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.