There is an old saying that suggests the pen is mightier than the sword. Many interrupt it as “writing is vastly more effective than using violence or power of a military.” Some people would argue that using a “sword” to resolve an issue is the better choice of action; however, when used effectively, the power of the written word can be felt and seen in such a way that it would accomplish more than using simply brute force. In fact, there are examples throughout American history that demonstrates how writing can inspire people from feeling hopeless to hopeful. One of the greatest examples of this goes back centuries ago to where the American Revolution could have ended in a more tragic circumstance.
There was a pivotal moment during the American Revolution where it seemed as if the Americans were demoralized to the point where there was no longer the will to fight. Then, from out of the darkness of despair, a man by the name of Thomas Paine changed everything by utilizing the power of the written word. “These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” These phrases appeared in the Pennsylvania Journal and it was during the encampment of General George Washington’s soldiers at McKonkey’s Ferry; they were located on the Delaware River that was opposite of Trenton, New Jersey.
The life of the rebellion was at stake as General Washington watched 11,000 American volunteers, between September and December, return to their families instead of staying to fight. The month of August was filled with embarrassing losses which included British troops capturing New York City. Washington could see the writing on the wall regarding the fate of the rebellion as there would be no army if the rest of his troop returned home after December 31st; this is when their service contracts were set to expire. Washington was aware the American Revolution would come to a quick and embarrassing conclusion if they could not have a meaningful victory and an upswing in morale.
Thomas Paine, similar to Washington, was intuitive and what actually motivated the discouraged Americans to become invigorated to fight was the loud and clear call to arms by Paine’s Common Sense. Paine would again incorporate the use of literary warfare when Washington’s forces retreated through New Jersey from New York. Finally, the revolution would rise up again like the fiery phoenix thanks to the words Paine used in American Crisis that was published on December 19th, 1776.
Washington ordered the brand new pamphlet would be spoken out loud to his demoralized troop; the uplifting words served their purpose. The hard-pressed force gathered what hope for victory they had as they crossed the freezing Delaware River on Christmas evening and defeated Hessians that were hung-over. Over a week later, the British army’s finest general, Earl Cornwallis, also suffered defeat at the Battle of Princeton on January 2nd. Washington’s success in New Jersey accomplished not only winning two important battles but gained the thanks and love of man and woman.
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