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For a printable version of this test suitable to distribute to a class (without suggested answers) click here.

1.  How many Hessians were taken prisoner and how many Americans were killed or wounded at the Battle of Trenton? Suggested Response: Approximately 900 Hessians were taken prisoner. Two Americans died when they froze to death on the march from the river crossing. A few Americans were injured in the battle.

2.  How many months after the American Declaration of Independence was the Battle of Trenton fought? Suggested Response: Five months. The Declaration of Independence was signed in July, 1776 and the Battle of Trenton was fought in December of the same year.

3.  In the Battle of Trenton, the Continentals outnumbered the Hessians almost 2 to 1. The Hessians were surprised and were poorly led. Why was this victory considered so important? Suggested Response: The Battle of Trenton demonstrated to the Americans, the British, and the rest of Europe that: (1) an army of poorly trained colonists, ill clothed and poorly armed colonists could beat the best soldiers the British Empire had to offer; the fact that they outnumbered and surprised the Hessians didn't matter because no rebel contingent had ever beaten the Hessians before; (2) Washington was a wiley and resourceful general; the fact that he took advantage of a situation in which his soldiers outnumbered and surprised the Hessians was just the point, and (3) the colonists had a chance to win the war. (Two of out three of the answers merit full credit.)

4.  Where did the Hessians come from and why were they fighting for the British? Suggested Response: The Hessians were German mercenaries fighting for pay and plunder. They had no allegiance to the British Empire.

5.  What would probably have happened to the American Revolution had Washington not crossed the Delaware and engaged the Hessians at Trenton at the end of December, 1776? Suggested Response: The Revolution would probably have been lost. Washington's army was melting away. Many soldiers deserted. The enlistments of most of the soldiers who remained were up in a few days. Without a victory, most would not reenlist. Finally, there was the British Army. When the river froze, also expected to occur within a few days, the British would have marched across the river with a large army and destroyed the Continental force.

6.  One of the memorable incidents shown in the film is Washington making a joke at the expense of General Knox, his commander of artillery. The screenwriter, Howard Fast, found a reference to this in the memoirs of some of the soldiers who were present. What role did Washington's joke play in his leadership at the Battle of Trenton? Suggested Response: The joke broke the tension the soldiers were feeling before the battle. This is an example of a leader feeling the emotions of his followers and taking care to improve the emotional environment.

7.  Describe three actions other than cracking the joke about General Knox that Washington took which showed leadership at Trenton. Suggested Response: Here are several: General Washington displayed many of the attributes of good leadership in the Battle of Trenton and some of these are shown in the film. They are: (1) He understood the larger picture and that the Revolution needed a victory. No one on the British side appreciated this fact. If they had, the Hessian troops would have been on alert and Colonel Rall would have reacted to the message that the colonists were marching on his position. (2) Washington seized the initiative so that he had some control over events.(3) He selected good subordinates to carry out his orders such as Knox and Glover. (4) He knew when to stand steadfast (for example his determination to press on with the attack in the face of the blizzard and even though it could not be started before dawn). (5) Washington knew how to inspire his men. (6) Washington accurately forecast the actions of his adversaries.

8.  David McCullough, in his book 1776, concludes that one of Washington's greatest traits was the self-confidence necessary to persevere amid disaster. McCullough writes: "often in the dark year of 1776, [Washington] would not only overcome his own fears but help his countrymen conquer theirs, too -- a supreme act of providential leadership." Two other great Presidents, Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, also helped their countrymen overcome their fears in many different ways. Give one example each for Presidents Roosevelt and Lincoln. Suggested Response: Here are two examples: Roosevelt's first inaugural in which he told the country that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.". As to Lincoln, it was his perseverance in the face of repeated defeats and a string of lackluster generals. Another was his refusal to leave Washington, D.C., when it was threatened early in the war by the Confederates.

9.  Washington was described as one of those rare few who, under fire, appeared to be without fear. Why is this important in a military leader? Suggested Response: It helps the soldiers conquer their own fear. The best way to lead is by example.

10.   After the battle, General Greene asks General Washington to speak with Colonel Rall before Rall dies. Washington replies: "Do you want me to weep for those bastards, men who kill for profit?" General Greene responds: "Our own cause at its heart is a fight against taxation is it not? In the end, we all kill for profit, the British and the Hessians and us." Do you agree with the character of General Greene that the American Revolution was fought for money? Suggested Response: All well reasoned responses are acceptable. It should be acknowledged that commercial interests were very important to the men who were fighting in the revolution. For example, many Southerners joined the revolution because it was apparent that the British Empire was going to outlaw slavery and they made a bargain with the Northern revolutionaries that slavery would be protected in the new United States of America. The colonists also objected to various taxes imposed by Parliament such as the Stamp Act, taxes on glass, paper and tea (the Townshend Ats).

11.  See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


1.  Was General Washington courageous? Defend your answer. Suggested Response: General Washington exhibited courage in many ways. Two of the foremost were that he put his life on the line for the cause of American independence and stayed with it even when prospects for the Revolution looked very bleak. Second, Washington would ride into battle, the biggest target around, without showing fear.


See Comprehension Test/Homework Assignment Questions 7 - 10.

Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


(Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)

1.  The Battle of Trenton shows the Continental troops demonstrating this Pillar. What did they do? Suggested Response: They underwent terrible hardships and put their lives at risk even though their enlistments would be up in 11 days.


(Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act -- consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)

2.  The Battle of Trenton shows Washington and his men demonstrating this Pillar. What did they do? Suggested Response: They continued to fight, to do what they were supposed to do, against great odds.


(Do your share to make your school and community better; Cooperate; Stay informed; vote; Be a good neighbor; Obey laws and rules; Respect authority; Protect the environment)

3.  George Washington probably contributed more to his country than any person who has ever lived. What was his greatest contribution? Suggested Response: Washington made so many major contributions to the United States that there is no one right response. Any thoughtful response would be correct. Examples are: stepping down as Commander in Chief at the end of the Revolutionary War; agreeing to take on the post of Commander in Chief of the Continental Army; stepping down as President at the end of two terms; agreeing to come out of retirement to serve as President; placing his prestige behind the new constitution, etc.

Last updated August 22, 2012.

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