December 1776 was a desperate time for George Washington and the American Revolution. The ragtag Continental Army was encamped along the Pennsylvania shore of the Delaware River exhausted, demoralized and uncertain of its future.
The troubles had begun the previous August when British and Hessian troops invaded Long Island routing the colonial forces, forcing a desperate escape to the island of Manhattan. The British followed up their victory with an attack on Manhattan that compelled the Americans to again retreat, this time across the Hudson River to New Jersey.
The British followed in hot pursuit, chasing the Americans through New Jersey and by December had forced the Continental Army to abandon the state and cross the Delaware into Pennsylvania. With New Jersey in their firm control and Rhode Island successfully occupied, the British were confident that the Revolution had been crushed. The Continental Army appeared to be merely an annoyance soon to be swatted into oblivion like a bothersome bee at a picnic.
To compound Washington's problems, the enlistments of the majority of the militias under his command were due to expire at the end of the month and the troops return to their homes. Washington had to do something and quickly.
His decision was to attack the British. The target was the Hessian-held town of Trenton just across the Delaware River.
During the night of December 25, Washington led his troops across the ice-swollen Delaware about 9 miles north of Trenton. The weather was horrendous and the river treacherous. Raging winds combined with snow, sleet and rain to produce almost impossible conditions. To add to the difficulties, a significant number of Washington's force marched through the snow without shoes.
The next morning they attacked to the south, taking the Hessian garrison by surprise and over-running the town. After fierce fighting, and the loss of their commander, the Hessians surrendered.
Washington's victory was complete but his situation precarious. The violent weather continued - making a strike towards Princeton problematic. Washington and his commanding officers decided to retrace their steps across the Delaware taking their Hessian prisoners with them.
The news of the American victory spread rapidly through the colonies reinvigorating the failing spirit of the Revolution. The battle's outcome also gave Washington and his officers the confidence to mount another campaign. On December 30 they again crossed the Delaware, attacked and won another victory at Trenton on January 2, and then pushed on to Princeton defeating the British there on January 3.
Although not apparent at the time, these battles were a decisive turning point in the Revolution. The victories pulled the languishing Revolution out of the depths of despair, galvanized colonial support, shocked the British and convinced potential allies such as France, Holland and Spain, that the Continental Army was a force to be reckoned with.
"For God's sake, keep by your officers!"
From "Lawrence County, PA Soldiers" by Paul W. Myers, Closson Press, copyright 1988, found in the Pennsylvania Department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, page 33:
"STEWART, John. b. March 25, 1755, d. July 17, 1829, in Perry Twp, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. John Stewart enlisted in May 1776 at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, for a term of two years in the company commanded by Captain James Greer of the First Pennsylvania Regiment commanded by Colonel James Chambers and served until discharged at Valley Forge in June 1778. He and his son, James Stewart, came to Perry Township from Peter's Creek Valley, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, in 1796-97. John Stewart lived a number of years after the settlement, and died aged over seventy years. His wife was Mary Kennedy. The place of burial is uncertain, John Stewart applied for a pension May 16, 1818, pension claim number S-40508. . .
On the 16th day of May 1818 before me the subscriber one of the associate judges of the Court of Common Pleas for said county of Beaver in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania personally appeared John Stewart aged sixty three years, a resident in Beaver County. . .he the said John Stewart enlisted in Carlisle in Pennsylvania in May 1776 (f)or the term of two years in the company commanded by Capt. James Greer in the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment commanded by Col. James Chambers, that he continued to serve in said corps or in the service of the United States until June 1778 when he was discharged from service by Col. J. Chambers at the Valley Forge in the state of Pennsylvania, that he was in the Battles of Long Island and White Plains in N. York and Germantown and the Paoli and Brandywine in Pennsylvania, that he is unable to labor and through misfortunes is in reduced circumstances and stands in need of the assistance of his country for support and that his discharge is long since lost or worn out and that he has no other evidence now in his power of his said services and that he hath not been heretofore placed on the pension list. . ."
John Stewart * (1730 - 1795)
is our 4th great grandfather
James Stewart * (1755 - 1830)
Son of John Stewart
James Stewart * (1783 - 1857)
Son of James Stewart
Noah Stewart * (1828 - 1897)
Son of James Stewart
Mary Lou Ella Stewart * (1883 - 1938)
Daughter of Noah Stewart
Doran Edgar Lute * (1901 - 1982)
Son of Mary Lou Ella Stewart and Charles William Lute