Victory or Death: How Washington Saved America on Christmas Night

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On Christmas night, 1776, George Washington led a harrowing mission across the Delaware to save the American cause for liberty. His soldiers’ password was “Victory or Death.” Our featured guest to share this remarkable story will be Dr. David Hackett Fischer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his definitive history, Washington’s Crossing.

After America declared its independence, the “spirit of ‘76” soon subsided to the realities of war. The U.S. Army was undermanned and over-matched; and one horrific defeat followed another as a smallpox outbreak ravaged the American ranks. Morale waned, trust in Washington plunged, and nearly 5 of every 6 soldier’s enlistments were set to expire. Without a show of strength—or even hope—the army would disband, leaving the revolution dead in its womb. It is in this context that Washington’s men crossed the half-frozen Delaware against snow, sleet, and rain, in the dead of night, to rout the Hessians during “the times that try men’s souls.”

During our webinar, we will separate fact from fiction regarding one of the most important events in American history and discuss why U.S. troops feared the brutality of the Hessian mercenaries, Washington’s heartfelt plea that kept the U.S. Army intact, and his leadership that reignited the American flame of freedom in our nation’s darkest hour.

Dr. Fischer is the Warren Professor of History emeritus at Brandeis University and the author of several books about America’s founding, including Washington’s Crossing, Paul Revere’s Ride, and his most recent work, African Founders: How Enslaved People Expanded American Ideals. In 2015, Dr. Fischer received the Pritzker Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. In 2006, he was made an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Society of the Cincinnati. And in 1990, Dr. Fischer was awarded the Carnegie Prize as Massachusetts Professor of the Year. He received his A.B. from Princeton and his PhD from Johns Hopkins.