11. Unexpected Humor From George Washington at the Start of a Critical Operation Lifted His Soldiers’ Morale
As sleet was driven into and swirled around them on a miserably cold winter night, George Washington’s freezing and famished men clambered into boats. When it was Washington’s turn to get into a boat, he looked his overweight artillery chief, Henry Knox, and said: “Shift your fat ass, Harry! But don’t swamp the damn boat!” It was not exactly comedy gold. However, any levity from the reserved American commander in public was unexpected, and more so on such a serious occasion.
At first, the Patriots within hearing distance of the exchange were stunned. For a few moments, they stood looking at each other in shocked disbelief at what their ears had registered. Then somebody began to chuckle, and before long, contagious laughter rippled throughout the attacking force, as Washington’s comment was spread and repeated. With their spirits lifted, the Patriot fighting men got into their boats and began crossing the frozen Delaware River, ready to fall upon their enemy in Trenton.