On December 26, at 3:00 A.M. the crossing was complete but the column was not ready to march until 4:00 A.M., well behind schedule. Even with intelligence from Loyalists and American deserters, having told him the day and hour of the attack, Rall did not know how large the American attacking force would be. He figured that it would be nothing more than small hit-and-run patrol actions to which he had become accustomed and indifferent.
At 4:00 A.M., about 4 miles from their crossing at Birmingham, Washington's force split into two columns. Greene, along with Washington, led one column onto the Pennington Road to attack the Hessian garrison from the north. Sullivan led the second column continued on the river road so it could attack the Hessian garrison from the west. By 6:00 A.M., the troops were miserable. Sullivan sent word that the men's muskets would not fire due to being exposed to the storm all night. Washington sent word back for the men to use their bayonets instead.
At the Hessian garrison, Rall had passed out and was sound asleep along with most of his 1,200 man force, which was divided into 3 regiments: under himself, Col. Thaddeus Knyphausen, and Lossberg. Because of the severe snowstorm, Maj. Dechow decided not to send out the normal predawn patrol to sweep the area for signs of the Americans. Though the storm cause extreme misery for the troops, it allowed them to approach undetected.
At 8:00 A.M., Washington's party asked a man that was chopping wood where the Hessian sentries were, just outside of Trenton. He pointed to a nearby house. A 20-man outpost of Lt. Wiederhold saw the Americans emerge from the woods about 1/2 mile from the northern end of Trenton, on the Pennington Road. The outpost waited until the Americans were within range, then fired an ineffective volley at them. They quickly dropped back onto their main company position, some 400 yards closer to the town. About 3 minutes after this engagement, Sullivan's advance guard flus...