Today we continue our crusade to convince the world that most of the truly important events in history happened due to some kind of ridiculous accident.
It should be no surprise that some of the best examples of this have occurred during wartime. War, after all, combines mankind's most lofty ambitions with its deepest stupidity. That means that some of the most crucial moments in warfare have played out like ridiculous slapstick.
5The Colonies Were Saved by a Poker Game
Thomas Paine described December 1776 in his poorly-Xeroxed The American Crisis as "times that try men's souls" for a reason: It was the single suckiest month in the single shittiest year in American memory.
"It is a dark time for the Rebellion ..." - Thomas Paine
By Christmas Eve 1776, the city of New York had fallen, the Continental Congress had fled Philadelphia and General George Washington's ragtag Continental Army had just barely survived the single most hellish commute in New Jersey history. The rebellion was off to such a disastrous start that, hell, even the Canadians were schooling the U.S. in warfare.
Fortunately, we all know that Washington was able to stave off defeat by heroically crossing the Delaware to win key victories at Trenton and Princeton. The Colonies would live to see the new year.
"Wool stockings and typhus for everyone!"
Of course, for every heroic Hail Mary play, there's a defense that has screwed the pooch. What was regarded as a miracle for the Colonies was a disaster for the British.
What ruined it: A poker game.
While Washington's heroic crossing of the Delaware may be firmly implanted into the American psyche, the truth is actually a whole lot stupider than what we were taught in history class. It turns out a loyalist spy named Moses Doan observed Washington along the Delaware on Christmas Eve, along with what he described as "a boatload of soldiers." He immediately notified Col. Johann Rall of the Hessians about the impending attack but was turned away because the colonel was engaged in a heated game of chess -- or, depending on who you ask, a poker game.
Since the colonel had no wish to be disturbed, Doan left him with a note that read: "Washington is coming on you down the river, he will be here afore long." Rall, still deeply engrossed in his game, stuffed the note into his pocket without giving it a thought.
"I had a pair of threes. You never back down on a pair of threes."
Sure enough, Johann Rall was found dead the next morning, his little "Washington is coming on you down the river" note still unopened in his pocket.
... And that's why America exists.
Had things been different:
If the British had been ready for Washington's surprise attack, everything changes. Washington could have been killed or captured as he made his way across the Delaware, along with Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, James Monroe and a handful of other Founding Fathers who were freezing their balls off as well that worst Christmas ever.
"I swear to God, if there isn't a Kinect under the tree I am going to scream."
Also, to make matters worse, the timing of Washington's victories at Trenton and Princeton was just the buzzer beater the nation needed to keep the Revolution together. Had Washington failed at either battle, which is an occasional subject for scholars, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware "would have surrendered almost immediately." America would have just settled for forever being one more British colony.