John Glover Ferries An Army Across The Delaware

John Glover Ferries An Army Across The Delaware

Merry Christmas!!!

Today’s story takes place (or at least begins) on Christmas. Hopefully your holiday is a bit better than the soldiers’ below.

John Glover was a Brigadier General in the Continental Army.

Glover’s most notable achievement was when he oversaw the boats during Washington’s famous Crossing of the Delaware.

Christmas, 1776

‘Twas not a Merry Christmas.

The men were cold and demoralized. Many of them, lacking shoes, had their feet wrapped in cloth.

It was the dead of night and the pouring rain would soon turn to sleet. Then to snow.

This makeshift army, who went by the name Continentals, were about to cross the Delaware River.


We know now that crossing the Delaware led to a surprise attack on Hessian troops in Trenton, NJ. This victory, in turn, boosted the resolve of these soldiers.

Many who were planning on leaving when their enlistments expired the following week instead chose to stay with the Continental Army.

This was one of the significant turning points in the Revolutionary War.

George Washington, as Commander-in-Chief, often gets credit for crossing the Delaware.

John Glover does not.

John Glover

John Glover was a self-made man.

Rising from a poor family in Massachusetts, this onetime shoemaker became a fisherman, then a shipowner, then a rum trader. By the time the American Revolution began, Glover had established himself as a trusted leader in his community.

John was an early member of the Committee of Correspondence. After the Continental Association was signed, he became an Inspector who was responsible for making sure the boycott on British goods was upheld.

The Amphibious Regiment

A longtime Militia member, John Glover was elected as a Colonel during the Siege of Boston. His men became known as the Amphibious Regiment as, like him, they were primarily sailors and fishermen.

Taking note of their aquatic experience, General Washington contracted Glover’s ship, Hannah, to be the first privateer in service of the Continental Army. It can be said that, as the original official vessel selected to work towards the Patriot Cause, Hannah was the first ship in the Continental Navy (though there are several other boats that can also make this claim).

Glover’s men transferred from Massachusetts Militia to Continental Army just before relocating to New York City. After the disastrous Battle of Long Island, the Amphibious Regiment oversaw moving the evacuating troops to Manhattan.

This was the first in a long string of defeats throughout the Autumn of 1776 which demoralized the soldiers.

The Crossing

Which brings us to the Delaware.

John Glover was the obvious choice for General Washington when deciding on who should take charge of the river crossing. His men piloted the boats which ferried the Continental Army from Pennsylvania to New Jersey.

Unfortunately, Glover was only able to get about half the men across the icy, dangerous water. Still, the Americans were able to take Trenton anyway, giving the Continentals the aforementioned boost in confidence.

Brigadier General

A month later, Glover returned home to care for an ailing wife and personal business. During this time, he was promoted to Brigadier General by the Continental Congress on Washington’s recommendation.

Glover turned this honor down, saying “I Could wish myself Qualified, but when I Consider my owne inabilities, & inexperience, I Cannot think myself in any Degree Capable of doing the duty.”

Washington, not one for being denied, responded by complimenting John’s abilities but scolding him with the response, “Our enemies count upon the resignation of every officer of rank at this time, as a distrust of, and desertion from the cause, and rejoice accordingly.”

Glover promptly returned.

If you’d like to learn about other Founders who were given special assignments by General Washington, check out our articles on Caleb Gibbs and Simeon De Witt.

To read more about traversing the Delaware River, I highly recommend ‘Washington’s Crossing’ by David Hackett Fischer who is one of my favorite American Revolutionary historians. It can be picked up through the affiliate link below. I would like to note that ‘George Washington: The Crossing’ (affiliate link) also paints a lively picture and is fun to read.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas. Give yourself a present and subscribe to our email list for a free article every day.

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