Before the winter fight that would take place in Trenton Washington recognizes the symptoms of the protracted war on his own forces. Public support and general morale were at its lowest and with the Continental Army dwindling as those within it were coming close to the end of their obligated service contracts something had to happen. Washington recognizes the need to achieve a victory that would restore public support and increase recruitment into his ranks. This would come on Christmas Day 1776, with Washington leading the charge, crossing the Delaware River to strike Trenton and ultimately defeating the Hessian outpost. (Weigley, 1973, pp. 39-40)
With the decisive win in Trenton, the British Army’s will to fight, and peoples support for the war began to wear down. Washington was able to turn the tide and begin to capitalize and focus his attacks on the British Center of Gravity, “For there has never been a protracted war from which a country had benefited.” (Tzu, 1963, p. 73) In protracting the war, Washington strategy of avoiding large conflicts and only attacking smaller forces, attacks the British strategy “…what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy;” (Tzu, 1963, p. 77).
The British struggled to counter Washington’s forces as his attacks would be unpredictable and Guerilla in nature, forcing the British to encamping themselves in major cities. As well as fighting the colonies the British defense of England would be tested, as the conflict with France and Spain would further drained resources and threaten the homeland.
Washington now sees the political end state more clearly now with what is occurring within the British political state, the war of attrition and its effect on his enemy is more evident now than has ever been prior. With his most valued asset being his army, Washington must avoid a major battle and attack only when it is advantageous to do so, forcing the British into a protracted war of attrition. “He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.” (Tzu, 1963, p. 82) Washington knows by dictating when and where the fight will be as described by Sun Tzu, “He who knows the art of the direct and indirect approach will be victorious. Such is the art of maneuvering.” (Sun Tzu, p. 106) he will control the flow and direction of the War. This strategy allows Washington time to build public support and bolster his Army while forcing the British to encamp themselves taking a defensive position in several major cities.
Washington’s steadfastness in his strategy of attrition and a clear understanding of himself and his enemy would pay off during the campaign in Yorktown where Cornwallis would eventually position his forces. Washington, recognizing the shift from strategic defensive to that of offense, executed a plan to engage the British at Yorktown. With detailed planning and allied help from the French, General Cornwallis would later surrender on October 19th 1781, the Revolutionary War was over. The British ministry under pressure from its recent loss and dealing with conflicts much closer to the homeland with France and Spain, lost the will to continue the fight in America, the very objective Washington maintained during this conflict. (Weigley, 1973, p. 39)