To the Editor:
On behalf of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, I am writing this letter in support of the Princeton Battlefield Society and its efforts to protect and preserve the lands surrounding the Princeton Battlefield State Park. As guardians of George Washington’s home and legacy, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association shares the Princeton Battlefield Society’s desire to educate the public about the American Revolution. Our organizations also share a commitment to fostering awareness about the character and leadership of General Washington, who celebrated one of his greatest military victories on that very battlefield.
During the American Revolution, Washington’s triumph at Princeton in January 1777 energized the floundering American cause and forced the British to rethink their quick dismissal of the Continental Army. Following on the heels of his surprise Christmas Day attack on Trenton, the Battle of Princeton was Washington’s first victory in open combat against British regulars. Washington’s leadership on the battlefield inspired his fellow patriots, bringing about an impressive turnaround that ultimately led to American independence.
Like the Princeton Battlefield, George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Museum & Gardens is located in a densely populated region. In northern Virginia, just as in New Jersey, land comes at a premium and preservationists often find themselves at odds with developers. Although Mount Vernon’s record of passionate commitment to historic preservation stretches back more than 150 years, predating some of the development pressures faced in today’s time, it serves as a prime example of how historic sites play an important role in their communities. They create a sense of place and character. They fuel civic pride, and they drive economic development and job creation through travel and tourism.
Although we applaud your past success in preserving some portions of this battlefield, we recognize that only a small percentage of the grounds on which Washington and his troops outmaneuvered the British forces are currently protected from development. Keys to understanding the events of that pivotal battle and additional evidence of Washington’s heroics still likely lie buried under the soil. If the proposed development is allowed to continue, these secrets of the past will be lost.
After surrendering at Yorktown in 1781, Lord Cornwallis is reported to have told Washington, “Your Excellency’s achievements in New Jersey were such that nothing could surpass them.” As decision-makers, influencers, and leaders, I hope that the same can be said of your achievements in New Jersey as you recognize that preservation, too, is a form of progress.
James C. Rees
President Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association,
George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate,
Museum & Gardens