The Battle of Princeton Occurs – 1/3/1777

US History |


When asking this generation of students who George Washington was, the answers range from understanding he was the first President of the United States to either the most ridiculous or having no knowledge of who the man was. Even those who know the role he portrayed in politics may have no clue that previously he was a general in the American Revolution as well as one of the smartest ones. Anyone who may not believe this can fortunately look back at history for examples that prove this. 

One such example of what many called a stroke of genius need only to refer back to what has been documented as the Battle of Princeton on January 3rd, 1777. This is when General George Washington succeeds in deflecting a confrontation with General Charles Cornwallis on whose mission to Trenton was to bag the “fox” known as Washington while being victorious in many battles with the rear guard of the British as it leaves Princeton and heads towards Trenton, New Jersey.

Cornwallis was extremely worried regarding Washington’s success on December 26, 1776 over the British at Trenton, so he led his soldiers on the evening of January 2nd and arrived in Trenton ready to meet Washington; his plan was to overwhelm the 5,000 Continentals and militia led by Washington since they were exhausted but may appear to look energetic against his 8,000 Redcoats. Although Washington was smart enough to realize that engaging such a force would be suicidal and Cornwallis was aware that Washington would overnight try to escape, the dilemma for him was making an educated guess on Washington’s course of action. He decided to send his force to protect the Delaware River because the expectation was that Washington would take the route but in reverse to the path that was taken on the crossing at midnight he did on December 25th.

However, leaving his campfires burning, Washington muffled his army wagons wheels in order to sneak around the side of the British encampment. Heading north at dawn, the Continentals confronted the British rear guard that were straggling; they had outnumbered them 5 to 1. The Battle of Princeton totaled 275 British soldiers who had perished while the Patriots lost 40. The defeat made General William and Admiral Richard Howe (known as the Howe brothers) decide to leave the majority of New Jersey to Washington. While having an opportunity to gather their noticeable manpower to attempt a retake of New Jersey, all of their forces were instead concentrated between the Atlantic coast and New Brunswick.

New Jersey was forced to deal with Britain’s Hessian mercenaries during the invasion as they committed acts of plundering and rape. Now that control had resumed under the Patriot militia, Loyalists of New Jersey would now endure humiliating repatriation or faced exile. New Jersey Loyalists were now abandoned permanently by the decision of the Howe brothers not to come back.

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