The Battle of Trenton: Difference Between the Movie and Reality

The Battle of Trenton has been recognized as a very important battle after the long journey across the Delaware river. This was all led by one of the most significant people in American history. He was also considered one of the most determined commanders in history. He always knew what he wanted and he made sure that everything that happened was because of the orders he had given to his men. If Washington had not thought of this amazing plan to cross the Delaware river, it is most likely that not all of the important that happened after this would have happened. Within David Fisher's book, Washington's Crossing it shows you a very factual perspective on this journey of crossing the Delaware river. The book was able to make very specific comments about the American army, including the commander, George Washington. In the films, The Crossing, and The Patriot you won’t get a real, factual representation of what really happened at the Battle of Trenton or during the crossing. The movies had obviously still covered the central ideas that they were trying to show, they had also made the movies entertaining making them not always completely historically accurate. Each of the sources have different levels of content and accuracy but carry out the same message. The Crossing gives a more factual side between the events and people, but still exaggerates to make the film more entertaining.

A very large and major difference between the movie and reality was the way the crossing of the delaware river was portrayed. One of the differences was the weather that was shown in the movie compared to what was shown in the book. In the novel, it has been shown that the storm played a huge part in the crossing and made it very difficult to cross. This element had been left out of The Crossing . General Greenwood had stated that the wind had been so strong and made the crossing difficult that the winds “Blew a perfect hurricane”. It was such a major factor that “Edwing’s men could not move through the ice below Trenton Falls in their boats or walk over it on foot.”. When the army had finally reached the end of the crossing of the river, “the most violent storm of rain, hail, and snow” had yet again proved to be something that made the whole trip delayed. In the movie the crossing of the river seems to be much more simple than it really was. It had a lack of showing the obstacles that made the actual crossing to be very difficult. Some of the conditions that made it very hard was, how late at night it was making it very dark, some of the ice from the river that had been traveling at a “surprising speed”, along with the current of the water. All of these factors made the crossing of the Delaware river very difficult but were not shown very well in the film. However the difficulty of the transportation of ammunition was shown, “Transporting ammunition was a problem never completely solved by field artillery”. Even though the storm made the trip very difficult, the movie made the crossing of the river to be very simple.

During the film The Crossing, there were many important historical figures that were shown in different ways. Some of the characters were portrayed perfectly but others were very different from how they actually were. An example of this is seen in Colonel Rall. Rall was a commander for the Hessians who had faced off against the American army in the battle of Trenton. They have exaggerated his personality to show his disdain and authority. In the movie when he was told the army was attacking Trenton he had proceeded to slowly get out of bed and make sure he looked good before he went out there. He took his time doing all of this too. However in the book, Rall exclaims, “I will be there immediately” when he is warned about the attack. He manages to get to the battlefield in just minutes. The film may have been trying to make a point. This point was that Rall viewed him and his men to be better than the American army so he took his time getting to the battlefield in the movie. Rall had seen the Americans as “ragtag forces could never stand up against us German Regulars”. When Major Van Dechow is told my Rall to allow the Americans to attack because they won’t be able to cause them any harm his response is “These country clowns shall not beat us”. Dechow doesn’t want to let the Americans win this battle.

During The Crossing there is an additional scene added that had been semi-accurate and explained facts about some of the things that had been shown in the novel. In the movie when Washington had sat everyone down at the dinner table to explain his plan, apparently General Glover had no intentions of following through with his plan because he thinks it is leading to death. In the book is says “Washington's attitudes were different from those of Colonel Glover”, they did not come to an agreement seeing how Glovers command was tighter than Washington’s in terms of having black people in the American army. Even though this had never really happened and Glover never had a sit down and talk with Washington, the writers of the movie were just trying to show that Washington’s men trusted them with their lives and followed every order that he had given. In the novel it explains that discipline within the army had been a struggle at first but they eventually learned to put their full faith and trust within Washington. Washington had “found the power and courage to strike back”. Before the battle of Trenton, the American army had not attacked the British once, they had only defended against the British attacks.

Comparable to The Crossing the characters had been shown in many different ways in The Patriot. General Cornwallis was however represented pretty much the same as he actually was in the movie. In the novel, Cornwallis was a highly accomplished general to the British and was “one of the most appealing figures of his generation”. He had been described with a “staunch wig” and with “strongly opposed measures against America”. During the movie, the American troops are seen as inferior and weak by Cornwallis compared to his army. He can think this because his troops have mowed down the Americans before with no hesitation. Cornwallis had been known for belief and trust within his own men to succeed in what they do. The only main difference was how he had stayed far away from the actual action, and in real life he was involved in the fighting with his men, encouraging them to keep on fighting. The movie had mostly done a very nice job in showing how Cornwallis was a very good leader.

Considering The Patriot isn’t exactly a true story and is more used to show adventure, there were still some points that were correct. For example there were some times in the film where guerilla warfare was shown and some of the POW were shown. The american militia had attacked the British’s militia and wouldn’t leave the British troops alone. They made sure that the British army had to be ready for this militia at all times so they couldn’t completely focus on the original task. Some of the POW that these militias used were maneuverability and economy. They were always placing themselves in the best possible position to attack the British and make sure they always succeeded in what they did. At Trenton, the soldiers for the American army had done so well as it was exclaimed in the novel when they described the American army being able to overpower the British army with artillery.

How the people of the towns in the war were treated was something that had occurred in three of the sources (The Patriot, The Crossing, and “Washington’s Crossing”). All the authors/directors had made sure to focus on how the civilians were treated with great cruelty. This was shown in The Patriot during a scene when the British had trapped lots of civilians in a church in an attempt to get info about them and after the British had gotten the information they were looking for they locked everyone in the church and burnt it down. By the time the American militia had got to them, everyone was dead. This is an example of unconventional war, the civilians were unarmed and causing no harm to the British, yet the British still killed them. Then in The Crossing the civilians are complaining when the American arrive in Trenton because everyone was concerned that their homes would be destroyed in the battle. It was very normal for something like this to happen however. The battle could end up having people lose their homes or they wouldn’t be able to go home in days.

Considering all the changes and differences between the films, The Crossing, The Patriot and the book “Washington’s Crossing” they all were spreading the same message. This message was the authors and directors trying to show what types of people the leaders of both armies were and what measures were needed to take for each side to win. The films were able to turn history into an entertaining movie but they needed to dramatize some things.

29 April 2022
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