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The Battle of Princeton was not a conflict that the British or Patriots were expecting to fight, but it ended with a decisive victory for the Continental Army. In late 1776, British General Charles Cornwallis was sent to Trenton, New Jersey, with the task of defeating Washington. He arrived on January 2, 1777, prepared to corner the general. Cornwallis thought Washington would try to escape, and sent troops to guard along the Delaware River, since that was the route Washington had taken into New Jersey. However, Washington had a different escape route in mind.
The Engagement Begins
Washington left all of the army's campfires burning, muffled sounds made by the army wagons' wheels, and led his troops around the side of the British camp, allowing them to escape undetected. While heading north, Washington noticed a group of British men around William Clarke's farm. He sent a group of his men, led by Hugh Mercer, to look into it. A small portion of the British rear guard, heavily outnumbered by the Continental forces, began firing on Mercer and his soldiers, using bayonets to keep them back. Washington then sent another group into battle, but they succumbed to the British bayonets. Finally, Washington led his men into battle himself.
Driving the British From New Jersey
Washington's counterattack finally broke the line of British soldiers, while projectiles and ammunition fired by Joseph Moulder forced the British back in the direction of the farmhouse. This, combined with smaller fights near Frog Hollow and the College of New Jersey - today, Princeton University - caused the British to retreat. The Battle of Princeton was an important victory for Washington and his forces; as a result of the fight, the British commanders ended up leaving much of the New Jersey to Washington and the Continental Army. Washington employed an unexpected strategy and smart execution to avoid a direct confrontation with Cornwallis, put a dent in British forces, and come out with a second consecutive victory in New Jersey.