“The attack was set for Christmas night, December 25-26, when most of the Hessians would be drunk or exhausted from the day’s celebrations.
About twenty-four hundred Continentals began marching toward the Pennsylvania side of McKonkey’s Ferry several miles upstream from Trenton late on Christmas afternoon. Paths down to the river were covered with snow. In the failing light, Washington saw the snow marked by the bloody footprints of those who went without shoes. None complained; it wouldn’t have done any good.
It hadn’t been a merry Christmas for those gathered on the shore. Miserable and homesick, they stood about in groups, waiting to board the boats. Rain began to fall, then wet snow. The temperature dropped. All they had to cheer them were the words of Tom Paine’s latest pamphlet, printed in Philadelphia three days earlier.
As the shivering troops waited, Washington had the pamphlet read to them. Paine’s words went to their hearts like flaming arrows.
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 who stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of men and women. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph . . . “
~The War for Independence: The Story of the American Revolution by Albert Marrin.