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Revolutionary War Site Battle of Princeton

The Battle of Princeton (January 3, 1777) was a battle in which General George Washington's revolutionary forces defeated British forces near Princeton, New Jersey.On the night of January 2, 1777 George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, repulsed a British attack at the Battle of the Assunpink Creek in Trenton. That night, he evacuated his position, circled around General Lord Cornwallis' army, and went to attack the British garrison at Princeton. Brigadier General Hugh Mercer of the Continental Army, clashed with two regiments under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mawhood of the British Army. Mercer and his troops were overrun and Washington sent some militia under Brigadier General John Cadwalader to help him. The militia, on seeing the flight of Mercer's men, also began to flee. Washington rode up with reinforcements and rallied the fleeing militia. He then led the attack on Mawhood's troops, driving them back. Mawhood gave the order to retreat and most of the troops tried to flee to Cornwallis in Trenton.In Princeton itself, Brigadier General John Sullivan forced some British troops who had taken refuge in Nassau Hall to surrender, ending the battle. After the battle, Washington moved his army to Morristown, and with their third defeat in 10 days, the British evacuated southern New Jersey. With the victory at Princeton, morale rose in the ranks and more men began to enlist in the army. The battle was the last major action of Washington's winter New Jersey campaign. On the strength of their victory at Trenton, just a month previous, in December 1776, Washington and his generals had decided to try to force the British to abandon New Jersey. The British commander, Lord Cornwallis, sent around 9,000 troops to Princeton. Washington had a 6000-man force under General Mercer to block them.Taking advantage of night and freezing temperatures that enabled him to move artillery over hardened ground, Washington force-marched his troops around the Brits and into their rear. He moved his troops through heavy woods and emerged on what was then the Post Road (today it is called the Old Post Rd.). Washington sent Mercer and around 500 men to block access to that road and positioned the rest of his troops directly in front of the Clarke House.Cornwallis’s advance guard ran into Mercer’s men, and a fight ensued. The Brits overran Mercer’s command, and the general was trapped behind their lines. Eyewitnesses stated later that the British soldiers thought Mercer was actually George Washington and kept calling on the “damned rebel” to surrender. When Mercer refused, he was bayoneted.