Beer and the American Revolution

If you took US History at any time in school you most likely learned about Gen. Washington’s daring assault on the Hessians the day after Christmas in 1776, a battle that turned the tide in the Revolutionary War. What most of us probably didn’t learn is that beer played a significant role in the Continental Army’s victory. Check out some excerpts from this fascinating article:

Beating the Hessians seemed about as likely as the Taliban out-gunning an A-10, but General Washington knew that a victory over the Germans, even a strategically insignificant one, would bolster American morale. More importantly, victory would prove the effectiveness of the Continentals to the American public and their French financiers, who were staying on the sidelines until the Americans demonstrated a real shot at victory.

To beat the Germans, Washington needed an equalizer; a way to level the playing field with the Hessians. The answer came in the form of American brew…

In the winter of 1776, as Washington and his staff began to plan their next move, they realized a rare opportunity had presented itself. German Christmas celebrations traditionally include copious amounts of beer, and to the 1500-man garrison at Trenton, New Jersey the Christmas of 1776 was likely no exception. Since any mid-sized colonial town had plenty of beer available, Washington’s staff hypothesized that on Christmas night the garrison would be unready for combat, thanks to the ready availability of American beer, and the German propensity for drinking it. An unnamed officer on Washington’s staff is reported to have said,

They make a great deal of Christmas in Germany, and no doubt the Hessians will drink a great deal of beer and have a dance to-night. They will be sleepy to-morrow morning.

Confident they could overwhelm the thoroughly buzzed Hessians, Washington and his staff planned one of the most daring operations of the entire Revolutionary War. The Continental Army would stage on the Pennsylvania bank of the Delaware River on Christmas Day. Once night fell, the army would ferry across the river, march nine miles to Trenton, and ultimately conduct a pre-dawn assault on the town.

You’ll need to go and read the full story to see how things worked out (obviously well, but the details are interesting in that the Hessians were actually stone sober and still lost). The important point is that we once again have evidence of beer’s awesomeness.

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