Happy Hell-idays: Major American Conflicts On Christmas

American infantrymen of the 290th Regiment fight in fresh snowfall near Amonines, Belgium. January 4, 1945. Braun. (Army)

Christmas- a time for “peace on earth and good will towards men”, when people set aside their differences and celebrate their humanity. At least, that is what they say.

Aside from the source of countless family bickering and stage setting for mass numbers of divorces following New Year’s, Christmas has seen more battles than truces in the history of human warfare. In the spirit of the postcard good ol’ American holidays, here are some American conflicts that make the list:

The American War of Independence: Washington Crosses The Delaware (1776)


Following an awful winter, Washington and his troops took advantage of weather and their enemy’s embracement of the holiday revelries to sneak across the Delaware river in the late hours of Christmas day.

Upon reaching the other side, 2,400 Continental Troops marched to their objective, ambushing a much-hungover Hessian force in Trenton, New Jersey. While the run-in with the enemy was brief, it resulted in the capture of over one thousand Hessians and provided the Continental troops

The War of 1812 Ends in 1814 (On Paper, Anyway)


 America’s second major bout with her parents, lasting about two and half years and costing over 15,000 American lives (as well as losing our shot at owning Canada) was a particularly foggy part of the tapestry that is American war history.

Interestingly enough, while the War of 1812 technically ended on Christmas Eve of 1814, the news didn’t get to the United States until two months later, in which the Americans and British empire battled it out- including the famed Battle of New Orleans.

American Civil War: Morgan’s Christmas Raid (1862)

A story near and dear to at least half of Kentucky (depending on where in the state you hail from), Morgan’s Christmas Raid is as dear a tale of rambunctious scoundrels outwitting the establishment as The Dukes of Hazzard.

 Following a Union victory over the Confederates at the Battle of Perryville, both Union and Confederate leaders were in need of stalled time in order to get their forces back in fighting shape. With Union leadership depending on the rail lines as they pushed into Southern territory, it became crucial that the supply lines along the Louisville and Nashville (L&N) railroad be disrupted.

Enter Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, AKA the “Thunderbolt of the Confederacy”. Morgan, a Kentucky native, was perfect for the job as he knew the Louisville & Nashville Railroad well. Outlined in a strategy that rivaled the gall of the Inglorious Basterds of Tarantino fame, Morgan and his men headed North to blow up a fairly tall bridge deep behind enemy lines. Low on supplies as it was, his men (ranging from 18-35) rode in with fairly light and even bizarre equipment loadout.

Beginning their assault on Christmas Eve in the face of fierce Union numbers and resistance, Morgan and his men not only succeeded in destroying the bridge but captured quite a few Union Soldiers.

World War II: The Battle of the Bulge (1944)


One of the stories a member of the 101st Airborne or 1st Infantry Division will tell you over and over again, The Battle of the Bulge brought savagery and a rather unsilent night to the Ardennes forest in Luxembourg and Belgium. Despite six months of advancing to their credit since the Invasion of Normandy in June of the same year, the Allies found themselves quickly swept up by the last great German counterattack of the war.

Allied troops found themselves surrounded and under constant siege, with many being forced to surrender in light of the brutal advance. Given orders to send the Americans into a panic some German units slaughtered large groups of POWs in open fields.

Those that continued to fight the Germans did so under horrendous conditions- many of the men were subjected to the freezing cold weather without proper clothing and equipment. Artillery constantly fell upon them like rain, supplies were scarce and food scarcer. Menus were often complemented with the meat of deer, rabbits or whatever the troops could kill to spread their already meager food supply a little longer. They fought day in and day out to repel the Germans, often hanging on by a squad or two against entire companies.

Ultimately, the US and her Allies prevailed, particularly in part to the advance of armor and infantry under the command of General George S. Patton. “A clear, cold Christmas’, he wrote in his journal, ‘Lovely weather for killing Germans, which seems a bit queer, seeing whose birthday it is.”


  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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