Before America was free of the chains of unrepresented, overtaxed tyranny, we had to best the greatest army in the world.

In a make or break moment for the Revolutionary War, General George Washington concocted a plan to cross the Delaware River and lead a surprise attack on the Hessians camped around Trenton, New Jersey. A victory in Trenton would boost morale, Washington reasoned.

A rash of “false alarms” and the arrival of a nasty winter storm put the Hessians, who’d been warned of the possibility of an attack, at ease. And off to sleep, they went. Many for the last time.

Washington’s Trenton attack was a success and the rest, they say, is history.

Interesting fact, also pictured in the iconic 1851 Emanuel Leutze painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware, James Monroe (he’s holding the flag). Though no historical records have put him in the boat with Washington, he was with Washington when the plan to attack Trenton was devised.