The Patriot Resource - American Revolution

Battle of Princeton
Battle of Princeton

Following his surprise victory at Trenton on December 26, 1776, General George Washington decided to use his momentum and grab another victory before entering winter quarters. On December 30, he crossed the Delaware River back into New Jersey. Washington had to keep his army together somehow since their enlistments ran out at midnight on December 31. At now abandoned Trenton, Washington offered a special bounty of ten dollars to all who would reenlist for another six weeks. He managed to convince a number of the troops to stay.

General Washington started 1777 with 1,600 Continental troops with a number of New Jersey and Pennsylvania militia who had come in after Trenton. He knew the British had over 6,000 troops scattered throughout New Jersey with a large number of these at garrisons at Brunswick and Princeton. He now ordered his troops to concentrate at Trenton and sent a covering force toward Princeton to delay an anticipated enemy approach.

By January 1, the covering force was in position along Five Mile Run and on January 2, the British appeared under the command of Lt. General Charles Cornwallis. Colonel Edward Hand delayed Cornwallis long enough that by the time the British reached moved through Trenton to where General Washington and his main force were located, darkness was falling. Washington then left his campfires burning and slipped behind the British force and marched toward Princeton.

General Washington left 400 men in camp to keep up the appearance of an occupied camp. He moved the baggage and heavy artillery south to Burlington. At 1 A.M. on January 3, 1777, the rest of Washington's force set out. Secrecy and silence were maintained with only the generals knowing the expedition's destination and wheels wrapped in rags. In Princeton, General Cornwallis had left 1,400 British troops under the command of Lt. Colonel Charles Mawhood.

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