This gave the Continental infantry in the rear their opportunity, and they poured in a scathing volley, quickly followed by the roar of Colonel Forrest’s battery, which unlimbered and opened fire. A wild confusion followed, the enemy advancing, until the American regiments charged them in face of their volleys. Upon this they broke, and falling back in disorder, endeavoured to escape to the east road through an orchard. Checking the charge, Washington threw Stevens’ brigade and Hand’s riflemen, now re-formed, out through the fields, heading them off. Flight in this direction made impossible, the enemy retreated toward the town, but the column under Sullivan now blocked this outlet. Forrest’s fieldpieces were pushed forward, Washington riding with them, utterly unheeding of both the enemy’s fire, though the bullets were burying themselves in the snow all about him, and of the expostulations of his staff. Indicating the new position for the guns, he ordered them loaded with canister.
Colonel Forrest himself stooped to sight one of the 12-pounders, then cried: “Sir, they have struck.”
“Struck!” exclaimed Washington.
“Yes,” averred Forrest, exultingly. “Their colours are down, and they have grounded their arms.”
Washington cantered toward the enemy.
“Your Excellency,” shouted Baylor, who with the infantry had been well forward, “the Hessians have surrendered. Here is Colonel Rahl.”
Washington rode to where, supported by two sergeants, the officer stood, his brilliant uniform already darkened by the blood flowing from two wounds, and took from his hand the sword the Hessian commander, with bowed head, due to both shame and faintness, held out to him.
“Let his wounds receive instant attention,” the general ordered. Wheeling his horse, he looked at the three regiments of Hessians. “’T is a glorious day for our country, Baylor!” he said, the personal triumph already forgotten in the greater one.
The Christmas revel of the Hessians had held far into morning hours; and though the ladies so prudently retired, it was not to sleep, as it proved, for the uproar put that out of the question. At last, however, the merry-making ceased by degrees, as man after man staggered off to his quarters, or succumbing to drink, merely took a horizontal position in the room of the festivity, and quiet, quickly succeeded by slumber, descended upon the household.
To the women it seemed as if the turmoil had but just ended, ere it began anew. The first alarm was a thundering on the front door, so violent that the intent seemed to be to break it down rather than to gain admission from the inside. Then came a rush of heavy boots pounding upstairs, followed by a renewal of the ponderous blows on every door, accompanied now by the stentorian shouting of hasty sentences in German.