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Home > History > Battle of Princeton

Battle of Princeton

This is a description of what happened before, after, and during, the Battle of Princeton.
General Washington Rallying Soldiers at Princeton

Battle of Princeton

Cornwallis Midjudges Washington

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.

Battles and Events of the Revolutionary War
Battles of Lexington and Concord - 1775
Siege of Fort Ticonderoga - 1775
Battle of Bunker Hill - 1775
Noble Train of Artillery - 1775
Battles in and Around New York City - 1776
Battle of Trenton (Washington's Crossing) - 1776
Battle of Princeton - 1777
Battle of Brandywine Creek - 1777
Battle of Germantown - 1777
Battle of Saratoga - 1777
Battle of Monmouth Courthouse - 1778
Battle of Newport - 1778
Siege of Charleston - 1780
Battle of Camden - 1780
Battle of Cowpens - 1780
Battle of Guilford Courthouse - 1781
Siege of Yorktown - 1781

 

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