December 31, 2014

Battlefield Society and HSP Tours Mark 1777 Battle of Princeton

After George Washington’s army had defeated the “fearsome Hessians” at Trenton, his soldiers took on the British at Princeton on January 3, 1777. “Trenton was the first great cause of hope, a brave and truly brilliant stroke…With the victory at Trenton came the realization that Americans had bested the enemy, bested the fearsome Hessians, the King’s detested hirelings, outsmarted them and outfought them, and so might well again…” wrote Revolutionary War historian David McCullough.

This Saturday, the 238th anniversary of the Battle of Princeton will be marked at Princeton Battlefield State Park with a battlefield tour on the day that it was fought and at the same time as the battle took place. The Princeton battle is described as a “crucial turning point in the American Revolution.”

Sponsored by the New Jersey State Parks Service, the Old Barracks Museum, and the Princeton Battlefield Society, the one-and-a-half-hour tour will begin at 7 a.m. Attendees are urged to arrive before the start of the tour, which begins at the Thomas Clarke House, 500 Mercer Street.

Led by re-enactor and British army historian William P. Tatum III, the tour will describe the movements of American and British units at the same time of day as the original battle.

According to Jerry Hurwitz, president of the Princeton Battlefield Society, the tour will explain how the battle, the first won by Washington’s army against the professional British Army, was a crucial turning point in the American Revolution.

It is hoped that visitors “will come away with a better understanding of the rigors of 18th-century combat and a deeper appreciation for the engagement at Princeton, Washington’s strategy, and his winning counterattack,” said a press release.

“Trustees also will be on hand to discuss the continuing struggle to preserve key segments of the battlefield and ongoing work to stabilize the Thomas Clarke House, the last surviving witness structure on the core battlefield,” said Kip Cherry, first vice president of the Princeton Battlefield Society, who announced that Phase 1 of the Clarke House restoration has just been completed.

New This Year

For the first time, a living history re-enactment organized by the Trenton’s Old Barracks Museum will focus on the militia company of Charles Willson Peale, best known today for his paintings, especially the famous portraits of Washington. In the winter of 1776/1777, Peale was a Lieutenant in the Philadelphia militia serving with Washington’s army. On January 3, Peale and his militia were in the thick of the Battle of Princeton.

“In his day, Charles Willson Peale was famous as a painter, scientist, museum curator, and as a political radical,” said Matt White, a master’s degree student in history at Rutgers University — Camden. “Peale’s Company contained a cross-section of Philadelphia’s wide range of ethnic groups: Germans, African-Americans, the Dutch, Swedes, Welshmen, Irish, Scotch-Irish, Scottish, and English.”

As Mr. White explained, “Peale’s company included the notable and the nondescript: a future mayor of Philadelphia and lowly laborers who would die in the poorhouse; his company was itself a representation of the nature and the politics of Philadelphia’s revolution. Peale’s company, in short, can help us to understand Philadelphia’s Revolutionary experience and how it affected the events of the winter of 1776-1777.”

Attendees should wear warm clothes and stout shoes or boots for walking over variable ground. Admission is free (donations to the Princeton Battlefield Society for the restoration of the Thomas Clarke House are appreciated) and parking is available. To take part, email: For more information, visit:

HSP Commemoration

Also on Saturday, January 3, the Historical Society of Princeton offers two programs commemorating Washington’s “cunning attack on the British,” and their “stinging defeat” of the enemy.

Families with children aged 8 and up can learn about the battle by examining war artifacts and visiting historical hot spots, including Nassau Hall and the Princeton Battle monument during an approximately one hour program that begins at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, at 10 a.m. Tickets are $4 per person and, since space is limited, registration is suggested.

A 90-minute program, suitable for teens and adults, begins at the Princeton Historical Society’s Updike Farmstead, 354 Quaker Road, at 1 p.m. The tour will follow a portion of the trail Washington took from Trenton to the Princeton Battlefield with stops at the Stony Brook Meeting House and cemetery. The tour is included with museum admission of $4. To register, contact Eve Mandel at or (609) 921-6748 x102.

For more information, visit