Princeton Battlefield Society Event Attracts Unprecedented Number of Participants
RELIVING A PIVOTAL DAY: The January 8 reenactment of the Battle of Princeton at Princeton Battlefield was followed by a commemorative wreath-laying at the Colonnade to honor those soldiers, on both sides, who died during all the battles of the Ten Crucial Days. (Photo by Al Pochok)
By Anne Levin
Having mounted a vigorous effort to publicize its signature educational event, “Experience the Battle of Princeton,” at Princeton Battlefield on January 8, members of the Princeton Battlefield Society (PBS) had a feeling it might be well attended.
But when more than 800 people from nine states and as far away as the United Kingdom showed up for the event, which was followed by a commemorative wreath-laying at the Memorial Grove on the battlefield, they were pleasantly surprised.
“Building on the dedication and enthusiasm of the folks on the reenacting side is a wonderful resource,” said Todd Quackenbush, PBS communications chair, a few days after the event. “I think they were attracted by the opportunity to do the reenactment on the original battlefield. We had a little time separation from the [Christmas Day reenactment] events at Washington Crossing, so we had a really big turnout — 270 on the Continental side, 80 or 90 on the British side.”
The original Battle of Princeton “marked the capstone of the ‘Ten Crucial Days’ of 1776-77 that began with the crossing of the Delaware by Washington’s forces, and ended with a complete reversal of the series of defeats that American forces had suffered in New York and New Jersey since July 1776,” Quackenbush wrote in a release about the event.
The Ten Crucial Days is considered to be one of the most pivotal campaigns of the Revolution. “It’s a fascinating study in military strategy and tactics, arguably George Washington’s finest moment,” Quackenbush said. “It’s the issue of surprise — picking your enemy’s weak spots, and finding ways to do things the other party isn’t expecting, and getting into their heads about what happens. The British had pushed the Americans out of New York, and they thought it was just about mopping up at this point; squashing the last resistance.”
The Battle of Princeton “was the first time the Americans had beaten the British in the field,” he continued. “It was an enormous confidence boost, and an enormous morale-destroyer for the British.”
Following the reenactment, there was a commemorative wreath-laying at the Memorial Grove on the battlefield, just behind the Colonnade, to honor the soldiers who died during all the battles of the Ten Crucial Days, including the American and British dead buried nearby. The commemoration was organized by the New Jersey Society, Sons of the American Revolution, in conjunction with other organizations as well as legacy units of the American and British armed forces whose ancestors had fought at the battle. Participants came from several “hereditary societies and service organizations as well as representatives of legacy units of the American and British armed forces whose antecedents fought at the battle,” reads the PBS release.
All of these activities are leading up to the 250th anniversary of the Revolution, which will begin in 2026. The PBS is gearing up for a significant celebration.
“It’s going to be very interesting in the next few years,” Quackenbush said. “We’re hoping to re-create at least some of the excitement of the bicentennial. New Jersey was a center of gravity, and we’re sitting right on top of one of the real historical hot spots. It’s a blessing for all concerned to actually walk on the ground where these things happened.”