The Patriot Resource - American Revolution

Battle of Princeton
Battle of Princeton

The Battle:
General George Washington had a simple plan of attack for Princeton. First, a 350 man force under Brig. General Hugh Mercer was to destroy Stony Brook Bridge cutting Princeton off from reinforcement from Lt. General Charles Cornwallis' force at Trenton. Around 8 A.M., the British spotted Mercer's force. Lt. Colonel Charles Mawhood, left in comand at Princeton, fell back to a defensive position and the two forces met at Clark's Orchard.

The Continental force charged and drove the British back. The two forces then formed battle lines and the 17th British Foot launched an attack that drove the Americans back, mortally wounding General Mercer. General Washington moved forward with Colonel John Cadwalader's Pennsylvania militia to prevent a complete rout. Washington, Cadwalader and Maj. General Nathanael Greene then moved among the troops to rally them.

Once the main body of his force had moved up, General Washington led his men against the British line. At a distance of 30 yards he halted and ordered his men to fire and the British returned fire. The field was filled with smoke, obscuring Washington. When the smoke cleared, Washington was unharmed and the British line had broke. The 17th Foot fought toward Trenton while the rest of the British force retreated back toward Princeton.

The rest of the action consisted after the British retreating through the town and then northward as the Americans moved behind them. General Cornwallis had heard the fighting begin and hurried to bring up reinforcements from Trenton, but the last Americans were slipping out of Princeton as the first of Cornwallis' troops were arriving. General Washington wanted to push on to Brunswick, but his troops were too tired. He instead marched to Morristown, arriving on January 5th and 6th and entered winter quarters.

2. Boatner, Michael; Encyclopedia of the American Revolution
Picture: Washington at Princeton; Lithograph by D. McLellan, 1853

Topic Last Updated: 8/27/2001

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