George Washington’s Christmas, 1776: Victory or Death

800px-Henry-revolutionary-war“In no way will we let the forces of government become more powerful than its citizens,” was the sentiment of every patriot and founder of this great nation.  Although those words do not exist as quoted, they existed in the hearts and minds of the men who birthed this nation if we understand their struggles and historical context of America’s founding.

Schools fail to teach it so history will repeat it.

236 years ago on Christmas Day, General George Washington gathered his troops for one of the most daring attacks in military history, one that could have surely decimated his army and ended what remained of his weakened and demoralized forces.  I can hear his soldiers now, “We’re going to do WHAT?????”  As the mission was described to them they surely must have been incredulous.

Large numbers of Washington’s army were starving, diseased, and so improperly prepared for the winter that many did not even have boots for their feet, leaving blood soaked trails in the snow during their march.

Spurred by the writings of Thomas Paine just days before, Washington’s men were in dire straits. Paine wrote, “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 his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

Facing ending enlistments, desertion, low morale, lack of funding food and supplies, and the brutal oncoming winter, Washington went for broke.  He embarked on a Christmas march and a crossing of the icy Delaware River in the dark of Christmas night. The weather conditions were horrible, changing from rain to sleet to snow.  The river was icy causing contingents of Washington’s army to turn back for lack of an ability to cross.
For those who made it to the other side, setting up a security perimeter and waiting to be joined by their comrades, the password was, “Victory or death.”

Could anything be more telling of their motivation?

As they say, the rest is history.  Washington was victorious.  His army was revived and went on to crush superior forces in future battles to gain victory and independence for the fledgling United States.

Please tell me now, Mr. Leftist, that these men who, a scant ten years later, would write the Constitution of the United States of America would somehow not think the 2nd Amendment applicable to military arms present and future.  Please tell me that these men thought the right to keep and bear arms somehow only applied to members of the National Guard and not everyday American citizens which made up the militia of the day.  Tell me that this Amendment is about hunting and sport shooting.  Tell me that they only envisioned its application to flint lock muskets and not to modern day military rifles.

For those of you on my side of the aisle who have forgotten the true meaning of the Second Amendment, it is there for one reason and one reason only:  To prevent a government and its leaders from becoming tyrannical and oppressing its citizenry.  It is the ultimate check against government power, corruption, and coercion.  It is freedom’s line in the sand.

To you weak kneed sisters, it’s time to put on your man pants and saddle up.  We’re in for a fight. 

Samuel Adams couldn’t have said it better, “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace.  We ask not your counsels or your arms.  Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.  May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.”

You see, freedom is a difficult thing.

Thanks to Jesus Christ, Hell was conquered, but tyranny will always be a threat that requires good men to do heroic things against all odds.  Let us be ever vigilant in guarding against the incremental forces that bring about its growth.

Merry Christmas and pass the ammunition.

Image: Washington at the Battle of Trenton; engraving by Illman Brothers; from painting by E.L. Henry; 1870; source:; public domain/copyright expired

About the author: Steve Sheldon

Steve Sheldon is a lifelong outdoorsman, hunter, gun-rights enthusiast and widely published author. Steve spent a dozen years in private industry as an investment broker and owner of multiple businesses. He served the National Rifle Association almost ten years in various capacities before moving to Americans for Prosperity in his current role of External Affairs Officer. Steve has held various church leadership roles over the years and served in a jail ministry.

View all articles by Steve Sheldon

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