November 12, 2014

Princeton Battlefield Focus of National Campaign

The preservation of the historic Princeton Battlefield is the first project of a national initiative launched Tuesday by the Civil War Trust. At a Veterans Day ceremony held under the towering battle monument in front of Monument Hall, the Trust’s president James Lightizer announced that the non-profit organization will now add Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields to their list of historic sites in need of stewardship.

“It’s the right thing to do. And no one else is doing it,” Mr. Lightizer said of the initiative, known as Campaign 1776. The Trust was asked by the National Parks Service, their frequent partner, to take on the additional sites. “You don’t say no to your biggest partner,” he said. “If we don’t do it, it’s not going to get done.”

The Trust has over 50,000 dues-paying members and has saved more than 41,000 acres of American Civil War battlefields. While those sites will remain the organization’s primary mission, the 10,000 to 15,000 acres of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields in need of protection and interpretation will become an important part of the Trust’s mission, Mr. Lightizer said. A fundraising campaign is underway to preserve 4.6 historic acres on the Princeton Battlefield. The goal is $25,000, to be raised by January 3, 2015.

The Princeton Battlefield has been the focus of attention recently because of the Institute for Advanced Study’s plan to build faculty housing at a location historians say touches part of the original site where General George Washington defeated the British. Last week, Princeton’s Planning Board unanimously approved the Institute’s latest request to build 15 units. Opponents of the plan say they are waiting for findings of fact and plan to appeal the decision.

Last summer, the National Park Service granted the Battlefield Society $47,100 for an archaeological study of the battlefield. The focus is a 4.6-acre site which was owned by the D’Ambrisi family on Stockton Street, next to the park. The property was acquired for $850,000 by the State of New Jersey with assistance from the municipality of Princeton, Mercer County, and Friends of Princeton Open Space. Battlefield Society president Jerry Hurwitz, who spoke at the ceremony, said it is believed soldiers were buried in a mass grave on the property.

Another speaker at the ceremony was Jack Warren, executive director of the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati. “Many of our Revolutionary War battlefields were lost long ago, buried beneath the concrete and asphalt of Brooklyn and Trenton and consumed by the sprawl of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia,” he said. “Those unspoiled landscapes that remain are reminders of the struggle to achieve independence and create a republic dedicated to the liberty of ordinary people. No organization is better equipped to lead us in this work than the Civil War Trust — the most effective historic land preservation organization in the United States.”

On hand for the ceremony were Mayor Liz Lempert, Princeton Council president Bernie Miller and Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller, municipal engineer Bob Kiser and new municipal administrator Marc Dashield. “Reading about a battle in a text book is one thing. Standing in a battlefield is something else altogether,’ said Ms. Lempert before thanking the partners in the new initiative. She expressed special gratitude to Princeton resident Kip Cherry for her role in the acquisition of the D’Ambrisi property and her efforts toward historic preservation.