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Battle of Princeton: January 3, 1777

Battle of Princeton: January 3, 1777

The Battle of Princeton was a battle of the American Revolutionary War, fought near Princeton, New Jersey on January 3, 1777. It ended in a small victory for the Colonials. General Lord Cornwallis had left 1,400 British troops under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mawhood in Princeton.

Battle of Princeton

  • The British had about 2500 soldiers in Princeton under the command of Col. Charles Mawhood.
  • On January 3, Washington marched toward Princeton. He was threatening to get in the rear of the British forces there.
  • Mawhood turned his force around and deployed it around a nearby orchard and farmhouse.
  • One of Washington's favorite subordinates, General Hugh Mercer, spotted the British and ordered his soldiers into a battle line.
  • Mercer's force exchanged fire with the British and fell back. The British conducted a bayonet charge in which Mercer was seriously wounded.
  • Cadwallader's troops advanced but got mixed up with Mercer's retreating soldiers.
  • Then Washington arrived on the battlefield and rallied the troops. He brought in reinforcements and organized the Americans into a coherent battle line.
  • A brigade under General Arthur St. Clair marched toward a group of Mawhood's soldiers, who holed up Nassau Hall (on the Princeton Univ. campus) and tried to make it into a fortress.
  • The Americans bombarded the building with cannon. Then a group of soldiers charged the building. Just when they were about to break down the door, the British soldiers inside waved a white flag. 194 in all surrendered.
  • Cornwallis withdrew his army from Trenton to New Brunswick (NJ).
  • A few days later, American forces took Hackensack and Elizabeth Town, and Washington's army took Morristown.
  • The British, who two weeks before had controlled New Jersey, were now confined to Amboy and New Brunswick.
  • More importantly for the Americans, their morale soared. Washington's Army now believed they were capable of defeating the British. The rate of desertion decreased.