Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays on earth. But that doesn’t mean that conflicts simply freeze every December 25th.

Here’s a look at some of the major military events that have fallen on Christmas, a date with a surprisingly rich history.

1776 — George Washington Crosses The Delaware River

Important events in both of America’s most formative wars — the Revolutionary War and the Civil War — took place on Christmas.

Washington led his troops across a 300-yard stretch of the Delaware River in the dead of night between December 25 and 26, 1776. The surprise move would put Washington’s men a 19-mile march away from a garrison of Hessians (German mercenaries hired by the British to help them in their effort to retain a hold on the rebelling colonies) that the Continental Army took completely by surprise.

The Hessians’ quick surrender at the Battle of Trenton would be the first of two rebel victories in New Jersey (the other being the Battle of Princeton a week later) as the Continental Army regained control of the colony. This effectively reversed the British drive that had pushed the rebels across New Jersey in the previous months. The daring crossing of the Delaware ended up being one of the turning points of the war.

 

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