Gateway to the Classics: American History Stories, Volume II by Mara L. Pratt
American History Stories, Volume II by  Mara L. Pratt

Washington's Christmas Surprise

School in concert.

All hail, thou blessed Christmas time,

When joy-bells ring their merry chime!

The time of gifts and sweet surprise,

Of smiling lips and beaming eyes.

(Pupil enters and recites the following: )

Not enough of Christmas joys

Without a Christmas story, boys?

Methinks I've just the one for you,

And what is better still, 'tis true.

Then lend your ears and bright young eyes

While I recount that grand surprise

Of Washington's long years ago,

Amid the Winter's cold and snow.

'Twas in our country's stern old fight

For Independence and the right.

Within your minds the date well fix

'Twas Christmas night of seventy-six.

Our army, footsore, weary, sad,

In numbers few, ill-fed, ill-clad,

And fearing much the English foe,

Were spending days in want and woe.

The Hessian camp was all aglow,

And freely there the red wines flow;

Their caution on this Christmas night

In revellings had taken flight.

To Washington was known the way,

The Germans oft spent Christmas day,

And so, while they were free from cares,

He planned to take them unawares.

The Delaware between them rolled,

The night was stormy, dark, and cold,

The floating ice blocked up their way,

But on they pressed, and morning gray

Beheld them on the Trenton side

Hard-spent but filled with honest pride;

Then on the Hessian camp they fall,

A thousand prisoners take in all.

With booty, prisoners and all,

They follow at their leader's call;

Again they cross the river wide,

And reach the Pennsylvania side.


A brilliant act! A brilliant thought!

And one with mighty issues fraught!

And unto Washington so wise,

We're debtors for that grand surprise.


A record of that daring deed,

Just in his country's hour of need,

Will ever live in song and fame,

While lives the hero's honored name,

And memory keeps, in pictures rare,

That "Crossing on the Delaware."


When Christmas fires send out their glow

Across the pure, untrodden snow,

Let thought go back to that far time,

When rang the bells no merry chime;

But one brave heart, 'neath wintry skies,

Planned out this Christmas-day surprise.

—M. Lizzie Stanley.


Washington Crossing the Delaware

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