Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Christmas Eve Tradition

After an exhausting day of last-minute shopping, I'm watching my traditional Christmas Eve movie, The Crossing, which depicts Washington's crossing of the Delaware River and his surprise attack on the Hessian garrison at Trenton. It isn't what you customarily think of as a Christmas movie, however, the Battle of Trenton did happen on December 25-26, 1776, so I think it qualifies.

Click on the embedded video below for a scene from near the end of the movie, in which the Continental Army, which had marched from the Delaware River to Trenton in two columns, converges on the Hessian barracks. Washington calls out "the Army will advance" and the troops - who, at that low point in the War of Independence, were only a ragged remnant of the force Congress had raised in 1775 - charge forward.

The young aide who gallops up to Washington early in this clip is Alexander Hamilton, the future Treasury Secretary. Hamilton and one other officer had just taken out the Hessian lookout post, killing the four pickets they found there. [Now that's a Treasury Secretary! It's probably been 100 years since we last had a Treasury Secretary who could handle a saber half so well. I'll bet Henry Paulson couldn't kill even one Hessian in hand-to-hand combat, not on his best day.] While that action at the lookout post happens to be fictitious, in real life Hamilton personally led far more impressive assaults, most notably the storming of Redoubt #10 at the Siege of Yorktown.

The Crossing is really a superb movie, both for its historical accuracy and for its unparalleled depiction of the character of George Washington. And I insist that it is also a Christmas movie, despite the grim and gory nature of the story. Having peace on earth and good will toward men required, in the historical circumstances of 1776, that dedicated Continental soldiers cross a frozen river and take the bayonet to the Republic's enemies. If it's Christmas Eve, you can bet I'm watching this movie.

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