May I be pardoned if, upon this occasion, I mention that away back in my childhood, the earliest days of my being able to read, I got hold of a small book, such a one as few of the younger members have ever seen, "Weem's Life of Washington." I remember all the accounts there given of the battle fields and struggles for the liberties of the country, and none fixed themselves upon my imagination so deeply as the struggle here at Trenton, New Jersey. The crossing of the river; the contest with the Hessians; the great hardships endured at that time, all fixed themselves on my memory more than any single Revolutionary event; and you all know, for you have all been boys, how these early impressions last longer than any others.I don't recall if it was Archer Jones or Herman Hattaway or the two together who proposed, citing additional sources, that Trenton may have served Lincoln as a military paradigm for the early Civil War.
Trenton was or could be a paradigm: secrecy, speed, dash, decision, and a huge political payout. Trenton could be a false paradigm, too: an overly complex plan that would fail if either column failed; an execution dependent on guides, with no commander knowing the ground; and a magnification of risk via night attack.
In his book April 1865, Jay Winik takes some trouble to explain that with Richmond in ruins, Davis' vision of continued war was not about guerilla bands and bushwhacking, it was Trenton writ large. It would be a Continental Army gathering at supply points, striking at a strung-out foe, collecting political momentum from a series of small, decisive strikes.
There are foreshadowings of Civil War military themes in the battle. Here are a few, all selected from the same article. The emphasis is mine:
Howe had ... hoped to have victory without a great deal of bloodshed.
Rall was ordered to build field works needed to defend the town, but did not. Rall told one of his officers who wanted to build redoubts-"Let them come! We want no trenches! We'll use the bayonet!"
Howe lost a major chance to end the war by stopping for the winter instead of "foreclosing the mortgage" as one of his officers called it.
Von Donop, commanding at Burlington, learned of the battle from fleeing Hessians who had escaped. Their estimates of the size of the force with Washington were exaggerated. [...] Von Donop moved first to Allentown, NJ, then to Princeton, to resist attacks that were just rumors.