September 7, 2022

A Look at Life During the Revolution at Princeton Battlefield State Park Event

TELLING AN IMPORTANT STORY: At last year’s Young Patriots Day, visitors to Princeton Battlefield State Park learned about the critical role New Jersey played in the American Revolution. This year’s event will bring reenactors, military drills, cannon firing demonstrations, and more to the same historic location.

By Anne Levin

With the 250th anniversary of this country less than four years away, the Princeton Battlefield Society (PBS) is focused on educating people — especially young ones — about the critical role the local area played in the struggle.

Sunday, September 18 is Young Patriots Day at Princeton Battlefield State Park, site of the decisive Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777. Families are invited to tour the Battlefield, talk to reenactors, watch military drills, and more, from 11:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

“We feel that every rising generation of young people in America needs a familiarity with the history of the Revolution and the principles underlying it,” said Todd Quackenbush, a trustee of the PBS and its communications chairman. “It’s important to know what people had to go through to set up the government we have right now. They need to know that it did not come easily, and it was not a guaranteed outcome. We need to stay on top of that.”

An aerospace engineer, Quackenbush has been interested in military history since he was a child. “I had worked my way backwards from World War II and the Civil War to the American Revolution,” he said. “About seven years ago, I was visiting Gettysburg and my wife said to me, ‘You need to get involved.’ Princeton Battlefield was right here, and what a great opportunity to do that.”

Young Patriots Day begins at 11:45 a.m. with a flag-raising ceremony. Visitors can then watch the 3rd New Jersey Greys, a group of Revolutionary War reenactors, doing 18th century military drills. Demonstrations of cannon and musket-firing are scheduled.

“The kids can be included in that,” said Quackenbush. “And we have two very good reenactors playing George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. They talk to the kids about what their roles were, and what life was like at the time. The folks who do this are remarkable. They can really bring it to life.”

Because Princeton is an international community, it is especially important to tell the local story. “We get a lot of the children of those families,” said Quackenbush. “People don’t realize how much there is to see right around us, not just here, but at Washington Crossing, and about the 10 crucial days that led up to the Battle of Princeton. It was the hinge of the Revolution.”

A new museum space is being prepared at the Thomas Clarke House, which was surrounded by fierce fighting during the Battle of Princeton. A plaque honoring General Hugh Mercer, who was mortally wounded nearby and carried to the Clarke House where he died nine days later, is scheduled to be dedicated during the day. Outside the historic house, docents will be on hand with lots to tell and display.

“These are great folks who can talk about what life was like there, before and after the battle, and how it was used as a hospital space,” said Quackenbush. “They are real people telling the real stories about what happened.”

Young Patriots Day has attracted more than 100 visitors in past years, and Quackenbush expects September 18 to just as popular. “Bringing the Revolution to life is a great attraction,” he said. “We are trying to motivate people to get re-engaged, especially as we come up on the 250th anniversary. It’s a fascinating story that everyone should know.”

Princeton Battlefield State Park is at 500 Mercer Street. For more information, visit or call (609) 232-8540.