, if it could be called an army, was badly equipped - many of the soldiers were without shoes. Needless to say, morale was low and expectations of victory even lower.
It was then that Washington summoned his generals and devised a plan to launch a surprise assault on the Hessian soldiers - German mercenaries - who lied in wait at Trenton, N.J., just across the Delaware River. Here the plan was drawn up, "Christmas day at night ... is the time fixed upon for our attempt on Trenton," said Washington.
Meanwhile, Thomas Paine proved once again that the pen can be as mighty as the sword as he inspired the soldiers, writing: "These are the times that try men's souls ... The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
On Christmas night, 1776, Washington's army of 2,400 men stealthily crossed the partially frozen Delaware River.